Austrian authorities deprive Schwarzenegger of his name

Officials in Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown quietly removed his name from a soccer stadium overnight, complying with the California governor's demand in a bitter dispute over his death penalty stance.

Authorities late Sunday night or early Monday removed the large metal letters spelling out the action star-turned-politician's name from the 15,300-seat stadium in the southern city of Graz, taking advantage of the Christmas fuss to avoid attracting attention.

Schwarzenegger had written to the mayor of Graz a week ago asking that his name be removed after local activists called for the stadium to be renamed because of Schwarzenegger's refusal to block the Dec. 13 execution of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams in California.

Capital punishment is illegal in Schwarzenegger's native Austria, where many people consider it barbaric. Opposition had run especially high in Graz, whose official slogan is "City of Human Rights."

The governor, turning the tables on his critics, ordered his name removed and said he was returning a ring of honor that Graz officials gave him in 1999.

With the Hollywood star's name gone, the sign atop the stadium in Graz, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Vienna, read simply: "Stadium Graz Liebenau." Officials had renamed the arena in Schwarzenegger's honor in 1997.

Last week, Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl wrote to Schwarzenegger urging him to reconsider his decision to cut ties to the city and to keep the ring. Nagl said he reassured Schwarzenegger that he remains admired by most local residents despite the fierce opposition to his support of the death penalty.

Nagl said he was worried that severing ties to Schwarzenegger, one of Austria's most famous sons, potentially could cost the city millions in tourist revenue.

But a movement to scrap Schwarzenegger's name from the stadium had gained momentum in recent weeks, and a majority of the city council in Graz was said to support the idea, making Schwarzenegger's demand a pre-emptive move, the AP reports.


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