Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Graz removes Schwarzenegger's name from stadium

Graz removes Schwarzenegger's name from stadium

VIENNA (Reuters) - Californian Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian home town of Graz removed his name from the city's stadium over Christmas, amid anger over his decision to deny clemency to a death row inmate.

Austrian news agency APA showed the stadium's entrance displaying only its historical name, "Graz-Liebenau," and quoted an anonymous city official as saying Schwarzenegger's name had been removed overnight to avoid a public furor.

Graz city officials were not reachable on Monday, a holiday in Austria.

Left-wing politicians launched a petition drive in Graz to have the town rename the stadium because the Austrian-born governor allowed the execution of death-row inmate Stanley Tookie Williams this month.

Williams, an ex-leader of the Crips gang who supporters say had redeemed himself by campaigning against gang violence, was executed by lethal injection on December 13 after Schwarzenegger and the courts rejected all of his appeals.

While conservative mayor Siegfried Nagl opposed renaming the stadium, a city council majority of social democrats, communists and greens supported it. That prospect prompted Schwarzenegger to turn the tables and withdraw his name himself.

On December 19, Schwarzenegger demanded Graz stop using his name on the stadium and in promotions and returned a "ring of honor" he had been awarded by city officials in 1999, saying politicians in his hometown appeared to have rejected him.

Schwarzenegger, a former body building champion and Hollywood star, trained at the stadium as a young man. It was renamed in his honor in 1997.