WINNERS OF OZ
Who soared and who stumbled at the Olympics
Medal counts and TV ratings tell only part of the story in
Sydney: As any follower of the Dream Team can attest, not all who
won gold glittered. Herewith a tally of who landed right-side up
and who went belly-up Down Under:
WINNER U.S. men's soccer. The Yanks' surprising run to the medal
round diminished the bad memory of the 1998 World Cup and, just
maybe, presaged the U.S.'s arrival as a soccer force.
LOSER U.S. men's basketball. Apathetic play turned the world's
best hoopsters into boo-worthy villains. Said Jason Kidd after
the near loss to Lithuania: "We definitely would have been the
goats of the Olympics." Sorry, guys--you were anyway.
October 8, 2000
WINNER Women's pole vault. Tatiana Grigorieva and the other
high-flying beauties in this debut event left male fans
LOSER Race walking. The nerd-friendly sport became the joke of
the Games when judges DQ'd the apparent men's 20K winner and
three women who led in the final 15 minutes of their 20K for
failing to walk properly.
WINNER The Netherlands. The Dutch beat Cuba in baseball and had
two of the biggest stars in swimming in Inge de Bruijn and Pieter
van den Hoogenband. Plus, their unofficial headquarters, the
Holland Heineken House, boasted the best nightly parties in
LOSER New Zealand. In both medal count and attention, New Zealand
was completely overshadowed by its boisterous island neighbor.
Best line in local papers: "Only Kiwi who's scoring at these
Games is Russell Crowe," the Gladiator star who was spotted
canoodling with Meg Ryan.
WINNER Real underdogs. Equatorial Guinean dog-paddler Eric
Moussambani and U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner provided
the Games with emotional highlights far more moving than NBC's
LOSER Marketers. For the first time in recent memory, no Mary Lou
Rettons emerged to carry the advertising torch. Says Burns Sports
Celebrity Service president Bob Williams, "After next month Lenny
Krayzelburg isn't going to be on the mind of your average sports
WINNER Sydney. Glowing reviews and record attendance have led to
calls for an encore performance in the near future.
LOSER Athens. Buzz about unpreparedness left IOC members
whispering that the 2004 Games might be better off
elsewhere--like, say, Sydney.
Worst Performances by Non-Equatorial Guineans
Mariana Canillas, Paraguay, 106'0", women's discus. Her toss fell
a mere 118' 4 3/4" behind winner Ellina Zvereva's.
Eka Purnama Indah, Indonesia, 178.83 points, women's three-meter
springboard. Champion Fu Mingxia (342.75) bettered that five-dive
preliminary total in three dives.
Martinho de Araujo, East Timor, 347.3 pounds, men's 56-kilo
weightlifting. Gold medalist Halil Mutlu's 369.3-pound clean and
jerk alone eclipsed de Araujo's combined total.
Sirivanh Ketavong, Laos, 3:34.27, women's marathon. Hadn't even
hit wall when winner Naoko Takahashi (2:23.14) hit tape.
Jean Patrick Aladd Sahajasein, Mauritius, table tennis. Was
outscored 126-51 in two straight-set losses and won fewest points
of any entrant.
Q: How many canned profiles did NBC not use?
A: Sick of getting up-close-and-personal with every Tom, Dick and
Dara? Count your blessings: According to NBC spokesman Mike
McCarley, the network used only about two thirds of the 130
athlete features it prepared. Don't be surprised if in the future
NBC runs its leftovers, including profiles of American runners
Regina Jacobs and Inger Miller, who didn't compete in Sydney.
Warns McCarley: "We never throw anything away."
Q: What happened to Olympians who were done competing in the
first few days of the Games?
A: They got to stick around for the rest of the party. "Some of
the athletes stayed the entire time, and some of them wanted to
leave," says USOC spokesman Mike Moran. "It wasn't a problem
either way." Easy for him to say: The Sydney organizing committee
picked up the tab. Every Olympian received travel to and from
Australia, a two-week stay in the Village and, as Moran describes
it, "the best food in all of Sydney" at the all-you-can-eat,
24-hour Village dining centers.
Q: What will happen to the venues?
A: Olympic Stadium will be downsized slightly, from 110,000 seats
to a cozier 80,000. Other sites won't be so lucky: The
dismantling of the 10,000-capacity volleyball stadium at Bondi
Beach (top), which cost $17 million to build, began four days
before the closing ceremonies. The baseball stadium will survive
but will see more bull than ball at its next major event, the
annual Royal Easter Show, which includes a parade of Oz's finest
Q: Where will the Olympics be in 2008?
A: Those Games are Beijing's to lose. China, which lost out to
Sydney in the bidding for 2000, did everything right this year,
from cracking down on drug offenders to making athletes and
officials more accessible to the press. But if something--more
drug scandals, violent political protest--scuttles Beijing's bid
before next July's IOC vote, look for Paris to win, with Toronto
Q: Whither synchronized swimming (below)?
A: Sorry folks--it's in for the long haul. The IOC wants to level
the gender field and has no intention of dropping women's sports.
In fact, expect to see even more distaff events in the coming
years. Lady wrestlers, anyone?
Q: What will NBC analysts for the lesser sports do until 2004?
A: Given the thin market for, say, water polo experts, most
commentators will return to their day jobs. Weightlifting analyst
Sam Maxwell will go back to managing financial portfolios. Beach
volleyball expert Mike Dodd will resume running his restaurant,
Fonz's, in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Rowing commentator Yasmin
Farooq will finally have spare time to, as NBC's Olympic media
guide says, "tend to her herb garden and make handmade soap."
Q: How often was the Miracle on Ice invoked?
A: Too often. The American media dredged up comparisons to the
1980 U.S. hockey win after diver Laura Wilkinson edged China's Li
Na, after pitcher Ben Sheets shut out Cuba and after wrestler
Rulon Gardner dealt Russia's Aleksandr Karelin his first loss in
13 years. Screamed NBC wrestling announcer Russ Hellickson, "Do
you believe in miracles again?" No, but we believe it's time for
a new catchphrase.
Word for Word
Now for a public service announcement: "If your kid goes out and
blows somebody's head off because Allen Iverson has said he was
going to blow somebody's head off on wax, then you're doing a bad
job as a parent." Why the caveat, issued by budding rapper
Iverson in The Philadelphia Inquirer? Excerpts from his new
single, 40 Bars:
Man enough to pull a gun
Be man enough to squeeze it
Blink if you don't believe it
Anything to do with millions I'm gonna be with it....
Get murdered in the second and first degree
Come to me with faggot tendencies
You be sleeping where the maggots be....
Won't catch me as a victim in a rap casualty....
Everybody stay fly
Get money, kill and f--- bitches
I'm hittin' anything
And planning on using my riches....
Down for zero digits
I'm a giant you're a midget....
I know niggas that kill for a fee
That would kill your ass for free
How you wanna die, fast or slowly?...
Now I'm reaching for heat
Leave you leakin' in the street
Nigga screamin' he was a good boy
Ever since he was born
But f--- it, he gone
Life must go on
Niggas don't live that long....
This type of murder don't need no hook
Just 40 f------ bars from the mouth of a crook...yo
[Sound of gun being cocked and fired.]
Johnnie on the Spot
Surprised to see lawyer Johnnie Cochran turn up at
steroid-tainted shot-putter C.J. Hunter's side in Sydney? Don't
be. History has shown that the man who made his name defending
O.J. Simpson is often a troubled athlete's best friend.
Jim Brown, 1985. Prosecutors drop rape and assault charges
against the football Hall of Famer after Cochran gets a police
detective to testify in a preliminary hearing that there are
serious discrepancies in the alleged victim's accounts of the
Marion Jones, 1993. Jones, a senior at Thousand Oaks (Calif.)
High, enlists Cochran's aid after she is suspended by USA Track
and Field for failing to take a random drug test. (Jones says she
was never notified of the test.) Her suspension is overturned.
Latrell Sprewell, 1997. After his suspension for choking Warriors
coach P.J. Carlesimo, Sprewell gets Cochran to accompany him to
his press conference. Cochran calls the public's persecution of
Sprewell a "rush to judgment." Later, Sprewell's suspension is
shortened from a year to the remainder of the season.
Orlando Brown, 2000. Hours after the Browns release Brown, who
sustained a career-threatening injury when an official's flag
struck him in the eye, the offensive lineman retains Cochran to
explore a possible suit against the NFL.
A lawsuit brought by former middleweight champ Joey Giardello
against makers of the The Hurricane. Giardello said the film
wrongly portrayed him as an undeserving victor over Rubin
(Hurricane) Carter in their 1964 title fight (above). "I just
wanted to set the record straight," said Giardello, "and I think
it has been." Terms weren't disclosed.
By former NFL tight end Russ Francis, the Republican nomination
for Hawaii's Second U.S. Congressional District. He'll face
11-term Democratic incumbent Patsy Mink in the Nov. 7 general
Two members of the Olympic Village cleaning staff, by needles
discarded in trash cans by the Bulgarian delegation. Village
mayor Graham Richardson said the pair endured "a pretty harrowing
24 hours" before they learned they hadn't contracted any
On the head, Brewers fan Jason Freitag, 26, by a 10-pound box
of frozen bratwurst that fell from an overhead ramp at County
Stadium during the final game there. Freitag wasn't seriously
injured; the Brewers gave him four tickets to 2001 Opening Day at
new Miller Park.
Two extra points, by Megan Binkley of Terrell (Texas) High, in
a 27-0 victory over Dallas's W.W. Samuell High. Binkley began the
night dressed in a lavender evening gown as Terrell's homecoming
Patrick Bishop, 21, of Gahanna, Ohio, who was sentenced to 20
days in jail and fined $170 for yelling, "I have a gun," from the
stands at a ref during a high school junior varsity soccer match.
Said Bishop, "Why I chose those four words, I'll never know."
Taking a Seat
With the world's best tennis players chasing medals in Sydney
(the gilded Venus and Serena Williams, among others) or
uninterested in beating up on a litany of lightweights (Martina
Hingis, taking a breather), Anna Kournikova had a golden
opportunity last week to--wonder of wonders!--win a tournament.
When top-seed Nathalie Tauziat was upset in the opening round of
the Seat Open in Luxembourg, Kournikova, ranked 13th in the world
and the tournament's second seed, found herself in the unfamiliar
position of favorite. In her first match, the Charles Schwab
spokesmodel survived a scare from 50th-ranked Nadeja Petrova:
After losing the first set 6-1, Kournikova rallied to take the
second 7-5 before advancing when Petrova withdrew with a thigh
injury. Then, everyone's favorite cover girl knocked off
defending champion Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals, sending a
shiver through fan sites across the Web. ANNA WON!!! read a post
on the message board of the Anna Kournikova International Fan
Club. Replied a fellow acolyte: "That's really the best, most
Unfortunately, Kournikova was abruptly sent packing, 6-2, 6-4 by
seventh-seeded Magdalena Maleeva. "I was shocked," wrote an
Annaphile on the International Fan Club site. "But just imagine
how Anna must feel." No need to imagine: Tennis's glamour girl
was surprisingly emotionless. "Everybody is here to win, and she
was playing better than me today," said Kournikova following the
match. "I tried to give my best."
In five years as a WTA pro, Kournikova is now 0 for 79 in her
attempts to win a singles title, and with the top tier players
rejoining the circuit over the next two weeks, you can bet The
Streak will continue into 2001. Not that any of that has shaken
the faith of true believers: Last month Kournikova signed a
five-year deal to become the new face of Omega watches. At least
time is on her side.
Baseball awards come and go, but cite a ballplayer for his
bachelor lifestyle and it really goes to his head. Chicago
magazine recently named White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko one
of the city's 25 most eligible singles, whereupon Konerko, who
goes by the nickname the King, promptly asked the Comiskey P.A.
people to play Jay-Z's strutting rap Big Pimpin' as a prelude to
his plate appearances. (Sample lyric: "You know I thug 'em, f---
'em, love 'em, leave 'em.") Last month two local sports talk
radio hosts recruited him to play the Dating Game at a charity
benefit. After asking three "bachelorettes" a series of
questions, Konerko chose a winner--who turned out to be teammate
Jim Parque in a wig. The King was not amused....
Pete Sampras and actress Bridgette Wilson (Fox's The Street)
quietly tied the knot last Saturday in a private ceremony at
Sampras's house in Beverly Hills. About 60 guests were invited
to the festivities, which included dinner on the tennis court in
the backyard. Among the attendees: Elton John, who sang....
The recent American Cinematheque Moving Picture Ball honoring
Bruce Willis was a black-tie soiree attended by Hollywood's
elite, including Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston, which is
why Shaquille O'Neal, decked out in cowboy hat and lavender
shirt, was such an odd presence. Turns out Shaq was invited by
Willis; O'Neal is an investor in the All-Star Cafes, whose
parent company, Planet Hollywood, counts Willis as one of its
Haven't booked entertainment for your company Christmas party
yet? Need to find an attraction for your son's bar mitzvah?
Might we suggest Dennis Rodman? The Worm's new agent, Darren
Prince, says Rodman will now make personal appearances for a
mere $75,000 an hour. Grab him while you can.
Winning bid for a stuffed Fatso the Fat-arsed Wombat, unofficial
Games mascot, in Olympic Aid's online charity auction.
Times on Sept. 24 that Japan's NHK television network broadcast
the entire women's marathon (once live, twice on tape), won by
Naoko Takahashi of Japan in 2:23.14.
U.S. medal count in Sydney, a figure correctly predicted before
the Games by researchers from Dartmouth and Yale based on
population and economic data (SCORECARD, Sept. 25).
Olympic medals won by Australia per million Australians.
Olympic medals won by the U.S. per million Americans.
Amount Chevron paid to construct an artificial reef to re-create
surf conditions in El Segundo, Calif., that were ruined when the
company built a jetty to protect an oil pipeline.
Amount any Saints player must pay every time he fumbles in
practice; the player who causes the fumble gets the cash.
Baseball playoff teams that have a player who hit 40 or more
home runs this season.
World Series winners in the past 40 years that had a player who
hit 40 or more home runs.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Injury reports on Bills' radio broadcasts are sponsored by the
law offices of Siegel, Kelleher & Kahn, "the personal injury
Tigers outfielder, on his candidacy for comeback player of the
year: "I didn't really go anywhere. I just stunk."