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Bribery, an olympic sport

January 28, 1999

Let's see, $2 billion prize passed out by people from Ecuador, the Congo, Sudan, Mali, Kenya and Chile, and we're shocked - shocked I tells ya - that they're accepting bribes?

This would be like a ballpark vendor passing a hot dog down a row that included Rosie O'Donnell and expecting her not to take a bite.

Face it, the Olympics stopped being about athletics somewhere around the time of Jesse Owens. Now the Olympics are about money, marketing, sales, money, television, product endorsements, money, politics, advertising, money, money and money. And oh yes, money.

Every so often somebody runs a race, but the Olympic world is less concerned with the time he records than the brand of shoes he wears.

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Any more the Olympics are more painful to watch than any of those ridiculously inbred, self-congratulating musical awards shows. True, every so often a sporting event does interrupt the cavalcade of commercials and goopy feature stories that try to make spoiled, distasteful athletic droids seem marginally human, but it is the exception.

So why buck the tide? Why pretend the Olympics are something they're not? Rather than castigate and dismiss these disgraced members of the IOC for extracting bribes from host cities, I say they should be encouraged.

Make bribing an Olympic sport.

Why not, everything else is. We could have synchronized bribing, four-in-line bribing, rhythmic bribing, ice bribing, bribe dancing, the combined bribe/kickback/blackmail cheatathlon, uneven parallel bribing and the ever-popular 400-meter relay bribe.

The equestrian bribing might be a little difficult, or at least call for a surplus of carrots.

I like this plan in the interest of fairness, because no longer would the games be dominated by the Americans, Germans and Russians. The "Star-Spangled Banner" is all right, but after the fifth time in an afternoon it grows wearisome. With my plan you would see Mbute-Grasias Poontaa of the Republic of Congo up on the podium while his national anthem played in the background, accepting the gold for the $70,000 freestyle bribe.

"Quite a day for this gritty, Congolese Cinderella story, who overcame a rocky start as a young man including a brief stint where he actually had to work for a living as a shoe repairman and a near- disastrous effort in the 1994 games where he failed to get anything for himself out of Atlanta save for a complimentary bushel of peaches at his hotel room."

I can see a day when Emin El Allah Hemdhar Abul Nassir, well behind on points, sticks a never-before-tried-in-competition triple bribery lutz with a perfect landing on a stack of fifties.

I look for controversy as well, as Petrie Mombassa of Cameroon inexplicably has 12 seconds put back on the clock, which allows him to get one more college scholarship for his daughter that puts him ahead of Kenya's Cmllama Paluka in the semifinals of bribe polo.

What if Bjorn Bggmrrgeehen of Finland, fresh off his world-record-setting performance of amassing $750,000 in bribes for the 2004 Summer Games - shattering the old, unofficial since it was wind-aided, bribe record - shockingly tests positive for steroids?

And what if the Russian judge begins blatantly manipulating points in favor of IOC members who vote to award sites on the basis of merit?

I hear the protests now, that the spirit and goodwill of the games transcend the petty greed and graft of the IOC members accused of accepting bribes.

Fair enough. But can you stand there and look me in the eye and affirm that my system would be significantly worse than the one that gave us, among other indignities, Mary Lou Retton?




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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