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home > community > viewpoint > thoughts and opinions on the centennial olympic games

Thoughts and Opinions on the Centennial Olympic Games
The women's marathon was a striking confirmation that all of the shoe sponsorship, media promotion, living in Boulder, and magazine articles in the world simply will not get it done if the body is not able. Ethiopian Fautama Roba ran beautifully through the streets of Atlanta Sunday, crushing the dreams of the pre-race favorites. Roba seemed capable of running even a few minutes faster if necessary. It's too bad she didn't have the competition to push her to a time of 2:23-2:24.

  
Thoughts and Opinions on the Centennial Olympic Games

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By Don Allison
Posted Tuesday, 30 July, 1996

The women's marathon was a striking confirmation that all of the shoe sponsorship, media promotion, living in Boulder, and magazine articles in the world simply will not get it done if the body is not able. Ethiopian Fautama Roba ran beautifully through the streets of Atlanta Sunday, crushing the dreams of the pre-race favorites. Roba seemed capable of running even a few minutes faster if necessary. It's too bad she didn't have the competition to push her to a time of 2:23-2:24.

Life will not be the same for Roba now. Surely David D'ellasandro and other big city marathon major domos are already feverishly working the phones to sign Roba on for their events.

The dnf list of Elana Meyer, Lisa Ondieki, Jenny Spangler, and of course Uta Pippig is an impressive one. Casual observers of the marathon might be perplexed as to how Pippig could push her body through a living hell in Boston in April and almost arbitrarily choose to drop out of the Olympic race a mere four miles from the finish in July. Hat's off to Guam's Marie Benito however, for living out her Olympic dream, finish last in 3:27:28.


So far, NBC's television coverage has been a mixed bag. Way too much gymnastics and boorish nationalism, in my opinion. Must we see every move the undersized adolescent gymnasts make? There are dozens of other sports that at least deserve a sliver of attention. The women's soccer, field hockey, and softball teams, as well as the men's wrestlers' and weightlifters have gotten the short shrift - in spite of much exciting competition. Ratings for the first week were off the charts however, giving the network ammunition for the argument that we are getting what we want to see. Or is the network dictating what we like to see?

Running fans can't really complain, as track & field is a marquee Olympic event. Having three solid hours of women's marathon coverage was pleasant surprise. I suppose it was too much to ask to see the women's 5000 later that evening. That no American was a solid medal threat should have been a sign that coverage would be absent. Many of the track & field events are taped, and shown later. It doesn't take a genius to figure this out, when the events are being held in daylight and shown late in the evening. When the men's hammer throw was being showcased, you knew that an American had done well. Indeed, Lance Deal captured a silver medal. Same for the high jump, in which Charles Austin's gold was a real surprise.

And what gives with Michael Johnson? He seems as pre- occupied with putting on a show as he is with winning his races. Gold shoes, gold chain, icy stare - it all seems too pre-packaged. Are we supposed to embrace this man? At least for me, he is very hard to like, much as Carl Lewis was in his prime. Lewis seems much more likeable as his star power fades an vulnerability increases. I'll say this about Michael Johnson though - the man can sure make a 44 second quarter look easy!

Finally, am I the only one cringing at the inanity of the sideline interviewers? They seem to dig for any angle that will provoke the athletes. After swimmer Tom Dolan's poor 400 meter swim, reporter Jim Gray asked him if his chronic fatigue was " kicking in ". Unbelievable. Watching sprinter Dennis Mitchell walk away in silence when asked if one of his competitors was "unbeatable" was classic, just what these reporters deserved.


The United States track & field team uniforms are a bit garish, with holes cut in the sides of the one piece suit. A few of us " old timers" remember when Alberto Salazar cut all kinds of holes in his uniform for the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. This was a trick to help him deal with the heat, but unfortunately was not successful, as Al finished a dissapointing 15th in the race.


The bomb at Centennial Park robbed Gymnast Kerri Strug of her opportunity to be on virtually every magazine cover nationwide. Timing is everything; barring another disaster, Michael Johnson will get his chance this week.


Was sprinter Linford Christie a poor sport by taking so much time in leaving the sprint start are after being disqualified in the men's 100 meters Saturday? The press has been far too harsh on Christie, I think. The man's dream of defending his Olympic title was shattered - how can he be expected to so easily accept his unfortunate fate? Three minutes does not seem too much time to come to terms. Rather, Christie's British teammate Liz McColgan was much more of a poor sport. McColgan gave all kinds of excuses after her lukewarm marathon performance and said the only reason she did not drop out was that " it was easier to run to the finish than wait for the bus. " This is the Olympic spirit?

Victim or villain? The saga of Michelle Smith is one of the saddest chapters of the 1996 Games. The Irish swimmer's amazing three gold medal performance has been shrouded in controversy. On the surface, Smith has been truly wronged by charges of drug use. She has undergone dozens of drug tests before and after competitions for the past year. Those " in the know " however, insist such rapid improvement at the age of 26 is virtually impossible without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.

This indeed, is the real insidious price all involved in sport must pay for the indiscretions of those athletes in the past who have actually used such drugs: the uncertainty of not knowing whether to believe and embrace a seemingly heart warming story such as Michelle Smith's. Sporting fans have been burned far too often to be anything but cynical, which is truly sad, as by all rights, Smith deserves to be cheered for her heroic efforts.

 

 

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