Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Wednesday, July 10, 1996

These games belong
where they started

THE biggest travesty of these Games of the XXVI Olympiad will not be the Dream Team's romp over Angola July 22. It will occur three days earlier when the flame is lit at the new Olympic Stadium.

These Games belong in Athens, not Atlanta. This second Reconstruction of the South will include a replica of the Temple of Hera, where ancient Greek athletes consecrated themselves before entering the stadium at Olympia.

Obviously, the IOC's biggest underwriter, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, ignored its own slogan when going for the gold. "It's the real thing" . . . and the real thing should be happening in Greece, the birthplace of the Games.

"I wish the organizers in Atlanta had had the sense of history and tradition to give the Games back to Greece when they were first awarded to them," said Prof. Stephen G. Miller, a classical archaeologist who revived the Nemean Games in Greece last month. "It would have been singularly the most gracious gesture in the history of sport.

"Imagine the USOC saying, 'Thank you for the honor, but we'll give the Centennial Games back to Greece and we'd like to host the first games of the new millennium in the New World."

Yes, and imagine that the Olympics are really for amateurs.

On Sept. 19, 1990, the day after the IOC emerged from a Tokyo ballroom with its shocking decision of Atlanta over Athens, the Greek Olympic Committee presented the IOC a 160-page, full-color book. Its title was "The Greek Request to the IOC: Why the 2008 Games should be awarded to Athens."

It's a beautiful work, 80 pages in English, 80 in French, in case the IOC missed something in the translation of the modern Olympic Creed: The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle."

The pages are filled with subtle, poignant pleas to return the Games to Greece, "where the Olympic spirit was born. Greece must continue to be the trustee of the Olympic Games."

Included was the cover of a travel brochure with its subliminal message: The gods of the sun, the sea and hospitality have chosen Greece. Why not you?

Indeed, many raised that same question, particularly since the U.S. had just hosted the Olympics in 1984. The answer was simple: only two Olympics have ever made money and both were held in the U.S. (Los Angeles in 1932 and '84).

The United States Olympic Committee sold its soul to get the Centennial Games, selling the IOC a bill of goods. Atlanta's organizers said temperatures during the games would average in the upper 70's . . . true, at 4 a.m.

The average high temperature for Hotlanta during the day in late July is almost 90 degrees. By 7 a.m., the humidity is 89 percent.

"We decided the centennial is for looking forward, not looking back," IOC vice president Richard Pound said. "That's why we chose the new world over the old."

Wrong choice.

WAS I the only one rooting for the College All-Stars against the Dream Team last Saturday?

"It's not unfair to expect big wins," said Shaquille O'Neal. "Anything else would be uncivilized."

Even his ego has gone commercial.

The only thing uncivilized is the greed, especially of the "Cream Team", whose goal is not to beat teams but beat them up.

The best decision Coach Lenny Wilkins could have made would have been to name Robert Parish to the team. The retiring Celtic was named to the 1976 team during his senior year at Centenary but was told by the Atlanta Hawks he would be their first-round draft pick and they didn't want him getting hurt in the Olympics. Atlanta traded Parish to Houston a few days before the draft; it was too late to join the U.S. team.

Parish would have represented the U.S. well. Unfortunately, Dennis Rodman is a great representative of what the U.S. is becoming in the Olympic arena.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter. Her column appears weekly.

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