AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Aviano High School athletic director Ken McNeely said he was surprised Tuesday when he received an e-mail from DODDS-Europe officials telling him that all DODDS sports events in Italy were canceled through Sunday “out of respect for the death of the pope.”

Department of Defense Dependents Schools officials explained that the main motivations for the cancellations were safety concerns and logistical problems teams would face if they attempted to travel in Italy as millions of people descended on Rome for Pope John Paul II’s funeral Friday.

“If it was just out of respect, obviously you would cancel everything everywhere,” said Karen Seadore, DODDS athletic coordinator.

McNeely said that Aviano is “not even close to Rome.”

Aviano’s soccer and tennis teams were scheduled to host a private school from Milan, also in northern Italy, on Thursday.

Soccer and tennis matches scheduled for Thursday at Naples and Livorno high schools were also canceled. Both schools were to play teams from Rome.

McNeely said he hoped DODDS officials would make an exception for the games scheduled Thursday night at Aviano. But Seadore said that did not look likely.

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