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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Looking Forward to Beijing in 2008?

When I was a kid, a certain joke permeated when someone slipped and fell. A comment naturally ensued that "And the East German judge gave it a 5" (or some other very low grade when compared to what the rest of the judges gave in diving competitions). Now, East Germany doesn't exist today, but the former country (also known as the German Democratic Republic -- it was anything but) was ruthless in its competition for gold medals (and rumors abounded about sex change operations for some "female" weight throwers and steroid usage for all sorts of athletes). Cheaters, they were.

To make matters worse, before the Iron Curtain fell, the politics were severe. Judges from Eastern Bloc countries voted together, or so it seemed, for athletes from those countries in sports that were judged. And then there was the debacle that was the final men's basketball game in the 1972 Olympics, where the officials robbed the U.S. National Team of a gold medal. Those were bad Olympic times, because bad politics permeated the games.

Cheating participants, crooked judges.

If it was Al Capone's Chicago or Don Corleone's New York, it was one thing. But this is something more sacred -- the Olympic Games.

You might have figured that the fall of the old Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain would have changed all that. East Germany is no longer, and the Soviet Union is extinct. Democratic governments abound, and it doesn't matter if you have a Czech judge or a Slovakian judge (unless, of course, you're an ice skating judge and favor the French pairs or you're a boxing judge watching Roy Jones, Jr.'s match). Or so you would think.

It's no surprise that the Chinese are primed to put on a good show in Beijing in 2008. What is something of a surprise is this report from the "Now That's Amateur Website", regarding a dress rehearsal for the Beijing Games.

Where, it turns out, there are games within games. Or, put another way, the proverbial they are still playing the same old games.

The People's Republic of China has a great opportunity to stage the all-time coming out party in its own front yard in 2008. It has the chance to show the world that it can hold a grand, classy event that could set the standard for Olympics for years to come.

But only if they're careful and do things the right way.

Which isn't the old way.

Stage a farce, and you'll become a joke.

Stage a masterpiece, and you'll become the gold standard.


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