Olympic Observations

By Michael Kaufman

The Olympics Games just aren’t the same without the Cold War. I miss hearing American athletes complain about getting jobbed by East German judges…. What ever happened to all those East German judges anyway? Did they get punished or reprimanded after German unification? Were they allowed to continue being judges?… NBC could do a nice human interest story on the subject during the Vancouver games, maybe interview a couple of former East German judges and get some pithy quotes. “I miss seeing that disappointed look on their faces when they saw the scores I gave them…”

Meanwhile, Chairman Mao must be spinning in his grave at the sight of the Nike swoosh logo on the uniforms of the Chinese athletes. Consider the irony of children working long hours in sweatshops making Nike shoes in the People’s Republic of China. Or else maybe he is laughing…thinking about all the money the U.S. owes China today…. Speaking of Mao, do you think he minds that they changed his last name posthumously from Tse-tung to Zedong? Older readers will even recall when American newscasters pronounced his first name “Mayo.” I remember watching Nixon’s visit to China on TV and my friend Dominick pointing at the screen and saying, “Look! There’s Mayo.”

Don’t you love the way Scott Hamilton grunts while watching the figure skaters perform? Hamilton, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, provides expert commentary for NBC. He grunts when they do something spectacular and also when they make a terrible mistake. And unless it is something obvious—like falling on their keister—viewers unfamiliar with the intricacies of the sport have no clue what they just witnessed. But even though I don’t know a lutz from a klutz I love the passion Hamilton brings to the job…
Hockey is a great game and women’s hockey may have a great future but shouldn’t there be more than two countries with good teams for it to be included in the Olympics? It is hard to watch Canada and the U.S. play anyone but each other. I could play for a couple of those other teams if I wanted to have a sex-change operation and renounce my citizenship.

Already we have heard stories about several athletes so intent on fulfilling their dream to compete in the Olympics that they became citizens of another country. There was that fellow from Australia who is actually Canadian (I’m sorry: I haven’t been a sportswriter for years and I don’t know the names like I used to) who finished second in the mogul skiing competition.

That reminds me, what, exactly, do they mean by “mogul?” I looked it up in the dictionary to see if there is a reference to skiing anywhere. I learned some interesting things about the origin of the word, but it pretty much means what I thought. Come to think of it, that might be an interesting Olympic sport after all. Imagine Donald Trump or Warren Buffet skiing for the U.S. against the top business magnates from around the world.

Then there is this Japanese girl who at age 16 wrote to the famous Russian skating coach because she wanted to train with her. She moved to Russia, renounced her Japanese citizenship, trained with the famous coach, Russianized her name, and has now fulfilled her dream of skating in the Olympics. The downside is she isn’t big in Japan.

Big in China (and now the U.S. thanks to NBC) is the married couple that has slept in separate dormitories for 18 years while training to become world-class figure skaters. They too have fulfilled their dream.

Personally, I think they are all a little meshugena (Pronunciation: (mu-shoog’u-nu), n. Slang. a crazy person. Also,me•shug’ga.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.


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