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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Europe Presses Atlanta to Ease Olympic Horse Ban

COMBINED REPORTS


ATLANTA -- Reviving an Olympic dispute thought to be settled, a European Union farm official has said he wants the U.S. government to press Georgia to ease its restrictions on infected horses.


But Georgia's agriculture commissioner said the EU's top farm official, Commissioner Franz Fischler, is wasting his time.


"It's not negotiable any longer,'' Tommy Irvin, the state agriculture commissioner, said Tuesday.


Fischler wants Georgia to allow horses infected with the tick-borne disease piroplasmosis to compete in the 1996 Olympics. Georgia bars such horses from entering the state. The disease has been eradicated in the United States.


Last week, the head of the international federation that governs equestrian sports reluctantly accepted Georgia's terms for allowing a few infected horses into the state, under strict quarantine conditions, to compete in the dressage and show jump events. Irvin won't allow any infected horses in the cross-country competition.


The disease is a parasitic blood disorder transmitted by ticks. It causes fever and swelling and, often, death. Local horse owners fear that Olympic horses will spread the disease here.


A spokesman said Fischler had planned to convey European criticism of the Georgia restrictions to U.S. agriculture secretary Dan Glickman in Brussels. But the snowstorm in the eastern United States kept Glickman from the meeting, according to Fischler's spokesman, Gerry Kiely.


The meeting will be rescheduled or conducted by telephone, Kiely said.


"We will just be raising it at the highest level,'' Kiely said.


Twenty-eight horses that have qualified for the Games are infected. Fourteen of those could compete under Georgia's plan. Europeans want all the infected horses, including long distance competitors, allowed, Irvin said.


"This is a major point, this question of the cross-country. But we told them from Day 1 there's no way,'' Irvin said.


There is an Olympic precedent. In 1956, Australian officials would not permit foreign horses to enter the country for the Melbourne Games without a lengthy quarantine first, so equestrian events were held in Stockholm.


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A consortium backed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is bidding for the European TV rights to all Olympics between 2000 and 2008, Sydney Olympic officials said Wednesday.


The Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games said it and the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee were holding talks with the European Broadcasting Union and the News Corp consortium over the rights.


News Corp has been trying to wrest control of Olympics coverage from the powerful EBU, which represents national broadcasters across Europe and has always won the contract until now. ()