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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | NOTES

Rider Chosen to Carry U.S. Flag

August 03, 1996|From Times Wire Services

Michael Matz, a three-time Olympic rider who survived a deadly jetliner crash and was credited with helping save two children on the flight, was picked Friday to carry the American flag in the closing ceremonies.

Matz, 45, from Collegeville, Pa., was chosen in a vote of team captains on the U.S. squad. He will march into Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, holding the Stars and Stripes in the parade of flags of the record 197 nations that participated in the Atlanta Games.

Unlike the opening ceremony, only the flag bearers and not the full teams march at the close. The athletes are invited onto the field after the evening's program.

A veteran of the 1976 and 1992 games, Matz won a silver medal Thursday as part of the U.S. show-jumping team, riding Rhum IV.

He knows he's lucky to still be riding--or to be alive.

On July 19, 1989, Matz and his then-fiancee, D.D. Alexander, were on United Airlines Flight 232 when it crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 112 people.

First distracted when he couldn't find his future wife, who was seated in another row on the crowded plane, Matz quickly turned his attention to helping in the rescue and led two children seated across the aisle to safety.

He later found Alexander safe at a rescue shelter.

"It's like you never know, when you get to a point in a terrible accident or in a competition, how you will react," Matz said. "You just have to make the most of the situation. . . . "

*

When Juan Antonio Samaranch addresses the world at the closing ceremonies, listen closely for the words he doesn't speak.

Don't expect the International Olympic Committee president to hail the games as the "best" or "greatest" in history.

The line has become almost a cliche over the years, a standard part of Samaranch's speech at the closing ceremonies of the winter or summer Olympics.

Certainly, they were the biggest Games in history, with nearly 11,000 athletes from 197 countries taking part. But organizational glitches, commercial excesses and the Olympic park bombing undermined the Games' claim to being the greatest.

"We will not say these are the best Games ever--certainly not," said an IOC vice president, Prince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium. "The organization was better in Seoul [in 1988] and Barcelona.

"We shouldn't criticize too much or exaggerate the problems. The people are happy. In general, the games are a success."

*

Iraqi weightlifter Raed Ahmed, who fled his team at the Olympics and denounced his country, said he has been granted political asylum in the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to confirm or deny the claim.

*

A ruling is expected today on the Russian appeal against the disqualification of two medal-winning athletes for using the controversial drug bromantan. The Court of Arbitration for Sport began deliberations after a hearing into the cases of swimmer Andrei Korneyev and Greco-Roman wrestler Zafar Gulyov.

*

British triple jumper Michelle Griffith received a racist hate letter shortly after competing in heats at the Olympics, a British Athletic Federation spokesman said. Griffith, who is black, picked up the letter, posted from Slough, a town in southeastern England, shortly after she failed to make it through the Monday heats. "She was obviously deeply insulted, as was the whole team," BAF spokesman Tony Ward said.

*

The wife of a powerful International Olympic Committee official made a brief court appearance to face the police officer she scuffled with early Wednesday. Julie Pound, wife of IOC vice president Dick Pound, did not speak during the brief hearing in Atlanta Traffic Court. She is scheduled to return to court Aug. 26. Julie Pound was charged with refusal to comply with a police officer, obstruction, using abusive language and simple battery after the scuffle.

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