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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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April 30, 2008 9:00 AM

Beijing: Shades of Hitler's Olympics?

Posted by Ron Judd

As we reach the 100 days countdown to Beijing, a news roundup:

-- A group of Jewish leaders has called for a boycott of the Beijing Games, alleging that the Chinese government is using them as a public-relations screen to shroud blatant human-rights abuses -- just as Adolf Hitler did with the Berlin Games of 1936. In an AP story, Eric Gorski reports that 175 rabbis, seminary officials and other prominent Jewish leaders have signed a declaration urging Jews worldwide to boycott the Games because of China's human-rights record in general, and in Tibet in particular. The statement also accuses China's leadership of providing missiles to Iran and Syria, and maintaining a "friendship" with Hamas.

-- Speaking of human rights, or lack thereof: Nice to see that the Beijing torch procession has finally found a place it can travel in comfort, with none of those nasty protests: North Korea. Maybe they should've run the entire thing there.

-- And speaking of the torch: Nominated for Worst Assignment of the Century is the job of being a journalist assigned to cover the Olympic flame's historic ascent up Mount Everest. In a report here, journos complain of being virtually imprisoned in a remote camp far from Everest's base camp, allowed no freedom of movement and no access to climbers.

"If anything happens, we're supposed to miss it," one of them notes wryly.

No word, meanwhile, on whether the flame will use supplemental oxygen to get to the top. But the Chinese have divulged how they'll get it out of a high-tech lantern and into a full-blown, photographable flame in the almost non-existing oxygen on the summit: rocket fuel. No joke. The ascension of the flame to the top of the world will make history not only for its sheer stupidity, but for being the first time the Olympic flame has employed "missile technology," some Chinese officials are crowing.

Given that the nation's bad rep around the world is partly owing to its generous sharing of that very missile technology, you have to wonder: Who's handling PR for the Chinese government these days? The Rev. Jeremiah Wright? And why do we get the feeling that, before this is all over, we're going to have to dispatch Ed Viesturs to go over and rescue these guys?

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic politics , Past Olympics , Torch relay |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 27, 2008 11:30 AM

Olympic athletes: Political opinions welcome -- sort of

Posted by Ron Judd

The International Olympic Committee's Athlete's Commission met in Switzerland recently to ponder what to do about growing unrest -- some of it in the athlete's own ranks -- about the choice of China as an Olympics host. Read their conclusions here.

It's a thorny issue, and the athletes reaffirmed their colleagues rights to express opinions. But they also subtly reminded them that they have every right to remain silent. And they dropped in their own reference, just in case anyone forgot, to the IOC's "Rule 51," which says "propaganda or demonstrations" on political issues should be stifled during the Games, or at any official Olympic competition or function. (IOC President Jacques Rogge's recent interpretation of that rule with regard to Beijing can be found here.)

You can argue this issue either way. But we expect -- and frankly sort of hope -- that not every athlete will feel squashed by Rule 51's constraints. In the rule's 50-year history, it has often been ignored. Political expressions have been made on Olympic soil as sacred as the medal stand -- see Tommy Smith and John Carlos, Mexico City, 1968, for just one example -- and the Games have managed to keep from collapsing on themselves. The IOC should be wary about waving the rule around any more than it already has.

In fact, those who argue that Olympism should maintain a wall between competition and politics are ignoring the role of politics in the Games through history. Just one example: At the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Games -- the first to take place after World War II canceled the 1940 Olympics that were to be held in, of all places, Sapporo, Japan -- athletes from Japan and Germany were flat-out barred from competition. How's that for a separation of politics and sport? We could go on, but plenty of other examples of nation state activity and Olympic repercussions can be found through a cursory scan of the history books.

Perhaps IOC execs in Lausanne bemoaning the mixing of Olympic medals and international malaise need to sit for a spell and consider their own part in this drama: They can't cower forever behind the shroud of assertions that "Beijing submitted the best bid!" Because everyone knows the awarding of the Games to China in 2001 was, ipso facto, a political statement by the Olympic movement. Squinting through the resulting blowback and expecting athletes to honor that choice, and refrain from responding to it, is both naive and hypocritical.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Olympic Committee , Olympic History , Olympic politics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 25, 2008 2:45 PM

Time for a blue-tarp relief effort for Vancouver 2010?

Posted by Ron Judd

Like the Chinese -- attention, sensitive Canadians: We are NOT comparing Maple Leaf Nation in any other way to China -- Vancouver's Olympic organizers are largely ahead of schedule in getting their venues assembled.

The goal -- in keeping with the Canadian government's "Own the Podium" program -- was to have them all finished in time for a full winter of competition before the Games, which could and should give Canadian athletes an advantage, particularly in sports such as skiing and bobsled/luge/skeleton, where courses are wildly different from place to place, making practice time invaluable.

For the most part, that goal has been met. But the B.C.'ers, true to their soggy roots, seem to be having more than their fair share of roof problems.

From the Vancouver Province comes dual roof-related reports, one about repairs already being needed for the big B.C.-timber roof over the new $180 million (and rising) speedskating venue, the Richmond Oval, the wooden roof of which is said to be moldy -- sorry, mouldy -- in so many places that up to 70 percent of it is now suspect and must be "inspected."

Gentlemen, start your lawyers.

Another report speculates about the possibility that the storm-damaged soft roof at B.C. Place Stadium, home of opening, closing and nightly medal ceremonies, might be replaced with a retractable roof -- which, needless to say -- would be very cool.

If they could pull off the latter, within the limited time and within limited budget, they'd head our list of all-time Olympic venue geniuses. But it's a pretty risky proposition. Our own government (insert your own Katrina joke here) began planning a couple years ago to build an enhanced U.S. customs facility at the Blaine border crossing in time for the Games. And the CBC reports it's already looking like we won't even be able to accomplish that by 2010.

For all of them, we offer three words of thrifty Northwesterner's advice: Big Blue Tarps.

We're always willing to lend a hand to our Canadian friends in a time of need. All it would take is the wave of a pen for President Bush to tap into FEMA's strategic tarp reserve.

Comments | Category: Olympic venues , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 24, 2008 5:00 PM

Is there a nest of "moral cowards" at Microsoft?

Posted by Ron Judd

OK, now it's getting serious.

An activist group, Dream for Darfur, is officially targeting Olympic sponsors, including Microsoft, for snuggling up to China, saying they've failed to do their part to end fighting in Sudan.

Dream for Darfur names 16 companies, including General Electric, Coca-Cola and Microsoft, accusing all of "moral cowardice" for pumping money into the Beijing 2008 Games with little regard for China's role in the ongoing conflict in Darfur. China is a major investor in Sudan, and buys most of Sudan's exported oil. The country is oft-criticized for failing to use its economic influence to curtail bloodshed in western Darfur, where the United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced.

Dream for Darfur is the group headed by actress Mia Farrow, giving it media clout it otherwise likely wouldn't possess. It released a 100-page study that Farrow told the Associated Press is a "report card grading the companies' responsibility on humanity and on the ability to think outside the box on profitability, and to open minds to social responsibility."

The report, which examined all corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing Games themselves, says Eastman Kodak, Adidas and McDonalds have take adequate action, and won't be targeted. Kodak and Adidas, for example, earned "B's" on the report card because they wrote to the UN about Darfur.

Microsoft earned a "D-minus," placing it in a group with Johnson & Johnson, Lenovo Corp., Samsung and Visa -- companies that responded to group queries, but have failed to take what the group considers adequate action. Earning big, fat "F's" were corporate sponsors that failed to even respond to the group, including Staples, Anheuser-Busch, mining company BHP Billiton Ltd., Volkswagen and UPS.

All the companies, Dream for Darfur alleges, are "silently complicit in the Darfur genocide, thereby tarnishing the 2008 Beijing Olympics and their own sponsorships by their association with China's role in the ultimate crime against humanity." (A footnote to that statement says the group considers sponsors to be "secondarily complicit.")

The group vowed to protest corporate headquarters and urge a television boycott of the Games in August. Demonstrations are planned at "F" earning companies: Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta and in New York on Sunday, at Staples, Inc. in Boston on Sunday, the AP reports.

No word on protests of Microsoft. In the group's report, it concedes that two Microsoft executives met personally with Farrow in Redmond to address the issue. Subsequently, Microsoft, in a letter, detailed its many contributions to humanitarian relief efforts through the UN and other means, and ensured the group that the company's top leadership, including its board of directors, had carefully considered Microsoft's role in the Olympics.

In a separate, public statement issued last month, in the wake of the query, Microsoft noted that it sees the Olympics as a means to "transform global relationships, create unity and accelerate positive change in the world," and respects the IOC's decision to choose China as a host. The company notes that its role as a sponsor is as a software supplier and distributor of licensed Olympics coverage through its partnership with NBC. And then it states:

"Like people all around the world, we are shocked and horrified by the violence and human rights violations in Darfur. We commend Dream for Darfur and other organizations for their leadership in casting a spotlight on this atrocity and the need for immediate international resolution. Governments and international organizations -- the United Nations chief among them -- as well as humanitarian relief organizations -- will need to continue to work together locally and globally to address the problems in Sudan. Microsoft will continue to support these organizations in their mission through technology assistance and other resources."

That statement was branded "corporate doublespeak" in the report by Farrow's group -- apparently because it did not mention the Chinese role in Sudan specifically -- even though Microsoft was the only corporation to issue a public statement in response to questions about Darfur.

"While we appreciate the effort," Farrow's group says, "the resulting verbiage is a case study in playing it safe."

The group seemed careful to distinguish humanitarian work by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- which, it notes, contributed $5.3 million to refugee aid in Darfur and Chad -- from the company's separate corporate sponsorships.

"We continue to hope that Microsoft, because of its significant dealings with China and also because of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's interest in humanitarian issues, may yet emerge in a leadership role on this issue," the report states. "To date, however, Microsoft has done little."

Our take: Corporate boycott attempts may prove an effective tool for groups like Farrow's, whose cause is a just one. Good for her. Bring out the picket signs. But -- at the risk of sounding like a homer here -- let's get real. Does it not seem disingenuous to apply the "complicit" brand to a company like Microsoft, which not only sounds like it's on this groups side, but has been a relative model global citizen compared to other corporations on this group's hit list?

That's especially true when one considers the unparalleled work of the Gates Foundation, which is doing more, day to day, on a down-in-the-dirt level, to aid the world's neediest citizens than a thousand Mia Farrows could do in a lifetime.

Her group, to its credit, posts full responses from all the companies, including Microsoft, in its report. But little of that response -- and none from the Redmond company -- made it into wire-story summaries we've seen.

It illustrates the danger -- and potential irresponsibility -- of simplistic, "letter-grade" branding of corporations for their role in affairs as complex as these. Taking a public-relations sledgehammer to a major corporation that has the stones to publicly endorse your mission might turn the heads of those who fail to read the fine print. But it's not a very good way to effect change.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic politics , Olympic sponsors |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 23, 2008 5:30 PM

Straight dope from your Unofficial 2010 Olympic paper

Posted by Ron Judd

Vancouver organizers, on a sponsorship binge this week (see beer item, below), dropped word of another one today: Canwest Publishing, owner of, well, a lot of the newspapers in western Canada, has signed on as the "Official Regional Newspaper Publisher" for the 2010 Games.

What does that mean? It means the newspaper conglomerate, which owns not only the local Victoria Times-Colonist, Vancouver Sun and The Province, but also The Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Windsor Star, Regina Leader-Post, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, will get "exclusive rights in the regional newspaper publisher/product service category" for the Games of 2010, and the Canadian Olympic team through 2012, says a Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) release. The deal involves "value-in-kind allocation of print and online advertising," in Canwest papers.

Translation: The papers will presumably give up space to promote the Games, as well as produce and distribute in papers info guides dealing with ticket sales, transportation, accompanying arts and culture festivals, etc. -- and Canwest papers will be the only ones carrying this stuff.

In return for its space and delivery -- and perhaps an additional sponsor fee, not specified -- Canwest papers also will be able to call themselves official Games products, letting them in on the giant promotional gravy train that rolls into town before, during and after every Olympics.

Both sides of the deal clearly are aware of the potential blowback from people wary of media conglomerates being in bed financially with a major news generator like an Olympic Games bureaucracy. How do we know? Because they're tripping over themselves to pooh-pooh it from the get-go.

"The sponsorship is a marketing and advertising partnership and is independent of Canwest's editorial coverage of the 2010 Winter Games," VANOC states.

OK. But the fact is, we have personally seen other media organizations with contractual relationships with the International Olympic Committee, and individual nations' sports groups, given favorable treatment when it comes to event access at past Olympics. Not officially, of course. Just wink-wink, yeah, you're getting the best camera angle at figure skating because you're On Our Team.

Not that we suspect Canwest is trying to buy influence here. The company owns capable newspapers that will be the media home team for the Vancouver Games. They don't need an extra advantage. But this is bigger than a sports-page matter. The Games are a massive, multi-billion-dollar, public-policy news story, as well.

Which is why, in a city like Vancouver, where small-but-ardent anti-Olympic and anti-corporate sentiments run concurrent and strong, you wonder about perceptions of conflict of interest.

It's a version of a broader problem journalists have always faced -- and will face increasingly -- as newspapers relax the walls between advertising and news in an effort to survive. A perception of collusion can be just as damaging as the real thing; fairness resides in the mind of the beholder.

And the Olympics, remember, are financed in no small part by a public which, in this case, gets most of its news from watchdogs all attached to a single chain. If some misstep by VANOC went uncovered by Canwest papers, would anyone really believe no favors were granted by the newspaper "partners?"

This explains the careful wording of VANOC CEO John Furlong's news-release statement: "Canwest will continue with its excellence in objective editorial coverage of the Games. We are also very pleased to have their team on board to play a separate role in delivering important information about the Games to communities throughout our country."

He didn't choose the words "objective" and "separate" by accident.

So, VANOC is saying its friendly handshake with Canada's largest media conglomerate isn't an ethical problem for those newspapers. And so, not surprisingly, is the business empire on the other end of the deal.

But we wonder: Any regular folks up in B.C. -- the people footing the rather handsome bill for this show -- see it differently?

Comments | Category: Olympic sponsors , Vancouver 2010 Games , Winter Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 22, 2008 11:06 PM

A golden moment for Molson

Posted by Ron Judd

This might have been inevitable, but it still leaves a bit of a ... well, funky taste in our mouth.

WIth only 660 days until the cauldron lighting in/on/at/near (how are they going to do that, exactly, with a dome?) B.C. Place Stadium, Molson has been named the official beer of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Vancouver Province reports tonight.

Seems a shame, given some of the notable B.C. breweries. But Vancouver Games CEO John Furlong points out that Molson has a Vancouver brewery that's been bottling the stuff for 50 of the 222 years Molson has been making beer in Maple Leaf Nation.

They likely won't be playing up the fact that the company is half American-owned, after a 2005 merger with Coors. But the money spends just as well either way. The beer deal, estimated at between $3 million and $15 million, gives Vancouver organizers a cool $715 million in total sponsorship cash in the bank -- close to the overall target of $760 million.

Don't look for a special Molson Oly brew soon, though. The brewer must wait until the end of the year to start using the Olympic logo, because of an existing International Olympic Committee contract with Anheuser-Busch, the Vancouver Sun reports.

Speaking of great beer contracts in Olympic history: True Oly trivia buffs will note that Labatt's was the official beer for the '88 Calgary Games, Canada's most recent Olympics. Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser spent big bucks to win the Salt Lake City and Turin contract, which runs through 2008.

But no brewery in Games history hitched a ride on the Olympic publicity bandwagon as effectively as Park City's Wasatch Brew Pub, which put out its own, in-your-face "Unofficial" Olympic ale, coupled with the now-famous Polygamy Porter, (motto: "Why have just one!"), both rolled out before the 2002 Salt Lake Games, much to the chagrin of Olympic and Mormon church officials.

An ad campaign for Polygamy Porter was rejected by nervous Salt Lake billboard companies. But it made one heckuva fine collectible Olympic pin, which we are proud to have in our collection.

Comments | Category: IOC , Olympic sponsors , Past Olympics , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 22, 2008 3:28 PM

At least one French guy will be at Beijing's Opening Ceremony

Posted by Ron Judd

If those rowdy demonstrations in Paris were any indication, a lot of French citizens aren't happy that the Olympics were handed to China.

But French business moguls? Not so much.

At least one of them, the head of "hypermarket" retail giant Carrefour, thinks the Chinese government is a perfectly fine organization, thank you very much (is this sounding familiar to any Americans?)

Yesterday, hoping to make nice after the Paris protests -- and threats of a retaliatory Chinese boycott of Carrefour's stores inside that country -- Carrefour planted a big smooch on the collective posterior of Chinese leadership, issuing not only a strong show of support for Beijing's Olympic effort, but also a condemnation of the radical idea of independence for Tibet.

The puckering up by Carrefour's CEO, Jose Luis Duran, came in a "special interview" granted to China's official news agency, Xinhua. He called any threatened boycotts of the Games or their ceremonies counterproductive, and vowed to be at the opening ceremony himself, according to Xinhua.

He also sought to squelch rumors that one or more major stockholders in Carrefour had donated money to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious leader, calling those reports "groundless lies."

China's Ministry of Commerce fell over itself relishing this giant suckage, saying it "welcomed these actions."

"We hope foreign-funded companies, including Carrefour, can do their utmost to provide quality services for Chinese consumers," an MOC official said in a statement.

Quid pro quo, no?

Carrefour happens to own 112 stores on the Chinese mainland. The company, according to the Chinese government, does nearly 30 billion yuan (about $4.3 billion U.S.) in annual sales in China -- 95 percent from products of Chinese manufacture.

Chinese citizens had threatened a 17-day boycott of Carrefour's stores during May -- a time period designed to mirror the period of the Olympics -- after the street-level mayhem accompanying the Olympic torch's visit to Paris. Hundreds of protestors carring Chinese flags and photos of the late Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong rallied outside a Carrefour store in Wuhan, in central Hubei province, last week, the Associated Press reported. And discontent was spreading to other Chinese cities.

Carrefour is the world's second largest mega-retailer, trailing only Wal-Mart, which is making its own aggressive efforts to expand into the lucrative Chinese market. Anyone want to speculate on Wal-Mart's stance on Chinese occupation of Tibet?

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic politics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 21, 2008 10:27 AM

Did Colorado Springs get Clay Bennett-ized by the USOC?

Posted by Ron Judd

Seattleites about to lose their basketball franchise thanks to the greed, duplicity and failed business model of David Stern's NBA might take some solace in knowing they aren't the only ones undergoing the old public-private partnership shakedown.

Even the U.S. Olympic Commitee, that paragon of amateur-sports virtue, has figured out how to enrich the feed it's getting from the public trough.

Over the past year, USOC officials began to make loud noises about the inadequacy of their executive office space, which sits at one corner of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, a major complex located in Colorado Springs since 1978. When the city failed to hop-to with appropriate swiftness, USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth -- a former baseball commissioner, it should be remembered -- started shopping around. Before you know it, rumors were flying that the USOC was about to pack up its sweat bands and move -- to one of as many as six "undisclosed" locations just dying to get them. One candidate city where potential real-state deals were leaked: Chicago, the wannabe home of the 2016 Games.

Whether the USOC planned to move to Chicago or not is unknown. It has not, in fact, been exactly forthcoming about the supposed other bids. What is known is that the City of Colorado Springs promptly ponied up. City officials offered the USOC a $53 million public/private package, complete with 90,000 square feet of free, primo office space in downtown Colorado Springs, as well as millions in improvements to the training center, including housing space for athletes who are married or have families. A detailed timeline of the creation of the plan, which will keep the USOC in the Springs for 25 years, can be found in the Colorado Springs Gazette's overview here.

All well and good, we suppose. But some people in the Springs are wondering if the city fell prey to the old relocation bluff game. It can be argued the deal is a good one for the city, as the USOC campus brings it a fair share of attention, not to mention money from athletes, visitors and sponsors. But in this deal, the only thing the USOC set out on the public's side of the table seems a little chintzy: The city, after all these years, now has permission to use the sacred Olympic rings on its stationery and signs.

No word whether the city plans to put the Oly rings on those new tax bills. The public portion of the bill is $27 million.

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April 20, 2008 11:00 AM

Updated: Spokane: In the 2010 Olympic spotlight?

Posted by Ron Judd

Does Spokane have an inside track to host the 2010 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships -- a mondo sports event that doubles as the Olympic Trials for the 2010 Vancouver Games?

A major voice in the figure skating world thinks it should. The Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh, the dean of America's figure-skating journalists, already has put his vote in for the Lilac City in his "Globetrotting" blog. U.S. Figure Skating officials are just starting "site inspections" of potential host cities, Hersh writes, opining:

They are wasting time and money on a no-brainer:

The championships belong in Spokane. No need to visit anywhere else.

It is one of four undisclosed candidates for the event, and I have learned Providence, R.I. and Portland, Ore., also are apparently in the running.

(USFS chief executive David Raith did not answer messages seeking the identity of the mystery guest.)

Two years ago, Spokane put on the best U.S. Championships of the nearly two dozen I have attended -- including Portland (2005) and Providence (1995).

The city was more jazzed to be host than any other I have seen. There were even posters about the championships in bars too funky for even a thirsty sportswriter to patronize.

Spokane's attendance was 154,893. Portland's was 117,000. Providence drew 56,856.

This is what I wrote after the event in 2007:

"Take a city with good facilities, a highly competent organizing committee and no major league professional sports, and it doesn't matter how relatively small or isolated it is.

"Spokane's motto might as well be, 'Gateway to Idaho.' By 2005 estimates, it is the 99th largest city in the country, in the middle of the 108th largest metropolitan area.

"Yet it drew 25 percent more spectators for the skating nationals than any previous host, a group that includes much larger places such as Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta.''

It's a big endorsement from a big voice in the Olympics world. Knowing Hersh, we can attest that his motivation is simple: He loves the sport, and he -- and everyone else -- saw Spokane embrace it like few other cities in the country when it hosted the U.S. Championships in '07. We quote:

Figure skating needs a boost. The next two years are critical, with the 2009 worlds in Los Angeles and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver -- only 410 miles from Spokane, so you could see sellouts in Spokane as the road map to sellouts in Vancouver.

The folks leading Spokane's effort for the 2010 nationals say the interest for the second time around will be even greater.

No reason not to believe them, since they exceeded every expectation for 2007. They should nickname the place, Spo-can-do.

We add our voice to what should become a growing chorus to proclaim Spokane the obvious choice for the January, 2010 event. And if figure skating officials use Hersh's strong recommendation to get their compass pointed back to the center of the Inland Empire, we'll take only small credit for introducing him to some of the city's charms.

The selection of Spokane would vault Washington state, suddenly, to the epicenter of the U.S. figure-skating competitive world. Everett already has landed another major contest, the 2008 Skate America, coming in October to the Comcast Arena. (Sort of makes you wonder who's in charge of Seattle these days, doesn't it?)

Spokane's coronation, of course, is far from a done deal. The selection geniuses are the same people, Hersh notes, who awarded last year's Skate America competition to Reading, Pa., "one of the most lugubrious cities in the country."

But if you're trying to land a big-time event like the figs nationals, Hersh is a guy you want in your corner.

UPDATE: U.S. Figure Skating's Events Advisory Boad will recommend a host city for the Jan. 13-24, 2010 event on May 1. Contracts are scheduled to be in place by November 1.The U.S. Figure Skating Championships generate an economic impact estimated at $20 million.

Comments | Category: Figure skating , National Governing Bodies (NGBs) , Vancouver 2010 Games , Winter Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 20, 2008 10:00 AM

"Side boob" alert

Posted by Ron Judd

Inside Olympics inaugural weekly news quiz:

The new Olympic term "side boob," coined by one of our own local Olympians, refers to:

A) The occupant of an office on either side of USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth.

B) The woman at the end of the row of judges at figure skating.

C) The guy who relit the accidentally extinguished cauldron at the '76 Montreal Games -- with a Bic lighter.

D) What reportedly comes pooching out when certain Olympic swimmers -- we're not naming names -- wear the controversial new form-fitting Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit.

Answer: D. See Meri-Jo Borzilleri's Times Olympic Notebook in today's paper for all the crucial details.

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April 20, 2008 8:00 AM

High times at the USOC

Posted by Ron Judd

Official Olympics Insider Proclamation:

April 20, 2008

Seattle, Wash.

WHEREAS many many of the nation's top athletes, particularly those in track-and-field, are under investigation for using performance-enhancing substances at past Olympic Games, and

WHEREAS the International Olympic Committee and other governing bodies of international sport, in spite of accelerated awareness and best intentions, still admittedly have no means to test for some of the more-prevalent performance-enhancers believed to be in rampant use today, and

WHEREAS any athlete willing to shoot said substances into the buttock region demonstrably could gain the extra speed/height/distance/time advantage to win an Olympic medal and

WHEREAS said Olympic medal could translate into millions of dollars (Canadian; tens of thousands, U.S.) in endorsement deals, and

WHEREAS various U.S. officials, including Peter Ueberroth, the Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, have boldly stood before hundreds of journalists and repeatedly proclaimed the U.S. squad being sent to Beijing to be "a clean team,"

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT, given all of the above, the following serious question really must be asked:

Are these people high?

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Doping , IOC , Peter Ueberroth , Summer Games , United States Olympic Committee , Winter Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 18, 2008 6:30 AM

Welcome, ringheads

Posted by Ron Judd

It's 110 days until the cauldron is lit in Beijing. Do you know where your blood-doping test kit is?

Neither do I. But I bet someone out there knows how to acquire one. Which is why we're giving in to the temptation and launching The Times' first live Olympic blog, which will be running from now until ... well, until someone pulls the plug.

For me, it'll be a labor of love. When you work as a journalist for 20 years, you find favorite subjects. Mine are on a very short list, and at the top of it --just above those flaming-red polyester pants that the late Miss Budweiser hydroplane owner, Bernie Little, used to wear -- is the Olympic Games. I've been to all of them since Nagano in 1998 -- an eye-opening experience that led to many months of intensive therapy, trying in vain to get that dastardly image of little Tara Lipinski out of my head.

Here's a glimpse at the rest of my Olympic experience, in one paragraph: In Sydney, I saw Australia's Cathy Freeman light the cauldron and win the 400 meters, which made me cry. In Salt Lake, I watched Apolo Ohno crawl across the finish line in that famous human stock-car speedskating race, and later, I was unjustly accused by colleagues of stealing a gigantic stuffed-owl Olympic mascot from a display area in the Main Media Center. (This also made me cry, but in a different way.) In Athens, I bit my tongue as superstar medalist/pathological liar Marion Jones threatened to sue any of us who dared suggest she might be a doper. And in Turin, I watched Sweden beat the U.S. in women's hockey and then give up their secret: They had pumped themselves up by watching the Disney movie "Miracle," thereby turning our own Hollywood sap against us.

Oh, yes: I also once snuck into a portable toilet reserved exclusively for "Olympic Family" VIPs, and can confirm that, indeed, the urinal cakes are frosted.

That's my story. And here is my slant: In spite of their foibles -- and there are many -- the Summer and Winter Olympics remain special to a lot of people around the globe. They still are the only time the entire world gets together for an occasion that doesn't involve killing people or fighting over something. OK, except for that little Tonya Harding incident. In spite of protestations by defeatists who suggest the Games have outlived their usefulness, I think they're worth fixing, fighting for, saving. Embracing. And just enjoying. To quote John Prine, it's a big old goofy world. And nothing reflects it better than the Olympic Games.

Check back here often for the latest news, rumors, local-athlete updates, busted drug dopers and incendiary opinion on all things related to the five rings. We'll do our best to make this your single-stop Games news source. And hope you'll take the time to add to the discussion.

I know it's something you should never say to people with an internet connection, but in this case, it fits: Flame on.

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Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.