VIENNA -- Officials in Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown of Graz quietly and under the cover of darkness removed giant metal letters spelling out his name on a soccer stadium.
The California governor had asked for his name to be stricken from the 15,300-seat arena after critics in his birthplace, where opposition to capital punishment runs high, scorned him for refusing to block this month's execution of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams.
Late Sunday night or early yesterday, authorities in the southern Austrian city unbolted the 20 letters spelling out the action star-turned-politician's name from Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium. They timed the work to take advantage of the Christmas lull to avoid attracting attention ''and keep the media from taking photos," a city hall official who declined to be named told Austrian television.
Capital punishment is illegal in Austria, where many people consider it barbaric. Opposition had run especially high in Graz, whose official slogan is ''City of Human Rights."
After Williams's Dec. 13 execution reignited calls for Graz's stadium to be stripped of Schwarzenegger's name, the governor opted for a preemptive strike: A week ago, he dashed off a letter to local officials ordering his name to be removed.
With the Hollywood star's name gone, the sign atop the main entrance to the stadium in Graz, about 120 miles south of Vienna, read simply, ''Stadium Graz Liebenau," as it was known before it was renamed in Schwarzenegger's honor in 1997.