U.S. Briefs -- Oprah Pitches Chicago, Cyclists Press USOC for Apology

(ATR) Chicago-based TV host Oprah Winfrey debuts a new season with a pitch for the city’s Olympics bid...a group of cyclists seek apologies from the USOC for being singled out in Beijing...More inside...

Oprah is Filled with Olympic Spirit

Oprah Winfrey hosted a welcome home party for more than 175 U.S. Olympic medalists while promoting her home of Chicago as the host for the 2016 Olympics.

The athletes included eight-time gold medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps, who wore a Chicago 2016 shirt, gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson and basketball player Kobe Bryant.

Chicago mayor Richard Daley was among the thousands of spectators cheering the athletes during the 23rd season premiere of "The Oprah Winfrey Show". The show was taped last week at downtown Millennium Park, but aired September 8.

"We're hoping the world will get the chance to come to Chicago for the 2016 Games," Winfrey said on her show that is heavily syndicated across the U.S and airs in 140 countries. "We've got our fingers crossed for that."

The United States won 110 total medals in Beijing but the actual number of medalists was closer to 200 because of team members and alternates.

Perhaps the most athletic move during the show was performed by discus gold medalist Stephanie Brown Trafton. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder did a cartwheel.

Winfrey thanked USOC sponsors Bank of America, United Airlines and Hilton hotels for bringing the athletes together.

Dara Torres, the 41-year-old mother who won three silver medals in Beijing, indicated she may not retire again just yet. "I kind of want to keep going a little bit," she said. "We have World Championships [next year]."

Torres said she could probably keep up with Phelps in the number of calories they consume. "The only reason why I want to keep swimming is so I can keep eating like that," she said.

USOC Plans Talks with Aggrieved Cyclists

U.S. Olympic Committee leadership, including CEO Jim Scherr, will hold a conference call later this week with the four cyclists who caused a stir when they stepped off a plane in Beijing wearing masks against air pollution.

The athletes, who were pressured to apologize to China for their behavior, now want the USOC to apologize to them because the episode was "emotionally devastating" and adversely affected their performances.

The gauze face masks are said to have been issued to the athletes by the USOC.

"If there are any questions or concerns, we want to hear those, address them and bring closure to this matter," USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel told Around the Rings. The date and time of the call have not been set, he said, "but we do want to get it done sooner rather than later."

Attorney Christopher Campbell sent a letter to the chairman of the USOC's Athletes Advisory Council on behalf of the four athletes: Michael Friedman, Sarah Hammer, Bobby Lea and Jennie Reed.

"No athlete who has trained for years to become an Olympic athlete should be subject to such disrespect," Campbell wrote. "It was their first Olympic Games. They should have been in a supportive environment so that they could enjoy their Olympic experience and perform at peak levels. The false accusations, done in such a public fashion, was humiliating and emotionally devastating. It affected the Athletes' performance."

None of the cyclists medaled and Hammer was the only one who finished in the top five in any event.

The athletes also want "an unequivocal statement from the USOC that they did not engage in any inappropriate conduct" and "systemic assurance that something like this does not happen to future Olympic athletes."

Seibel said he has not seen the letter so he could not comment on specifics. He said he did not know if USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth would be on the call.

At a press briefing in Beijing, Scherr said the cyclists' actions "wasn't in the best judgment at the time."

Ueberroth said the athletes "came forward on their own volition" and offered the apology to BOCOG. He added, "You never to go to somebody else's place and cause any embarrasment and in this case, I think they did a little bit."

After his race, Friedman insisted that the cyclists had a right to wear the masks, which had been issued by the USOC.

Edited by Ed Hula.