- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY They have asked the usual polygamists to stay out of view in Salt Lake City until the last patch of ice around the curling stone has been swept.
They call the latter a sport, in all seriousness.
The ethically challenged IOC is inclined to call anything a sport, including polygamy, if the bidding party brings a bag of unmarked bills, a chauffeur-driven limousine and assorted knickknacks.
Tiddlywinks played in earmuffs might qualify as a substantive endeavor.
These are the Winter Games, after all, an acquired taste, if that, if ever.
Otherwise, most proper-thinking Americans associate snow, ice and cold with bread, milk and toilet paper.
Nancy Kerrigan, who once took a whack for the cause, asked, "Why me?"
Why any of it, really, except maybe hockey, the downhill skiing competition and a couple of skaters, figure or otherwise?
The rest of it is like watching water freeze. You have 17 days of it, about 14 or 15 too many.
The Mormons apparently are guilty by association.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church and not the forward with the Timberwolves, decided to stay in the valley only after holding his nose around the Great Salt Lake. The adjective before Salt Lake is one of the early recordings of spin doctoring.
Those in power there are sensitive to the charge that they stick out like two short-haired youths on bicycles spreading the word.
Dennis Rodman said something to the effect during the NBA Finals in 1997. It cost him $50,000 and who knows how much in Las Vegas, where he spent as much time as possible.
The Olympic torch finally has made its way into Utah. The symbolism is intended to send shivers up spines and keep hope alive, which is a lot to expect from the flatulent-filled suits.
They elected to take a timeout this week from the paperwork inspired by the corruption scandal involving the IOC and Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Members of the IOC feigned exhaustion, no doubt from lugging around tin cups and will-work-favors-for-food placards.
One IOC member expressed hurt around the need to have a formal code of ethics. Institutional memory loss must go with institutional crookedness.
At least Juan Antonio Samaranch is no longer around, retired at last, a small favor, three years after Jean-Claude Ganga hit the fan.
Ganga, if you recall, elevated graft to art form. He made $60,000 on a dubious land deal in Salt Lake City. He also received $70,000 in cash from SLOC and another $115,000 to cover his travel-related expenses. Not surprisingly, he voted in favor of Salt Lake City and later absolved himself of all wrongdoing, mostly because his windfall was reasonably modest.
"I will not become rich because I voted for Salt Lake City," he said. "That is why I am so serene."
He must be really serene now. The outrage has subsided on NBC's cue.
The network has a lot of commercials to air, its principal assignment, interrupted by the profile of an athlete who has overcome a broken home, a broken leg and a broken heart.
The world is coming to the show, planning to take notes, as usual, if not to chronicle the flag-waving excess of each American in the stands. The world takes pleasure in exposing its inferiority complex around America, the French in particular.
America's national press tends to go along with the objection, if only because of its training to be culturally sensitive. There is safety in the journalistic herd. The contradiction usually goes unnoticed. Their national pride is somehow different from ours, inoffensive, to say the least.
The sniping goes with the territory, because the contests provide so little drama, so few moments.
Do you believe in miracles? That was 22 years ago. Do you believe in trashing the rooms? That was four years ago.
In both cases, the actions of the U.S. hockey team begged to be analyzed ad infinitum.
Like it or not, the IOC and the Winter Games are back, unapologetically so.
That goes double for curling.
Let the sweeping begin.


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