AN IRREVERENT LOOK AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS
The men's hockey tournament. It's wide open, not just in theory anymore.
Walter Mayer and any Austrian athlete who gave Olympic access to the coach at the center of the doping raid. Could they have been more stupid and arrogant? Sadly, yes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"It's very difficult to have a downhill race in the middle of the Sahara."
Jacques Rogge, IOC president, feeling no need to feel bad that some countries will never be Winter Games powerhouses
LEARN THE LANGUAGE
"HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?"
What short-track starter won the 1,000-meter final in 2002 after every other skater in the race fell down?
A. Andrew Murtha, Australia
B. Steve Bradbury, Australia
C. Kim Dong-sung, South Korea
TONIGHT ON "COPS IN ITALY"!
That Miami Vice raid of the Austrian skiers' living quarters wasn't the first time athletes and coaches had complained about the drug police's methods at these Games. But previous gripes were about how the Crocketts and Tubbses were coming at them undercover.
The day before the Games started, Austrian Alpine skiing star Hermann Maier agreed to meet in the athletes village at Sestriere with two people who said they were fans and had badgered his agent for an autograph. When they got face to face, the "fans" produced credentials identifying them as drug testers. But the female tester really was a fan, too; later, she kissed Maier on the cheek.
Also before the Games began, Austrian Nordic combined skier Mario Stecher was approached by a man who identified himself as a journalist and said he wanted an interview. Stecher agreed; the man began his "interview" asking for blood and urine samples.
After a downhill training run, American Steven Nyman was preparing for an interview with Italian TV when a man standing beside the camera crew stuck a drug-testing consent form in his face and told him to sign it.
"I redirected him out of the TV compound," International Ski Federation official Mike Kertesz said.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
More than 90 men and women of the cloth are on call for athletes who want religious help or comfort. But they do have standards.
One priest refused an Italian racer's request to bless his skis.
"It's like when you have two nation's armies, each asking God to be on their side," said Aldo Bertinetti, the Catholic representative on the interfaith committee coordinating the ministrations.
"How can God know which to choose?"
RAH, RAH, BLAH
Cheerleaders can't get any respect at the Olympics.
These Games have official cheerleaders, Italian women age 15 to 26, hired to entertain the crowds at each venue. They've been booed at speed skating. They've been groused at at hockey. In trying to think of something nice to say about them, speed skating fan Beth Clark of Ottawa, Ontario, came up with "They're not like the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. They're fully clothed."
The cheerleaders, who practiced for 4 1/2 months, don't yell anything. They just jump around and dance to disco music. One of their problems is that they don't always understand when or what they should be cheering. During the Czech Republic-Finland men's hockey game, they enthusiastically shook their pompoms as the Czechs' Jaromir Jagr was down on the ice with blood streaming from his forehead while other players fought.
THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE
The Turin organizers should just dump the cheerleaders and hire the Dutch speed skating fans to go from venue to venue.
For the Dutch, every speed skating race is like a hybrid of an NFL and an NCAA basketball tournament game: wigs, funny hats, painted faces, chants, cheers, signs, bands, sing-alongs. And the Duth were in full party mode Sunday for Marianne Timmer's win in the 1,000 meters.
The oom-pah band Kleintje Pils ("small beer") played We Are the Champions and Volare, with fans joing in for "Volare ... whoa-oh.
"They really are the best," Kleintje Pils fan Mike Murray of Ottawa, Ontario, shouted, trying to be heard above the tuba. "We saw them at the World Cup."
The orange-clad, chanting, swaying crowd included a woman wearing a crown on top of her orange wig and a banner that read, "As finishing touch, God created the Dutch."
DAILY DISPATCHES FROM TURIN
JROMANO: The rumble began from down the hill. Soft at first, and then growing in volume. Soon, the stampede was upon me. Cow bells. Lots and lots of cow bells. If you have never before been to a ski competition, you have to understand clapping is not the easiest way to express pleasure. Mittens and gloves have a way of muting the celebration. So fans bring cow bells and horns to show their appreciation. The result sounds like a high school band performing in a pasture. Or a Blue Oyster Cult song.
GSHELTON: Sometimes, you know when you've been in too many press rows. I was sitting at the speedskating venue, between Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News and Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News, a regular moustache row of grizzled, gruff sportswriters. Just like that, a discussion broke out over, of all things, The Gilmore Girls. Honestly. They were talking about Rory's new boyfriend Logan, who they don't like, and Luke's nephew Jess. Once I figured out they weren't talk about Artis Gilmore's daughters, I was mortified. Still, a guy wants to fit in, so I tried to reveal my own geek quotient by mentioning that I was a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. Filip and Tom were both outraged that I would even attempt to compare the two. "They hit people in Buffy," Bondy sniffed. There, for a minute, I thought I was going to be banished from the row by Tom and Filip, forever to be known as the Gilmore Boys.
BY THE NUMBERS
Price in euros (about $3.60) of tickets sold at the last minute in an effort to fill the stands for the Slovakia-Kazakhstan men's hockey game
Number of police officers that one Austrian skier said burst into their living quarters for the drug raid
Years since Canada's men's hockey team has been shut out in consecutive games at the Olympics
Countries out of 203 that belong to the International Olympic Committee that have won a Winter Games medal
Visitors to the Shroud of Turin museum last week, the number it usually gets in a month, according to a museum guide
Americans who have type 1 diabetes, the kind that U.S. cross-country skier Kris Freeman has