Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2002/ 13 Adar, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

Don't take the gold -- OUT, out da-ned gold medal. Turn it down. Both you, Boris and Natasha, and you, you two cute Canadians, turn down those gold medals in pairs skating. Show some dignity in this mess.

For those who have been unconscious during the past week, and as near as can be discerned from the skating union spokespersons, who speak English about as well as U.S. children write it, the French broad on the judging panel, Marie Reine Le Gougne, apparently unaware that the Russians are no longer a world power, said she was pressured by those formerly known as the USSR to rank the Russian team first. Quid pro quo, a French vote for the Russians in pair skating would bring a Russian vote for the French in ice dancing competition, thereby giving each country a gold. The French won ice dancing anyway, despite the French judge's suspension before that event. Never underestimate your countrymen when participating in sleazy backroom politics.

The IOC, in the silliest move since making curling and skeleton Olympic sports, awarded the Canadian duo a second gold medal. Solomon split the baby in half. Both victories ring hollow.

You can't blame Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, Boris and Natasha, for hanging on through the corruption. They are, after all, from Russia. Transparency International ranked Russia #1in its 2001 survey of world corruption, a leap from #4 in 2000. Greasing the skids is the Reds' way.

They and their fellow former commies don't understand capitalism. They are losing endorsements by clinging. Relying on a cowardly French woman for a victory makes them look as dated as the Lawrence Welk/Norma Zimmer get-ups they wore during their performance. Contrast their lounge lizard looks with the Canadians who wore The Gap clothes on ice and don Roots 100% cotton for interviews. David Pelletier and Jamie Sale glow on camera, their faces scrubbed to an exfoliated shine. She could co-host with Regis and he's Richie Cunningham with a French accent. Their agent is fielding 200 calls a day. But part of that glow is underdog status. Gold medals could change all that.

If they all turn down the medals, the endorsements will still come, but they will have done the right thing. Their rejections may force the IOC and the skaters union to sweep the buffoons from their governing bodies. The true "axle" of evil, the IOC, needs more of a shake-up than its new CEO, Dr. Jacques Rogge, appointed post-Salt Lake scandals. A dramatic refusal of the medals might be just the ticket. And, they'll still land the Vioxx endorsements for when they reach Peggy Fleming's age.

The 2002 Olympics have been cursed with seedy behavior. Salt Lake City folk took the floggings for the bribery that landed the Olympics there, but their bribery was the culmination of over 30 years of misconduct on the part of the IOC. Its members had long used the Olympics as a means of self-enrichment. The wife of one of the members of the IOC had a Salt Lake City official spend $22,000 at Wal-Mart on items for the member's new home. That's a bit pricey for breaking down cultural barriers and too crass to be guanxi.

The IOC carries on with a fašade of piety and purity even as it has not only ignored scandal, but also politicized the games. The IOC inserted politics into this Olympics with a ridiculous fear of jingoism that they said would result from a display of the WTC flag in the host country at opening ceremonies. They were shamed into reversal of that equally inane decision.

There is no way to fix, as it were, what happened in pairs skating. A do-over is hardly fair. But, if one or both pairs turn down the medal, the IOC deservedly carries the taint of a scandal reflective of not just the nature of these games, but of the IOC.

The IOC is a socialist organization, complete with the corruption inherent in that political structure. Pressure and quid pro quo are its culture. Where there are sports and money, there is corruption and the Olympics are no different. Now they have remedied a self-created scandal by tapping further into socialism. "We're all gold medallists," is the message of mediocrity from this decision.

The IOC is a mess. They have behaved like rowdy college students on spring break at Ft. Lauderdale. They have questionable behavior and values. You feel used when they leave. These young skaters should not seek honor from such a club for its rules fluctuate and its officials do worse.

Toss back the medals, kids. You will do just fine without it - perhaps even better than you would have with the gold. And the symbolism of your rejection may finally teach the IOC some sportsmanship.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings