- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

America is having a difficult time in judo at the Sydney Games.

Break out the black arm bands. Lower the flag to half-mast.

The shame, fortunately, is consigned to the small print, next to the hair restoration ads.

Is it too late to add Chyna to the U.S. team?

Chyna sometimes sets the table with a chair to the head. That is in the medal-counting spirit, significantly more sportsmanlike than doping.

The United States Judo Inc. is in charge of the performance if you care to complain.

Caring is a debatable proposition with a high number of Olympic events. Raking leaves is a competitive undertaking in certain neighborhoods but not necessarily a drama fit for global examination.

The IOC awards medals across a wide spectrum of endeavors, not the least of which is the individual epee in fencing. The epee is different from the foil, although conveniently enough, they both are four-letter words.

The Olympic flame has been lit, the seven-year undertaking completed by an aborigine runner. You are obligated to feel something at this point in the ceremony, undoubtedly relief, no thanks to Bob Costas.

NBC is a day late and $705 million short. The network claims the tape delay is a gesture, intended not to disrupt America's sleeping habits.

That leaves the Internet, Al Gore's contribution to the world. Gore invented the iced tea defense as well.

For the record, Leonardo da Vinci designed the first bicycle in the 15th century. The first cyclist was not Mona Lisa.

The Olympic Games trumpet small goodwill concessions. The Koreans, North and South, put aside their political differences and marched into the stadium under one flag. That counts as progress 12 years after North Korea's bellicose threats toward the Seoul Games.

The five-ring appeal is overstated, possibly because a zillion journalists have nothing better to do than justify their expense accounts.

Trap shooting, anyone?

America could be doing better there, too.

America is off to a mixed start, if you consider the women's air-pistol competition, and you are supposed to consider it, according to Juan Antonio Samaranch.

As the president of the IOC, Samaranch investigated and then cleared himself of all wrongdoing following Salt Lake City's corruption scandal.

His is the tired, worn face of the Olympics, and the hypocrisy, excess and outrage of his stewardship are tolerated out of politeness and corporate interests. Money, it seems, makes the world go obtuse.

The Summer Games implore you to embrace the trivial. The trampoline today, waterskiing tomorrow. Straight faces are encouraged, straight faces with waterproof makeup if it is synchronized swimming.

America is hardly cheerless after the first weekend. Swimmer Tom Dolan beat his asthma again, setting a world record in the 400-meter individual medley. Now he is in a position to exchange notes with Katie Couric on their days at Yorktown High School in Arlington.

The U.S. women are trying to press forward in archery, despite the absence of Geena Davis. You are permitted to come late to your Olympic dreams, even if your work address is Hollywood. That begs the obvious: How serious is it?

At least beach volleyball looks fun, and Rafer Johnson, the 1960 decathlon champion, is treating it with parental seriousness.

How about those badminton players?

The shuttlecock can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour, usually before the players have consumed beer and grilled hamburgers.

Close only counts in George Bush's game, which, incidentally, remains outside the IOC's sphere.

The same goes for calf roping.

The Summer Games seek to be a transcendent celebration of life, and never mind the bearded ladies. They have urine and blood tests for them. That makes it look almost good.

So pay attention, America.

The Summer Games are in full swing, the daily calendar crammed with athletic engagements demanding to be acknowledged in passing, and in case it matters, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be for real.

Check out the dressage action.

Oh, baby.

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