- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia.
Tomorrow is the last day of swimming. It will be time to drain the pool after that, because tomorrow is also, as James Brown would say, "Star Time".
This is what we paid our money for track and field, the founding fathers of the Games. Every other sport has just been annexed in.
The hardest-working woman in show business Marion Jones. Mr. Please Please himself Maurice Greene.
"When I'm on the track, it is my house," Greene said during an interview this summer. "Nobody can tell me what to do in my house. I'm running the show."
My house. My show.
I feel good. I knew that I would.
You can hype 400-meter sprinter Michael Johnson all you want, but the standard for fastest man in the world has always been the 100 a straight line, no curves. It is one of the reasons why we remember Jesse Owens, Bob Hayes, Jim Hines and Carl Lewis. They were not just 100-meter sprinters. We watched them in the Olympics to run that straight, mystical line that we have determined is the measuring rod for glory. Tomorrow, when the 100 finals take place, Greene will try to take his among those great names.
Johnson, though, made the curves pretty exciting in Atlanta, when he captured gold in the 200 and 400. This time his is a solo act the 400, with the finals on Monday. I wonder if he will be wearing his new Nike shoes with the 24-karat gold droplets. According to Nike officials, the shoes have "retinal impact."
I'd like to have some retinal impact on some Nike honchos.
Even with all the distasteful involvement of the shoe company culture, it still comes down to who can run the fastest and, hopefully, drug free.
The most anticipated races and field competitions involve the women, though, thanks to Jones' bold prediction of an unprecedented five gold medals in the 100, 200, 400 relay 1,600 relay and the long jump. Nobody can deny that Jones will be the hardest-working woman in Olympic Park.
The women's 100-meter finals are tomorrow, and it should be Jones' first gold because her strongest competition, Inger Miller, pulled out with hamstring problems so she could save herself for the 200.
The 200 final on Thursday is looking like some kind of race. Miller, the current world champion, has hounded Jones with trash talk and has made it clear to everyone who will listen that the 200 in Sydney is her race providing she is healthy enough to run it.
What is remarkable about the 200 is that even though Jones has been on the cover of seemingly every news magazine worldwide, she may not even be the biggest star in the race. Cathy Freeman has eclipsed her since the aborigine star lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony last week.
In a country that has been turning itself inside out lately while coming to grips with its treatment of the aborigines, Freeman's presence has taken on a far greater meaning than simply a race.
However, it appears that Australians will be denied the steel cage match they have been waiting for Freeman vs. her arch-rival, Frenchwoman Marie Jose Perec.
Perec the 200 and 400 gold medal winner in Atlanta had been built up here as Freeman's main rival in the 400. People were treating it like King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Perec only fueled the tabloid reporting when she refused to appear at news conferences and would not stay at the Olympic Village. She had even insisted on training at a secret location, away from her teammates, and spent the entire summer entering and pulling out of races in Europe. Now she has pulled out of the Olympics entirely.
Too bad we love a good grudge match. We want good guys and bad guys. In the pool, there haven't been any bad guys, really. Ian Thorpe visits sick kids and is a good boy, according to his mum. The Dutch boy, Pieter van den Hogenband, has too many names for us to care about him.
The only one we could get worked up about is one of our own, Gary Hall Jr., and that's only because of his kin. Someone at the United States Olympic Committee must have it in for Hall, because this reference is in his official biography: "Hall's grandfather, Charles Keating III, was involved with the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan, which resulted in his grandfather spending time in a Tucson, Arizona, jail."
That's quite an impressive addition to the resume, wouldn't you say?
After today, we won't have to care about Gary Hall or Ian Thorpe or Dutch or any of these fish who are icons in the strange subculture of chlorine. The spotlight is moving to the center stage of the Olympics the place where people run and jump and throw the way they have since man could stand or since Tommy Lasorda was born, whichever came first.
Track and field. Now they can let the Games begin.

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