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Steve Kelley: At the Olympics

Steve Kelley, a Seattle Times sports columnist for 25 years, is covering his eighth Olympics. He'll share news and tidbits as the Beijing Games unfold.

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August 15, 2008 8:32 PM

Say it ain't so

Posted by Steve Kelley

Getty Images

"Performance" dancers at men's basketball game..

I always thought the Olympics would remain above the tawdry exhibitions that pass for fun during the time outs at NBA games. I even thought the Olympic creed said something about no dance teams. I mean what would Jesse Owens think?

For decades, when we went to the Olympics, the events were the entertainment. The fans were so thrilled to be there, whether it was ice dancing, fencing, luge or badminton, that they didn't need to listen to the Bee Gees during the break. They didn't need canned excitement. This was the O-freaking-lympics, for crying out loud.

Alas times have changed.

Even Michael Phelps in the pool. Tyson Gay in the starting blocks. LeBron James on the fastbreak aren't enough for the Olympics anymore. Even these Games have been honkey-tonked.

At the basketball games, for instance, we have been "treated" to the Beijing Dream Dancers, the Beijing Dream Performers and the Beijing Dream Stunt Team. The stunt team is a knockoff of Seattle's Dunking Ushers, who are a knockoff of any number of other acrobatic dunkers who leap off trampolines and do flips before they dunk.

Don't get me wrong, they're very athletic and very entertaining and they make me nostalgic for Squatch. But at the Olympics? And the saddest part is that, on most days, the Beijing Dream Stunt Team gets one of the loudest cheers of the night. Besides China, and Kobe Bryant, they are the most cheered peformers at the basketball venue.

As far as I can tell, there are two sets of Dream Dancers, one local, one more Laker girl. Again the crowd seems to embrace the Laker Girl group as if it were the Rockettes and this is Radio City Music Hall. And the Dream Performers, well, they're a nightmare, doing staggeringly bad routines to the theme from Zorba the Greek, for instance, when Greece is playing.

Call me old fashioned, but I Iiked the Olympics when the only non-competition entertainment was the endless playing of the theme song for that particular Games. (My favorite was the theme from the Lillehammer Games, which loosely translated, was titled, "Give Yourself a Hug."

I guess we can't fight the march of corporate sport. And corporate sport demands more than the games, even at the Games. People at sporting events need to be entertained non-stop. Silence is the enemy.

What would Wilma Rudolph think?

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August 2008