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Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Let’s renew true
spirit of Olympics

THE email came from Brisbane yesterday, from a Swedish photojournalist named Martin studying in Australia. He is collecting responses from sports departments across the United States and he chose ours to represent Hawaii.

The question was a simple but thought-provoking one: "What do Americans think of the Olympics?"

It was particularly well-timed, considering that the Summer Games in Sydney begin 100 days from today. It was ironic as well as I had just visited Bishop Museum a few hours before the email was received.

The museum's "Aloha from Waikiki'' display has a section devoted to Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's first Olympian. Included in the display was Kahanamoku's Olympic ring and his laurel wreath from the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm where he won the gold medal in swimming for the 100 freestyle event.

Poor Martin. He got more than he probably needed in the way of a reply.

He now knows of Hawaii's rich Olympic history, of how the islands have been represented by athletes in every Summer Games since Kahanamoku made global headlines 88 years ago. And of how the oldest living Olympian -- 1920 diving gold medalist Aileen Riggin Soule -- resides in Waikiki.

I don't know how you feel about the Olympics. I only wish that we could see them through the eyes of a Kahanamoku or a Riggin Soule, and return to the spirit of their Games when the competition was more about representing oneself and one's country with pride instead of looking for product endorsements or a big paycheck.

I guess I shouldn't be so jaded. Things aren't so different from the ancient Olympics. Besides wreaths to the winners, the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago also gave their village champions free meals for life.

So what do we Americans think of the Olympics?

We've had 100 years to screw them up. We now have 100 days to return some integrity and the true spirit of sports to the Games.


SPEAKING of that spirit of competition, something was lost last Sunday when the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association went to a new system to get paddlers out on the water during a regatta.

Instead of the normal chaos on the beach of Keehi Lagoon, the canoes were segregated from club tents in a separate holding area on shore. Paddlers were then called by event to the holding area, checked in with their registration cards and sent to line up according to the lane number in which they would be racing.

I applaud OHCRA for taking the initiative after all these years to make running the regatta more efficient. I disagree with the sterility of it all.

Yes, the chances of expensive canoe collisions while making crew changes right off the beach are diminished.

Yes, the officials have better control of getting the canoes out to the starting line, thereby cutting down on time-consuming race delays.

But the beach sure was empty without the beautiful koa canoes lined up with their respective ohana.

Also gone was the joy of one crew replacing another, the exchanges of "good race" and "have a good race."

Anuenue Canoe Club withdrew in protest over the new format. Knowing how coach Nappy Napoleon feels about paddling and ohana, it's no surprise.

I hope OHCRA can find a compromise between efficiency and sterility. The sport deserves it.

Cindy Luis is Star-Bulletin sports editor.
Her column appears weekly.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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