SALT LAKE CITY — Doug Collins, if I were you, I would hop on a plane from Phoenix where the Wizards played last night head for Salt Lake City, find International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and say, “Where’s mine?”
Roy Jones Jr., take a break from your chicken fighting farm in Pensacola and head for Utah. Call Jacques Rogge and say, “You owe me.”
Everyone who has ever been wronged in the Olympics, pack your bags, get in a car, train or plane and come to Salt Lake City. A window of Olympic justice has been pried, and you should try to fling it wide open.
Yesterday the IOC righted a perceived wrong by declaring that the Canadian skating duo of David Pelletier and Jamie Sale would get a gold medal for their pairs performance Monday night, which set off a firestorm of controversy that consumed the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The Russian team of Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya won the gold medal that night for a performance that many believed was flawed, compared to that of Pelletier and Sale, but the Canadian pair finished second and got the silver medal.
Which begs the question what happens to the silver medal now? You have two gold medalists, and then you have the bronze medalists, the Chinese skaters. Do they become the silver medalists now, and the fourth-place finishers get the bronze?
Probably not but, really, what happens to that silver medal? Do the Canadians get to keep it, or do they have to turn it in to get their gold? Can George O’Leary have it to put on his resume?
It turns out that one of the judges who voted for Sikharulidze and Berezhnaya had been pressured to some sort of vote-swapping deal. This is nothing new in figure skating actually there is nothing particularly new about it in the Olympics, period. What is new is that somebody did something about it.
As public pressure mounted for some sort of action, International Skating Union officials declared they would conduct a rare “internal assessment” of the judging from the pairs competition.
What was even rarer was for anything to come out of that “internal assessment,” and when skating union officials appeared before reporters at a news conference, it appeared that nothing was going to happen.
But this story had legs like no Olympic scandal before. Day after day, the stories continued about the public outrage over the decision, and Pelletier and Sale would not go away. They were everywhere and were interviewed by everyone. I thought they were going to replace Matt and Katie on the “Today Show.”
Now if the old man were still running the show, the Canadian skaters could have started their own 24-hour cable network and nothing would have changed. Juan Antonio Samaranch couldn’t have cared less what the public or the media thought. The old IOC boss wouldn’t have changed a thing, and Pelletier and Sale would have gone back to the great white north with their silver medal, another chapter in the lengthy list of those wronged in the Olympics.
But Rogge is the boss now and is not nearly as autocratic, which means he is more sensitive to public opinion although yesterday he declared that “this was something that was not led by public opinion.”
Baloney. Even Ottavio Cinquanta, the skating union chief, acknowledged that public opinion had everything to do with it: “I must say that public opinion helped a great deal.”
If that’s the case, then let’s get in the Olympic spirit and muster up some public outrage for others who were robbed by the politics of the game in the past. Let’s find some gold medals for Collins and the rest of that 1972 American Olympic men’s basketball team, who were robbed when the clock was set back twice, even though it appeared the Americans had won, until the Soviet Union finally put in the winning basket. Remember, the American players refused to accept the silver medal. Now it’s time to give them the gold, if the IOC is now in the practice of going back and righting wrongs.
Then there is light heavyweight champion Jones, victim of perhaps the worst robbery ever witnessed in the Olympics. There was no greater injustice than when Jones, after soundly defeating Korea’s Park Si Hun in the 1988 Seoul Games while throwing five times as many punches, had to settle for the silver when the Korean fix was in and the hometown fighter won the gold.
In 1996, the IOC agreed to review the outcome of the Jones-Hun fight, and it appeared that Jones might finally get the gold medal he deserved. But IOC officials ultimately refused to change the decision and instead awarded Jones something called the IOC Silver Olympic Order some manufactured honor that meant absolutely nothing. It wasn’t even the Gold Olympic Order, and, heck, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu won one of those.
Under Samaranch’s iron rule, the window of justice was sealed shut. It has been opened a crack by Rogge. Let’s break the glass now.