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Track racing on tap at Seattle sports summit

U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr competed in wrestling when Seattle staged the Goodwill Games in 1990. He returned to Seattle on Wednesday to drum up support for another Olympic-style event. The Pacific Rim Sports Summit will be held June 7-12, with 900 athletes from nine countries: Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and the United States. “I'm going to stay on the sidelines for this one,” Scherr said. Athletes will compete in archery, track and field, basketball, track cycling, diving, gymnastics, softball, synchronized swimming and

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By The Associated Press

U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr competed in wrestling when Seattle staged the Goodwill Games in 1990. He returned to Seattle on Wednesday to drum up support for another Olympic-style event.

The Pacific Rim Sports Summit will be held June 7-12, with 900 athletes from nine countries: Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.

“I’m going to stay on the sidelines for this one,” Scherr said.

Athletes will compete in archery, track and field, basketball, track cycling, diving, gymnastics, softball, synchronized swimming and volleyball. It’s an early test in the buildup to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“It gives our athletes an opportunity and forum they don’t often get in a widespread competition, both for public exposure and in competition with countries they may face during the Olympic games,” Scherr said.

It’s also a rare chance for many U.S. athletes to compete in front of the home crowd, giving the USOC a boost in efforts to increase its visibility and introduce a new generation of athletes.

“The riders that will be selected for the (track) team will likely be a mixture of those in USA Cycling’s talent pool along with possibly some emerging talent,” said Andy Lee, USA Cycling’s director of communications.

“We also have both established, as well as up-and-coming riders, who are from the Pacific Northwest, so from a local standpoint, it would be nice to see them involved as well. Certainly with the international season now a winter sport, the availability and form of some riders will be a factor in selection, too, as June is suddenly the off-season in terms of world-class track events.”

Organizers introduced Lenny Wilkens as the honorary chairman, less than one week after he resigned from his coaching duties for the NBA’s New York Knicks.

“The Olympic movement in the United States is alive and well,” said Wilkens, an assistant on the 1992 “Dream Team” and the head coach of the 1996 U.S. basketball team. Both teams won Olympic golds.

The event is expected to cost $10 million, funded by corporate sponsorships and ticket sales. Ticket prices range from $12 for some events to $95 for prime seats at the opening ceremonies at Safeco Field.

Other venues include KeyArena and Everett Events Center for basketball, Qwest Events Center for volleyball, Marymoor Park for cycling, archery and softball and the Tacoma Dome for gymnastics.

The King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way, a world-class natatorium and one of the legacy projects left after the Goodwill Games, will hold diving and synchronized swimming events.

Though staged on a smaller scale than the Olympics, these games should offer plenty of competition. Several representatives from U.S. sports federations said the Pacific Rim countries have many of the world’s top teams or athletes in their events.

In diving, China won six of the eight golds awarded at the Athens Games. In softball, all four Athens semifinalists – the United States, Australia, China and Japan – will play.

“It’s going to be a rematch, only 10 months out of the Olympic Games for basically the top four teams,” said Jessica Mendoza, an outfielder on the U.S. team that won gold in Greece.

Scherr sees such events as key to reminding Americans that Olympians compete all the time, not just every four years. A similar event for winter sports is under consideration in Milwaukee.

“This will allow the Olympic movement to connect with a wider audience in the United States during a non-Olympic year,” he said.

For more about the Seattle competition, see the Pacific Rim Sports Summit website.