[VIEWPOINT]Salt Lake Olympics not so sweet

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[VIEWPOINT]Salt Lake Olympics not so sweet

Is the United States, the world's pre-eminent sports power, truly realizing the ideal of the Olympic Games? Is U.S. leadership of the sports world, exercised unilaterally, going to be accepted by the world? Observing the Winter Games as they unfolded in Salt Lake City, I could not rid my mind of these two questions.

And, unfortunately, the games, which are in their final stage, have been marred by disputes and called the "Olympics of foul play."

I am depressed to see the United States, which has been the greatest contributor to the development of the modern Olympics, lose the Olympic spirit. The opportunity to meet the lofty goals of the Olympics in the Salt Lake Winter Games was enormous.

They represent a new model for well-organized and gorgeous festival, despite the entrance of the ripped Star-Spangled Banner at the opening ceremony and tight security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Delta Center ice skating rink, completely filled, the ski slopes that make the best use of the natural topography of the Rocky Mountains, the dedicated volunteers and the excellent sports marketing -- these things have helped make the Salt Lake Olympics more commercially successful than any other Winter Games.

Despite these achievements the officials of the International Olympic Committee and other persons linked to the Games seem to be far from satisfied. The 2002 Winter Games' slogan is "Light the Fire Within." It is important what fire we should light. Is it the fire of peace, or the fire of victory?

At the opening ceremony, the American athletes, wearing berets, looked like warriors. And the lighting of the Olympic Flame by the 1980 U.S. ice hockey team was a strong reminder of their spirit of championship. But few things at the opening ceremony expressed the friendly spirit of American citizens, who live together with the citizens of the world.

Salt Lake City, Utah, is the center of Mormonism. The atmosphere of the city is pious and solemn, practically no hint of amusement. But Salt Lake City stained the Olympic Games with a lobbying scandal during the campaign to attract the Winter Games.

In addition, the Salt Lake Winter Games as well as the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games and the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games have been criticized for being the "Covisa Olympics," the commercial games led by Coca-Cola and Visa.

To recover its fame and to show the true leadership of the modern Olympics, the United States should invite other countries to be partners in the Winter Games, making the Olympics the sports festival for peace and coexistence. Through this effort, the country could have overcome the disputes with other countries after the war against terrorism started.

American citizens are passionate about sports, and these games are no exception. Tickets are sold out and scalpers are seeing a boom at every event. Such enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics has never been seen in other countries. But the Americans are focusing their cheers on their own athletes.

The attitudes of the U.S. media are mixed. Some newspapers carry only the victories of the U.S. players with bold headlines; other media are warning that the sense of superiority of the United States could lead to opposition from other countries. Americans need to recognize that the Star-Spangled Banner is only one flag among the 77 flags in the Olympic Games.

The Salt Lake City Winter Games may have fulfilled the aim of giving an image of a "strong America." But it failed to express the basic spirit of the Olympics, the integration of and equality in the world of sports. The reality that the global standards for sports is dominated by power saddens me.

The controversies over the judgements of the short-track events regarding the Korean team and the U.S. media's support of the judgements are making Koreans angry. But we must not expand the issue to antagonism between nations and the collision of civilizations. We Koreans should reflect on the issues raised at the Winter Games in order to successfully hold the 2002 FIFA World Cup.


The writer is a professor of physical education at Myongji University.

by Lee Tae-young

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