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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 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 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.

Comments | Category: Past Olympics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: 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
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: 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.