- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

Get this nobody is leaving Salt Lake City until Gene Simmons sticks his tongue out and says so. Not the Russians. Not the Koreans. Nobody.
That's right. Simmons and Kiss are part of tomorrow's show closing the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Talk about a scandal. You think Olympic organizers had any clue that they had invited a performer who, in a book that came out in December, declared that he had more than 4,600 sexual liaisons (a bronze medal performance, if you go by Wilt Chamberlain standards), and who proudly boasted that he was the kind of guy who would add both your mother and your sister to that list?
Do you think when Salt Lake City Organizing Committee chief Mitt Romney and his fellow Mormons are sitting in Rice-Eccles Stadium tomorrow night, they will know they are being entertained by a performer who, in a recent interview on the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air" with host Terry Gross, made sexual suggestions and comments to the host so provocative that NPR didn't even post them on its Web site, as is its usual practice with interviews on the show?
Then again, Kiss may be just the right touch to close out these Olympics. I'll bet the Russians and the Koreans would love to stand on a stage in the stadium tomorrow night and stick their tongues out at everyone.
There has been all sorts of furor about the threats of the Russians and the Koreans to leave the Games early, and their suggestions that they would boycott Athens in 2004 because of what they feel has been unfair and biased judging and decisions against their athletes.
It began with the judging scandal in the pairs skating, when the Russian skaters won the gold over what was perceived by the public and the media as a better performance by the Canadians. The outrage over the decision, and the embarrassment of the reports of vote-swapping between French and Russian judges, led to a second gold medal awarded to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.
They didn't take away the Russians' gold medal, but the damage was done. Honor was besmirched. Face was lost. The Russians had been dissed.
So when America's Sarah Hughes won the gold medal Thursday night in women's figure skating over Russia's Irina Slutskaya, the Russians turned the tables and said the judging was biased and that their skater should get a gold medal, too. This came on the same day their gold medal favorite cross country skier was disqualified and couldn't compete.
Add to that complaints about North American hockey referees and more complaints of bias in judging in freestyle aerials skiing, and by the end of the day the Russians were threatening to leave town, even suggesting they wouldn't show up to play last night's hockey semifinal against the United States.
Yeah, that would have looked good not to even be on the ice on the 22nd anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice" win by the young American team over the mighty Soviet Red Machine at Lake Placid. Somebody came to his senses back in Moscow and told the Russians to stay until the end and not miss the Kiss show.
You think not? "Let's see how the Olympic Games end," said Russian president Vladimir Putin, obviously a Gene Simmons fan.
If the Russians had left, the South Koreans might have been right behind them. They are furious about speedskater Kim Dong-Sung being disqualified for illegally blocking America's Apolo Anton Ohno after finishing first in the men's 1,500-meter final Wednesday. The disqualification gave Ono the gold medal, and the Koreans were outraged, threatening to sue and to leave.
Cooler heads prevailed, though, and yesterday the president of the Korean Olympic Committee said the team would stay. "The Korean athletes look forward to celebrating the conclusion of these so-far successful Games at the Closing Ceremony," Kim Un-Yong said.
Another Kiss fan.
As far as suggestions that the judging controversies and boycott threats have somehow tarnished the Games, let's remember these are the Winter Olympics that were bought with more than $1 million in cash, gifts, scholarships and other goodies. The U.S.S. Tarnished set sail a long time before they started giving out multiple gold medals in events in Salt Lake City.
Olympic supporters should be happy that the controversy is about the athletic competition, which is positively quaint compared to the boardroom corruption and scandal that is much more likely to bring the Games down.
At the height of all of this outrage in the past few days, the lower house of the Russian parliament voted to boycott the Closing Ceremony unless Olympic officials rerun the cross country relay race, bar North American referees from last night's hockey game and apologize to the Russian Olympic team. The vote on the resolution was 417-0.
I think Gene Simmons will show the Russian politicians what they think in Salt Lake City of their resolution.
Last night the U.S. men's hockey team won 3-2. The Russians play Belarus today for the bronze medal. They can leave after that. Everybody else stays for the show.


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