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XXVIII Olympics

Su Lum

Every four years I say I’m not going to get sucked into THAT tar pit again and this year I did better because it was easy to turn off the repetitive commercials and the everlasting two-person beach volleyball tournaments. I’d think surely they were over, only to hear, “we’re now going into the quarterfinals”!The way I heard it, NBC concentrated on the volleyball because the United States was a major player and the skimpy suits helped the ratings. Overall the uniforms were way more revealing than I’d ever seen, and Great Britain had a moment of embarrassment when it turned out that their bathing suits turned transparent when they hit the water, something someone should have thought about testing. I’d turn off the volleyball and go back to my book, then turn the TV back on and it would be gymnastics. I’ve been a gymnastics fan since Olga Korbut turned the sport on its ear in 1972. That little darling (“The Munchkin of Munich”) did the first back flip on the balance beam and dazzled audiences worldwide with her elfin floor exercise and made it look like great fun.Now gymnastics, along with every other subjective Olympic sport, has been tainted by politics, illegal drug use and appalling judges. Scandalous accusations have been laid upon the treatment of young female skaters and gymnasts, overworked and underfed to keep their pea-breasted little bodies from developing – the better to do the triple somersaults on the floor and triple axels on the ice.In the past, the girl gymnasts were introduced with statistics: 17 years old, 4-foot-8, 75 pounds – they don’t do that anymore. But I read that Svetlana Khorkina, the Russian gymnast who towers over the other competitors like a giraffe (and who was robbed) is only 5-foot-5.Still, I kept watching in fascinated horror, hollering at the tube all the while. Protesting the camera angles (why do they film the vaults head on? and what’s with those little spaceship contraptions they were vaulting off of?), screaming at an announcer who’d be prattling about something his third-grade math teacher said, at a climactic, breath-holding moment in a gymnast’s routine (“Shut UP!”).The culmination of all the frustration that had been building in me for days came when Aleksei Nemov made an unwarranted low score on the high bar and the audience hissed and booed for 10 minutes in protest. Way to go! Not going to take it anymore!Perhaps fearing a major riot, the judges rethought the matter and altered their scores, giving Nemov a 9.76. Then they turned around and padded Paul Hamm’s score so that he would get the gold and Nemov would be out of the running.With this kind of blatant flummery going on, it’s no wonder the Olympics don’t command the following and respect of what once was the most honored amateur sports event in the world. Now, they’re not even amateurs, the athletes don’t even pretend to live in the countries they claim to represent and the Olympics are so tainted with bribery charges (even Salt Lake City was in on it!), misspent funds and prejudicial judges, it’s no wonder that the stands were more than half empty most of the time.I wonder how much money Greece lost on this fiasco. I don’t think people stayed away because of terrorism. Possibly it was the stifling heat of Greece in August, but more likely it was because The People have just about had it with the Olympics. Su Lum is a longtime local who never recovered from Torville and Dean not winning the gold for ice dancing. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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