THE concrete gun emplacements have survived intact on the World War II

airport, venue today for the World Cross-country Championships in

Budapest. But the record 800 participants from 67 nations need hardly be

reminded that their sport is often war.

When Kenya's William Sigei won last year, it was because his

archrival, Moroccan Khalid Skah, was escorted in intimidatory close

custody by five other Kenyans, led by Ismael Kirui -- revenge for the

Olympics where the Moroccans were perceived to have cheated Kirui's

brother out of gold.

Skah heads a Moroccan team coached by Said Aouita, but the Kenyans

believe Skah, who has had bronchitis, may be a spent force, and Sigei is

favourite to win. Kenya, team victors for the past eight years, are so

confident that they feel able to omit world 5000m champion Kirui on

disciplinary grounds.

Two Scots, Vikki McPherson and Laura Adam, are in the UK women's team

from which injured former world junior champion Paula Radcliffe

yesterday was forced to withdraw.

Defending champion Albertina Diaz heads a Portuguese team which

includes world half-marathon champion Conceicao Ferreira and European

indoor 3000m champion Fernanda Ribeiro. Their title rivals, China, have

omitted all their world track champions.

* ''WE would rather be beaten in a close race than win by a


That was the laudable sentiment expressed yesterday by Alan Robson,

founder and tactician of Leslie Deans Racing Club who defend their

Scottish six-stage relay title today at Livingston in the final

championship of the road and cross-country season.

Last year, at Dumfries, his club won a poorly supported race by 4min.

06sec. ''That's no use to anybody,'' added the former British

professional mile champion.

Without marathon man Peter Fleming, and Robson's brother, John, Racing

may be more severely tested by Cambuslang, Shettleston, Falkirk, and

Kilbarchan, though Racing are also the form team on this course, victors

last time the event was staged here, in 1992.

This is the fourth time that the course, adjacent to Livingston South

Station, has been used for the event, and the Edinburgh club includes

David Ross and Brian Kirkwood, the two fastest men on the short

(3.2-mile) stage.

Racing are using the event to blood some less experienced runners in

preparation for the English 12-stage championships, in Birmingham on

April 30. But this will be the last team outing for Racing's notorious

radioactive cherry red strip, the rig the others love to hate. The club

has signed a deal with Mizuno, worth #4500, which will see them switch

to cobalt blue tops and turquoise and black shorts.

Alan Robson, if he is not called on to race a long stage today, will

attempt to win the Alloa half-marathon tomorrow (11am) for the sixth


He can expect tough competition from Tommy Murray and Terry Mitchell

in a race which last year attracted almost 1000 starters. Entries (#5)

will be accepted on the day at Lornshill Academy.

* MURRAY, Robert Quinn (Kilbarchan), and Alan Puckrin (Greenock

Glenpark) have been selected to represent Scotland in the Northumberland

Castles Series of road races next month.

They were due to run the opening two events, with the squad being

revised for the final race. Puckrin, however, has a knee injury and

reserve, Adrian Callan (Springburn), has been called in. Other reserves

are Graeme Croll (Cambuslang), Graham Wight (Shettleston), and John

Robson and Peter Fleming (Racing Club).

* CITY of Glasgow AC were honoured last night by a Glasgow City

Council civic dinner to mark their successful 1993 season during which

they won the UK league.