Rising U.S.-China tensions turn the Olympics into a political
The spy-plane incident has thrown into high relief areas of
conflict between China and the U.S., not the least of which is
Beijing's bid for the 2008 Summer Games. Although most observers
believe the incident won't hurt China's chances of getting the
Olympics, the superpower showdown has intensified the debate over
the bid among U.S. politicians, the outcome of which could have
Human rights activists have long opposed Beijing's bid, and on
March 28--four days before the midair collision off Hainan
Island--the House Committee on International Relations approved a
nonbinding resolution sponsored by Democrat Tom Lantos of
California urging the IOC to deny China the 2008 Games. "A whole
generation of Americans have gotten their first insight into how
a totalitarian police state functions," said Lantos 10 days after
the accident. On April 10, Yang Jiechi, China's ambassador to the
U.S., called the resolution "gross interference in the internal
affairs and inherent rights of the IOC."
In light of recent U.S. Olympic blunders--most notably the Salt
Lake City bid scandal--Lantos's resolution is likely to bolster
support for Beijing among IOC members already inclined to view
Americans as arrogant and heavy-handed. "Any government trying
to influence the IOC's decision would come up against a negative
response," says influential IOC member Dick Pound of Canada, one
of five contenders to replace outgoing president Juan Antonio
Samaranch. "The U.S. should be cautious, particularly if it is
going to have a candidate in the field for 2012." (Eight U.S.
cities are planning to bid for those Games.) Adds Olympic
historian John MacAloon, "If the resolution goes any further it
will be viewed as self-serving and naive. Many IOC members
believe U.S. politicians know very little about the Olympic
Games and care very little about their well-being."
The most influential statement on the Beijing bid may have come
not from a congressman but from a Chinese reformer. In a March 30
New York Times op-ed piece, Zhang Liang (the pseudonym for the
Communist Party member who released The Tiananmen Papers, which
detailed the Chinese government's role in the 1989 crackdown)
argued that rejecting the Beijing bid would enable conservative
Chinese leaders to "exploit anti-Western sentiments and enhance
their legitimacy in a way that would hamper rather than help our
The last time the U.S. tried to overtly use the Olympics to
achieve a political end was in 1980, when President Carter
ordered a boycott of the Moscow Games to protest the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan. Given the futility of that gesture--the
Soviet army remained in Afghanistan for another decade, and the
Eastern bloc repaid Carter's gesture with a boycott of the '84
Olympics in Los Angeles--one would think American politicians had
learned a simple lesson: The Games are a great spectacle but a
clumsy tool of diplomacy. --Gene Menez
Five Cities We'd Like To See Host a Future Olympics
Windy City sports fans desperately need something worth watching
Liberal drug laws might mean fewer of those pesky scandals
Expert at hosting rowdy hordes for weeks on end
Oddsmakers would give us all reason to care about badminton,
Do you believe in miracles?
The $10 Question
Having wearied of bad-mouthing squeegee men, New York City mayor
Rudy Giuliani recently turned his wrath toward another
troublemaker: Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist. "I don't
know any major American business that would employ him," Giuliani
Zimbalist has the gall to argue that cities don't benefit from
new sports stadiums, a position that doesn't sit well with
Giuliani, who wants to build a $1 billion home for his beloved
Yankees. "Every economist who has not been paid by proponents [of
new stadiums] has argued that you can't anticipate a positive
economic impact from building a new ballpark," says Zimbalist.
"Who knows what fantasy world Giuliani's living in?"
It's a familiar debate, pitting city officials who would dip
into public coffers for stadiums against academics who argue
that arenas simply transfer spending from other local businesses
to sports teams. A 1999 study by economists Dennis Coates and
Brad Humphreys asserted that in cities with major league
baseball teams, per capita income fell by $10 per person per
year in the decade after stadiums were built. Says Coates, "The
right question is, Is having this stadium worth $10 a year to
you?" But Cleveland lawyer Tom Chema, who directed the
development of the Indians' Jacobs Field, challenges the
assumption that new stadiums don't bring in new revenue.
"Because of Jacobs Field and Gund Arena, six million people a
year come to downtown Cleveland who wouldn't have before," says
Chema, "and they bring their wallets with them."
The debate may be moot. Simply put, people like having pro teams
in their towns. Says former Arlington, Texas, mayor Richard
Greene, who oversaw a 1992 sales-tax referendum to finance The
Ballpark in Arlington, "People get to decide what they want done
with their money. The expression of public opinion should pretty
much settle the arguments." --Jamal Greene
Nature abhors a vacuum, as do hormonally addled tennis groupies.
While Anna Kournikova has been MIA for the last few months
because of a stress fracture to her left foot, the racket set has
trained its gaze on the next generation of teen Russian poster
girls. Here's a look at some of the Anna wannabes.
Talent-wise, this hard-hitting blonde has the most potential;
she reached the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open. At 19 she's
older than many of the new Russian players, which doesn't
matter, she says, since all of them get along so well. Well, all
except for one (you know who).
A 14-year-old Muscovite who, like Kournikova, moved to Florida
to live and train. Another common trait: Katia is an NHL fan.
Her brother Maxim plays right wing for the Sabres. Coach Rick
Macci, who also trained the Williams sisters, says this Special
K can go "all the way to the top."
Like Kournikova, this 16-year-old was the top-ranked junior in
the world before turning pro. At Wimbledon last year she spoke
about Anna: "Thanks to [her], tennis has become hugely popular
among young girls in Russia, because she is so very beautiful.
Of course, she is not the only one."
A 14-year-old dynamo who regularly beats older players. At age
six she moved to Florida to work with Nick Bollettieri,
Kournikova's old coach. He says Sharapova may be the best of the
bunch. Of Kournikova, Sharapova says, "she hasn't won a
tournament yet, so it's hard to admire her."
Stupid Ball Tricks
USA Today called it "the ball that's turning golf upside down."
Phil Mickelson, a paid endorser, says it's "had a greater impact
on the game of golf than steel shafts." It's the Titleist Pro
V1, a much hyped solid-core ball that--along with solid-core balls
from Nike and other companies--has the golf world in a tizzy.
Devotees say the new balls fly longer and straighter than wound
balls and offer a soft feel around the greens. In short, they're
the holy grail of golf balls.
Which is fine for Tour pros, but can the weekend hacker tell the
difference? In the name of science--well, maybe more in the name
of a goofy prank--we passed out logoless generic balls at two Los
Angeles municipal courses and told the players they were Titleist
Pro V1s. About half of the golfers were unimpressed. ("I wouldn't
pay money for it," grumbled a 31-year-old L.A. resident.) Here's
a sampling of responses from the other half.
--"Now I know what everybody's talking about! It went 15 to 20
yards longer on my tee shots."--23-year-old from Santa Monica, 15
--"Fabulous! I loved it. Every shot I took felt soft but really
solid." --70-year-old from Marina del Rey, 20 handicap
--"No wonder you can't find these things anywhere. All my chip
shots were stopping five inches from the hole!" --25-year-old
from Venice, 20 handicap
--"A good ball. I especially liked it around the greens."
--62-year-old from Santa Monica, 15 handicap
"It really rewards you."--54-year-old from L.A., 22 handicap
"It plays just as they say in the ads. Do you have any more of
these you can sell me?"--38-year-old from L.A., 20 handicap
San Diego Padres
Camouflage jerseys and olive drab caps
For the second straight season the Padres paid homage to San
Diego's large military population by chucking their home whites
in favor of a camo motif for their Military Opening Day last
Thursday. "Wearing camouflage is a salute to the armed forces,"
says Jack Ensch, a retired Navy captain who's the team's director
of military marketing (a position unique to the Padres among
major league clubs). "It lets them know we appreciate their
service, that they're keeping our country free to play baseball."
The unis also are keeping San Diego on the cutting edge of high
style--camouflage dotted the runways at last fall's fashion shows.
No wonder camo jerseys, which retail for $69.99, are outselling
regular jerseys at Qualcomm Stadium concession stands.
"Camouflage is so in right now. It's a terrific take on
traditional baseball uniforms," says designer Nicole Miller,
whose 2000 fall line included camouflage-patterned cashmere
sweaters, sequined evening gowns and silk chiffon dresses. "This
team is definitely ahead of the couture curve."
By Duke biomedical engineering professor Barry Myers, that Dale
Earnhardt died from severe whiplash when his car hit the wall
during the Daytona 500. The conclusion of Myers, who studied
Earnhardt's autopsy report and photos, contradicted NASCAR doctor
Steve Bohannon's earlier speculation that a faulty seat belt may
have led to Earnhardt's death.
Atlanta, as the site of the 2002 Final Four. NCAA spokesman
Wally Renfro said that Georgia's adoption this year of a state
flag with a smaller Confederate emblem persuaded his organization
not to move the event, as some had suggested it should do.
By the NBA, rules governing the recruiting of free agents and
the gifts given by teams to players. Clubs will be prohibited
from using personal or team planes to fly in potential signees
and will be limited to $1,500 in gifts per year to each of their
players. The guidelines are informally being called the Cuban
Rules, in reference to the perks Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
lavishes on players.
Australia-based swimming coach Gennadi Touretski, with
possession of anabolic steroids, after a safe that was stolen
from his house in Canberra was recovered and found to contain a
small amount of Stanazolol. The Australian Sports Commission
suspended the Russian-born Touretski pending his court case.
Touretski, who coached Russia's Alexander Popov and Australia's
Michael Klim to Olympic gold medals, says he's not guilty.
The sports-marketing company owned by the third-winningest
woman in tennis history, from Steffi Graf Sport to Stefanie Graf
Marketing. The new appellation is in line with Graf's stated
preference that she now be called Stefanie.
Eau de O2
The hottest new products to hit the crowded sports-drink market
are oxygen-enriched waters. These airy liquids claim to pack as
much as 10 times the oxygen of regular H2O and to boost energy
levels, among other benefits. Hot air? Maybe. The more basic
question: How do they taste? We asked Harriet Lembeck, director
of the Wine and Spirits Program at The New School for Social
Research in New York City, to conduct a blind tasting of four
oxygen-enriched waters--and one mystery beverage.
Water: SerVen Rich ($1.19 per 1-liter bottle)
O2 claim: Eight times more oxygen than regular water.
Promo line: "Water without that bitter aftertaste."
Lembeck's take: "The bouquet brought to mind a sea breeze, a
fresh-air smell, which was encouraging. But the taste was very
flat and slightly soapy. It reminded me of medicine stirred into
water, like Epsom salts or baking soda."
Water: Aqua Rush ($1.50 per 1-liter bottle)
O2 claim: Nine to 10 times more oxygen than regular water
Promo line: "Applying oxy-ion water immediately to a wound stops
the bleeding within seconds and accelerates healing."
Lembeck's take: "Very bitter, very mineral. Boring bouquet.
Wouldn't you prefer to drink water with some taste in it?"
Water: Clearly Canadian O+22 ($1.19 per half-liter bottle).
O2 claim: Ten times more oxygen than regular water.
Promo line: "Scientifically formulated as a superior refreshment
product for active individuals."
Lembeck's take: "Strange. It seemed dirty, and it's funny to
describe a water as dirty. It reminded me of cheese, very
lactic, with milky overtones. Awful."
Water: Oxy-Water ($2.00 per 1-liter bottle)
O2 claim: Ten times more oxygen than regular water
Promo line: "Helps reduce fatigue and shortness of breath,
improves mental clarity and bolsters suppressed immune systems."
Lembeck's take: "Slightly medicinal. Also soapy and flat. No
liveliness to the flavor. You'd think that, with added oxygen,
there would be some tingle, some nice texture. I got nothing."
Water: New York City tap (free)
O2 claim: As much oxygen as regular water.
Promo line: "Meets all state and federal drinking water
Lembeck's take: "More refreshing than the others. Brought to mind
an ocean. It had more bubbles, more liveliness than the rest."
Where's Paul Lynde when you need him? Producers of Hollywood
Squares were nearly caught a square short last week as they
prepared to tape a sports-themed episode of the game show in
L.A. Among those scheduled to appear were Evander Holyfield,
Gabrielle Reece, Pete Rose and Jason Sehorn. Problem was, on the
day of shooting, Rose (below) was nowhere to be found. "Everyone
was so angry because there was no call and no way to get ahold
of him," says Squares publicist Jeffery Bowman. Fifteen minutes
before taping was to start, producers tapped comedy writer Bruce
Vilanch to pinch-hit. A spokesperson for Rose says his flight
out of Cincinnati was canceled and that Rose left two messages
with the show. Bowman insists no calls were received and adds,
"The big joke was that we should have taken bets on whether Rose
was going to be here."...
John McEnroe, who's been trying to sell his memoirs for years,
has found a publisher. Little, Brown U.K. will pay McEnroe
around $750,000, a rich contract given that tennis books rarely
do well and that McEnroe is not going to dish on his marriage to
actress Tatum O'Neal....
Former Olympic champion Scott Hamilton, who will be retiring
from the Target Stars on Ice tour this month, may go Hollywood
full time. He costars with Jason Alexander and Wendie Malick in
On Edge, a mock documentary about three dysfunctional female
skaters with Olympic dreams. In the film, which is being shopped
for distribution, Hamilton plays a demented former skating judge
and coach. "The skating world is hard to make fun of," says
Hamilton, "because it does such a wonderful job on its own."
Starting bid at auction for 1968 Olympic 200-meter champion
Tommie Smith's gold medal, which he wore on the podium in Mexico
City when he gave the raised fist salute during The
Score of Australia's World Cup qualifying win over American
Samoa, breaking the record for the biggest blowout ever in an
international soccer match--a mark Australia had set two days
earlier in a 22-0 demolition of Tonga.
Rookies on the court for the Bulls at the end of their 105-84
loss to the Bucks.
Wins by U.S. players in the nine LPGA tournaments so far this
Amount the Trail Blazers owe over the next three seasons to
Shawn Kemp, who will miss the rest of the season while
undergoing drug rehab.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Officials of Boeing, Washington state's largest employer,
received a letter in which Alex Rodriguez--who left the Mariners
for a $252 million deal with the Rangers--recommended they move
their headquarters from Seattle to Dallas-Fort Worth.
Mayor of Pittsburgh, on the skyline vista from the Pirates' new
PNC Park: "The only city I can think of with a similar view is