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Friday, February 22, 2002

As bad as I feel for the poor Russians, their best performers in the Olympics have been the ones that train in North America. It must be hard to be a former superpower and watch the rest of the world pass you by. They want to rerun a race they lost. Their athletes have pulled out of events to avoid drug tests. They already have one more gold medal than they deserve, and now they want to control the officiating to improve their chances of getting more gold.

The Russian athletes will be missed if their government pulls them out of the Games. Most of them want to become U.S. citizens anyway, so maybe our government should speed up the process.

And pity the poor Koreans, who think the gold medal should be awarded to the first racer across the finish line — even if he deliberately knocks other skaters out of the way to get there. They want to sue the short track referee in a U.S. court because he disqualified one of their athletes. I guess they'd prefer to run the race with no officials and no rules. The could call it roller derby. Somehow I think the U.S. would adapt pretty well to that kind of competition, though.

And if the Russians want to talk about fairness, they can give the U.S. back the basketball gold medal they stole from us in Munich in 1972.

There's always some sentiment for Olympic athletes to complete as individuals, rather than under their national banners. That would be okay with me, but the networks who are paying billions of dollars to televise the Games wouldn't like it.

At least part of the reason the Olympics draw big ratings is that people enjoy the competition between countries. That's why they raise the flags and play the anthems. That's why they show the medal count every day. It would still be a great world event without this nationalism, but I don't think McDonald's and Gateway would pay as much to sponsor it.

blue sky at sunset

Blue sky at sunset.

I stand by every sappy word I wrote yesterday about the Olympic movement. It brings people together. It helps us understand each other. What it doesn't do is stop war, terrorism, murder and exploitation. And it doesn't stop national federations from trying to win in the court of public opinion what they can't win on the ice and snow.

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