Sports have one week to reclaim Olympics

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- This is the point in the road where you start asking, are we there yet? When the scenery all starts to look alike and you've heard the same old song too many times.

Because the Olympics are always too long, the answer invariably is no. And stop hitting your sister.

But, as the 2002 Winter Games turn toward their second week, there will be a need to keep driving away images of the beginning as well as the desire to hurry up and get to the end.

The final seven days probably won't be any more eventful than the first 10. But hopefully it's the events that actually matter now, more so than the week passed when protests, hearings and news conferences were the order of the Games.

Scandal has stolen these Olympics. There's one week left for sports to take them back.

That's been a familiar struggle this time around.

Before the first skate was laced up in Salt Lake, these were the Litigation Games.

Charges had been brought against organizing officials. Bobsledders had sued bobsledders. Speed skating had its own court battle when some guys who didn't make the team accused some who did of fixing races.

If somebody didn't like the result they received, they took action, right up to the real Canadian figure-skating team that extended beyond the ice to include a lawyer, an agent and a plea-bargained double gold.

At least nobody was talking about security for a couple of days.

As the Salt Lake Olympics head into their final week, though, the intent of these Games could come back again.

There won't be any greater controversies than the skating mess. But there should be some pretty good games.

Already some pretty positive things have happened here.

Crowds have been large, transportation a non-issue and courtesy off the charts.

There was an opening ceremony that was more tasteful than it got credit for being and what has already been a record medal performance by the U.S. team.

Five different speed skaters have won medals. Three American flags flew in the same awards ceremony for the first time in 40 years. And a transplant patient swooshed all the way to the medal stand.

That's before the aerial skiers who should give the U.S. another clean sweep of a competition have even clamped on their boots.

There's a lot more left, whether that's good or bad.

Many of the premier events in Salt Lake are still to come, even if it seems like the biggest thing that could ever come out of here has already happened.

Three Americans will be among the contenders in women's figure skating. Two terrific hockey tournaments will continue providing an excellence not seen in any other rinks. And an American speed-skating teen idol once thought to have a chance at a gold-medal grand slam will continue looking for a single in the next week.

There's a lot behind in Salt Lake. And a lot more ahead for the stretch.

We can only hope that the final turn will work out better for the Olympics than it did for Apolo Ohno.

Savannah Morning News sports columnist Tim Guidera is part of a Morris News Service team covering the 2002 Winter Olympics. He can be reached at guidera@hotmail.com.



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