INTRO: Although the opening ceremonies are on Friday, Olympic
competition begins Wednesday with the start of the women's football
(soccer) tournament. At the Beijing Games in China, VOA's Jim Stevenson
has this preview.
TEXT: Because the 12-nation Olympic football tournament is long, play
is starting ahead of the opening ceremonies. The first games are being
played in Qinhuangdao, Shenyang and Tianjin.
The four top teams from last year's Women's World Cup, which was held
in China, are considered the favorites in this tournament. World Cup
champion Germany plays Brazil in a rematch of last year's final. The
United States opens against Norway in a rematch of the bronze medal
game won by the Americans.
But a broken leg is keeping prolific U.S. scorer Abby Wambach out of
the Olympics. Veteran teammate Heather O'Reilly says the U.S. women
have the versatility to compensate for Wambach's absence.
"We have had a lot of changing starting lineups. And goals are coming
from a ton of different places and a ton of different people. And that
can not be anything but positive for our group."
The Americans are led by Swedish-born coach Pia Sundhaage, who was an
assistant with the Chinese national team at last year's Women's World
Cup. Concern about polluted air in China has been a major topic ahead
of the Olympics. But Sundhaage says the conditions have to be
considered a part of the game.
"The two teams have the same air to breathe. So you have to deal with
that. And that might be a certain thing for the coach. Depending on the
first game, the second game, how tired players are and so on. It is a
problem. But again we will have to deal with that. And it is the same
condition for both teams."
Host China is also in action against Sweden. Other nations in the
Olympic women's football tournament are Argentina, Canada, North Korea,
Nigeria, Japan and New Zealand.
The tournament will wrap up with the bronze and gold medal games on
Thursday, August 21st at Workers Stadium in Beijing. The men's
tournament begins on Thursday.