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Thursday, July 31, 2003
Sprinter vans, publicity provided

Associated Press

DENVER -- DaimlerChrysler will provide vans for the 2004 U.S. Paralympics team under a sponsorship deal announced Thursday.

The company's Freightliner Sprinter vans will be the team's official vehicle for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens next summer. The vans, designed for people with disabilities, will be used daily by U.S. Paralympic teams.

"We feel this is not only the fit but a tremendous boost to our marketing and sponsorship efforts," said Jim McDonald, U.S. Paralympics' chief marketing officer.

The deal also calls for U.S. Paralympic athletes to appear at dealerships and at community events, Sprinter van demos at national charity events and vans featuring images of U.S. Paralympians at U.S. events.

The deal comes the same week three wheelchair athletes sued the U.S. Olympic Committee for failing to provide equal benefits to Paralympic athletes.

Scot Hollonbeck of Atlanta, Tony Inguez of Aurora, Ill., and Jacob Heiveil of Bothell, Wash., filed the lawsuit Monday, claiming the USOC should give Paralympians the same health insurance, grants, living expense stipends and opportunities as Olympians.

USOC officials have denied the allegations, saying the organization does more to support the Paralympic movement than any other country in the world.

The Paralympic Games are the Olympic equivalent for athletes with physical disabilities. The games take place two weeks after the Olympics, using the same host city and venues.

More than 4,000 athletes are expected to compete in the 2004 Paralympic Games, making it the second-largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympics.