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August 02, 2009

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EXCERPT | Aug. 6, 1984

Opening Message

Nothing could spoil the party at the L.A. Olympics

A Soviet Union--led boycott by 14 nations didn't dampen the spirit of the athletes, as Kenny Moore reported.

Only the athletes save the Olympic Games. Each Olympiad, winter and summer, the months before the competition are rancid with boycott, eligibility squabbles, drug accusations and plain, adrenaline-fired suspicion. Then suddenly the flame is kindled, and it becomes the athletes' obligation to somehow redeem the whole Olympic movement by virtue of their performances, to leave flawed Games shining in memory because they produced a Shorter or Spitz, a Korbut or Comaneci.

In Los Angeles, in these XXIII Summer Games, the athletes didn't even wait for the competition to start. They took a gorgeously produced opening ceremony at the Coliseum last Saturday and turned it into a powerful display of the binding emotions of international sport. They were so hungry to demonstrate the substance of LAOOC president Peter Ueberroth's words—"the finest group of young men and women ever assembled in the history of sport ... the best hope for the future of mankind"—that they broke ranks, embraced and lifted the formality of the ceremony into something containing elements of both pagan rite and sacred affirmation.

"It felt," said Canadian basketball player Bev Smith, walking, stunned, from the Coliseum, "like it was supposed to feel."

And in the process, it made millions know that the Soviets had been wrong to boycott. Wrong simply because they missed a great time.

The U.S. would dominate the competition, winning 83 gold medals and 173 overall—114 more than runner-up West Germany.

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HOT 100

SI.com's Joe Posnanski ranks the Top 100 players in baseball right now.

1. Albert Pujols (top left), 1B, Cardinals "Every hitter is human," says righthander Zack Greinke. "Except Pujols."

2. Joe Mauer (top right), C, Twins Could win his third batting title this year. No other catcher in AL history has won even one.

3. Hanley Ramirez (left), SS, Marlins Leads the league in hitting and might have another 30-30 season.

4. Zack Greinke, P, Royals Has won 10 games and leads the majors with a 2.04 ERA.

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PHOTOPhotograph by RICH CLARKSONSHOWTIME Some 93,000 packed the Coliseum for a ceremony that was straight out of Hollywood. Rafer Johnson (at top of steps), who won the decathlon at the 1960 Games, lit the torch. PHOTOSHEEDY & LONG (RUSSELL) PHOTOFRANK WHITE (HANNAH) PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR. (LEWIS) PHOTOBRIAN GARFINKEL/ICON SMI (PUJOLS) PHOTOTOM DAHLIN (MAUER) PHOTOWINSLOW TOWNSON/AP (RAMIREZ) PHOTOBILL FRAKES (PAYTON) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (JAMES) PHOTOJERRY LAI/US PRESSWIRE (WISE) PHOTOJIM MCISAAC/GETTY IMAGES (RICE) PHOTOJEFF ZELEVANSKY/AP (CONE) PHOTOJEFFREY MAYER/WIREIMAGE (OWENS) PHOTO

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