Secret files show British police covered up bungling in 1989 deaths

Prime minister apologizes for cover-up 1989 soccer deaths
LONDON — Victims of Britain’s worst-ever sporting disaster received an official apology and a measure of vindication Wednesday after the release of secret files showing that police tried to cover up their bungled response by shifting blame onto the 96 people who lost their lives in an overcrowded soccer stadium 23 years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents contain evidence that authorities systematically deflected attention from their own failings by smearing the reputations of those who died at the Hillsborough stadium, in the city of Sheffield, on April 15, 1989. Most of the victims, fans of the Liverpool team, were crushed to death in a standing-only section that was already full when police herded more spectators into the fenced-in enclosure.

The tragedy, and photos of clearly suffering victims squeezed against the metal fence, stunned Britain. Shock turned to disgust amid reports that many of the victims were drunk, had histories of violent behavior and even urinated on officers and medical personnel who were helping the injured.

But those reports turned out to be false, part of a deliberate disinformation campaign by the South Yorkshire police force. In fact, the police themselves and the emergency services showed poor coordination and mounted an inadequate and delayed response to the unfolding catastrophe, according to a report by an independent panel that studied the newly released files.

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Mexico tycoons widen U.S. sports reach with Padres, Chivas USA deals

Chivas usa fans gary friedman

MEXICO CITY -- A cousin of the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, has become a part owner of the San Diego Padres, and a married couple who are Mexican millionaires have taken control of Chivas USA, a Major League Soccer team.

The deals, announced in separate reports Wednesday, widen the reach of Mexico's hyper-wealthy in the high-stakes world of professional sports in Southern California.

Alfredo Harp Helu, a billionaire banker and Slim's cousin, appeared Wednesday on a list of eight new part-owners of slightly less than half of San Diego's Major League Baseball team.

The sale was reported to be worth $800 million during negotiations, but details on the final purchase price paid by members of the team's new minority group of owners were not revealed. Harp's wealth is estimated at $1 billion.

From its Carson-based clubhouse, meanwhile, Chivas USA announced that Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes, the founder and chief executive, respectively, of the Omnilife nutritional supplements company have acquired the second half of the squad's ownership from partners, becoming full owners.

Vergara and Fuentes are already owners of the original Chivas in Guadalajara, the popular First Division team in Mexico's second largest city. The details of the Chivas USA deal were not released.

It's been a good week for Fuentes, one of Mexico's wealthiest women. On Tuesday she was named a chief patron of the newly renovated Rufino Tamayo Museum, which accompanied a minor controversy in Mexico's art world.

Fuentes' name appears prominently in a renovated gallery inside the museum, along with a gallery named in honor of billionaire Carlos Hank Rhon, brother of the scandal-ridden former mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon. Critics bemoaned the presence of the Hank Rhon name inside the museum as a symbol of the increasing privatization of public art institutions in Mexico.

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-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo:  Chivas USA fans gather for opening day at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in 2005. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times 


Mexico's first loss to U.S. at home, on a Mexican American's goal

Michael orozco estado azteca ap

MEXICO CITY -- It was a sweet Olympic gold victory for Mexican soccer, yes. But that was last week.

On Wednesday night, Mexico was defeated by the United States in a friendly match at the cavernous  high-altitude Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, 1-0, the first win for the U.S. on Mexican soil in 75 years of a storied and often bitter rivalry.

The only goal of the game came from U.S. defender Michael Orozco Fiscal, 26, a Mexican American native of Orange.

When it happened, in the 79th minute, utter silence seemed to befall the entire Mexican capital for a second or two. The United States had not won a single game at the Azteca, and Mexico had barely lost there against any opponent, in official matches or friendlies.

Watch the game-winning goal here:

Mexico's current sports superstar, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez -- who didn't play for gold in London in the men's soccer final on Saturday -- attempted a few desperate strikes in the final minutes to salvage the game.

But U.S. goalie Tim Howard delivered crucial saves for the Americans, despite being battered with harrasment from the stands, a custom relished by fans at the Azteca. (At least one pesky person Wednesday was distracting the U.S. goalie with the light of a green laser.)

There was surprisingly little bad blood for Orozco in Mexico's media the next morning and among armchair analysts online.

Where could an ardently nationalist fan draw a line on criticism anyway? The U.S. friendly roster is rife with border-blurring athletes, a reflection of the complex historical migration patterns between the  countries, and maybe a little of that free-trade spirit that has defined the binational relationship since 1994.

Edgar Castillo, a defender born in Las Cruces, N.M., has played for both the Mexican and U.S. national teams. Midfielder Joe Corona -- half-Mexican, half-Salvadoran and born in Los Angeles -- plays professionally for Tijuana. And Herculez Gomez, born in L.A. to Mexican American parents, plays in Mexico for Pachuca.

Game-winner Orozco's parents are from the Mexican states of Durango and Queretaro. He was born in Orange County but plays professionally in Mexico for San Luis.

"That's history," he told one news outlet after the game. "It does leave a mark in my heart."

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Photo: U.S. defender Michael Orozco, right, celebrates with teammate Terrence Boyd after scoring during a friendly soccer game against Mexico in Mexico City, Aug. 15, 2012. Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press


Cameroon athletes disappear from Olympic Village

Cameroon's delegation takes part in the London Olympics opening ceremony
Seven Cameroonian athletes have disappeared from the Olympic Village in London, a Cameroonian official said. 

Five boxers, a swimmer and a soccer player are missing, the state Cameroon Tribune reported, citing Team Cameroon chief David Ojong. The first to disappear reportedly was female soccer goalie Drusille Ngako, followed by swimmer Edingue Ekane Paul.

The five boxers then vanished. “Their disappearance is not only an embarrassment, but a great surprise to members of the Team Cameroon delegation and Cameroonians based in London, having feasted with four of them last Friday at the Royal Garden Hotel,” the Cameroon Tribune wrote.

A Cameroonian economist told the Guardian it was hardly surprising that the athletes took off. "The bottom line is to look at the economic conditions in Cameroon and see how hard the system is for many people, especially the athletes, who don't receive any support from the government," Flaubert Mbiekop told the British paper.

British immigration officials have refused to comment. All seven athletes were in Britain legally on passports that allow them to stay until November, the Press Assn. in Britain reported.

Cameroonian athletes have previously taken advantage of sporting events abroad to  leave their country, disappearing after the Commonwealth Games in Australia six years ago. They also skipped out of the Francophonie event and junior soccer competitions.

The state newspaper characterized those athletes as being “lured by scouts to quit their delegations without the consent of their officials for greener pasture,” only to “end up frustrated.”

Before the Cameroonian athletes went missing at the London Games, it had been reported that three Sudanese athletes were seeking asylum after coming to the Olympics with the Sudanese training squad.

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Photo: Cameroon's delegation takes part in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics on July 27, 2012. Credit: Christophe Simon / AFP/Getty Images


Heartbreak Hill: South African rider's Olympic dream dashed

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — When they named the thoroughbred foal Heartbreak Hill, no one imagined just how much heartbreak there would be.

Heartbreak Hill, affectionately known as Harry, was to be the first South African-bred horse ever to compete in the Olympic Games. Harry’s rider, Paul Hart, was selected to compete in eventing, a grueling discipline a little like an equestrian triathlon that combines dressage, cross-country jumping and show jumping.

Harry’s Olympic journey was a milestone in a country where the arduous quarantine for the deadly African horse sickness makes exporting horses for international competing expensive and difficult.

But the international Court of Arbitration for Sport on Saturday ordered South Africa to drop Hart, 45, from the competition in favor of Alex Peternell, 30, a South African rider based in Britain who had appealed his exclusion from the team. The CAS is top court for the resolution of sporting disputes.

No Hart, no Harry. Peternell will ride Asih, a German horse imported to Britain in January.

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London Olympics threatened with strike by border officials

Olympics
LONDON -- Already coping with a shortage of private security staff, the organizers of the 2012 Olympic Games in London are now facing the threat that thousands of government employees responsible for safeguarding the nation's borders will go on strike next Thursday, on the eve of opening day.

But Sebastian Coe, chairman of the Games, defiantly told the BBC on Friday that Britain would offer “a safe and secure” international event.

With athletes and spectators adding to the normal workload of already struggling border staff checking immigration lines, the union representing airport immigration staff and passport and criminal records employees announced a 24-hour strike for next week and a ban on overtime for the duration of the Games, which run through Aug. 12.

Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to British troops in Afghanistan on Thursday, condemned the strike. “I do not believe it is right, I do not believe it will be justified,” he said.

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London Olympics security contractor called 'incompetent' by panel

London-security
 

LONDON — A private contractor's planning for security at the Summer Olympics in London was  "incompetent," the chairman of a British Parliament committee said Tuesday.

As athletes streamed into Heathrow Airport for next week's start of the Games, lawmakers quizzed G4S security's Chief Executive Nick Buckles over his company’s last-minute failure to provide over 10,000 extra staff to police venues.

With controversy raging between government and disgruntled army and police officers called up to cover for the lack of trained staff which G4S was unable to provide, lawmakers asked Buckles to explain his company’s shortfall.

At times appearing uncertain and unprepared, Buckles told the committee he was “deeply disappointed” and “embarrassed” about his firm's inability to deliver on the contract. Buckles said he only became aware of the shortage of security personnel on July 3 while he was on vacation in the United States.

Ian Horseman Sewell, G4S account manager for the Olympics, appeared beside Buckles and said he was unaware of any problem until last week.

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Deadly avalanche strikes French Alps; at least nine climbers dead

Avalanche
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

PARIS -- Nine climbers died and several others were missing after a climbing party was struck by an avalanche in the French Alps early Thursday.

Search and rescue teams, including sniffer dogs, were still combing the snow-covered slopes hours after the disaster, which was described as one of the worst such tragedies in recent years. Eight other climbers were injured after being swept down the mountain and were flown by helicopter to a hospital. Another two climbers escaped unhurt.

PHOTOS: Deadly avalanche in French Alps

The dead were reported to include three Britons and climbers from Switzerland, Germany and
Spain.

The 25-member group was making a dawn ascent of the perilous north face of Mont Maudit, which translates as Cursed Mountain in English, in the Mont Blanc range near the resort town of Chamonix. The climbers were above the 13,000-foot level when the avalanche struck shortly after 5 a.m. Early reports suggested the party was climbing in three groups roped together when they were hit by a wall of snow and ice dislodged by rising summer temperatures.

One of the injured climbers contacted the emergency services by mobile phone.

[Updated July 12, 9:40 a.m.: Officials later raised the number of people in the climbing group to 28. The search was called off late Thursday and expected to resume Friday, weather permitting.]

It was the worst disaster in the Mont Blanc range since August 2008, when 20 climbers were caught in a huge avalanche that killed eight of them. The area is popular with climbers.

In 2007, four people who were badly equipped died of exposure on Mont Blanc. In July 2003, six climbers and a mountain guide were struck by a block of ice that killed three of them.

On Thursday, Philippe de Rumigny, the local governor, said a slab of snow and ice nearly 16 inches thick had come loose in a particularly icy section of the mountain.

"There was no weather warning of an avalanche risk," De Rumigny told reporters.

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 Photo: A helicopter patrols the air as part of rescue operations following an avalanche on Mont Maudit, near Chamonix in the French Alps. Credit: Gregory Yetchmeniza / European Pressphoto Agency.


Judge OKs missiles on apartment rooftop for London Olympics

London-missiles
LONDON -- The British military can deploy a surface-to-air missile battery atop an apartment building during the Olympics, a judge said Tuesday, throwing out a challenge by residents who argued that their home would become a prime target for terrorists.

The battery would be capable of launching warheads toward suspicious aircraft at up to three times the speed of sound. The government is planning to set up six such installations around London as part of a massive security operation for the Summer Games that will also include 13,500 troops, more than Britain has stationed in Afghanistan.

Tenants of the Fred Wigg Tower apartment high-rise in East London, near the Olympic Park, took the government to court, saying that it failed to consult them properly in deciding to plunk down an anti-aircraft missile battery on their rooftop and alleging that their right to a peaceful home life had been violated.

But a High Court judge dismissed that challenge Tuesday. Justice Charles Haddon-Cave said the military was within its rights to choose a residential building as a missile-launching platform and that its outreach efforts to the community, while not obligatory, were “immaculate.”

Residents of the apartment building were laboring under “something of a misapprehension” as to the nature of the weaponry and of the risks posed by it, Britain’s Press Assn. quoted Haddon-Cave as saying.

Critics have described the government’s security arrangements for the Summer Olympics, which kick off July 27, as overkill. In addition to the missiles, the military is also mooring its biggest warship in the Thames and patrolling the skies with spy planes and helicopters with snipers.

The security budget for the Games now stands at about $875 million, double the originally intended amount.

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Photo: Residents of the Fred Wigg Tower in East London, shown above, lost their bid in court to stop their rooftop from being used as a missile base during the upcoming Olympic Games. Credit: Matt Dunham / Associated Press.


Britain heartbroken at Andy Murray's Wimbledon defeat

Wimbledon
LONDON — There was hardly a dry eye at Wimbledon as Andy Murray fell short Sunday to tennis legend Roger Federer, who powered  his way to a seventh victory in the English grass-court, Grand Slam classic. 

Murray had the crowd and the country — from his homeland of Scotland down to London — holding its collective breath in hope of finally seeing one of their own win the Wimbledon men’s singles after 76 years. But it was not to be.

The Murray family was overcome with emotion, mother Judy Murray who coached her son in his early years, his girlfriend, Kim Sears, who broke down in tears, and Murray himself choking up as he paid tribute to Federer and to his own supporters. “Thanks to everyone who has supported me. You did a great job. It's always tough,” he managed to say.

Photos: Britain hit by 'Murray Mania'

Murray told a BBC interviewer later, “I was really upset at the end because ... when I play at Wimbledon I feel that support and I want to try and obviously win for the nation, and I was upset I couldn’t do it.”

But after the tears, Judy Murray tweeted, “Lots to celebrate…. Amazing day. Amazing tourney. Amazing son.”

“It would have been great for Britain if he’d won,” said tennis fan Miryam Dragonetti, 33, a mother of three. “But it was fantastic play, really exciting up to the last set, where I felt Murray was beginning to lose it.”  

The streets of Murray’s home town of Dunblane in Scotland emptied as townsfolk watched their local hero on TV screens at home, in bars and at the clubhouse where the young Murray took his first tennis lessons.  After the grueling three-hour, 20-minute court struggle ended in heartbreaking defeat to the pride of Switzerland, the small town filled with disappointed but supportive fans.

Photos: Wimbledon men's final: Federer vs. Murray

One of them, Ian Conway, vice president of Scotland's national tennis association and a longtime friend of the Murrays, told a BBC-TV interviewer that the tears were understandable after such a battle against a great player such as Federer who has now won 17 Grand Slam tourneys. At the same time, “Andy will have learned a lot from it, he’ll be back, please believe it — the nation will be behind him.”

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Photo: Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts after losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men's tennis finals Sunday in London. Credit: Paul Gilham / Getty Images.


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