Sunday, February 17, 2002
Updated: February 18, 3:49 AM ET
Now, maybe the Games can begin again
By Jim Caple
SALT LAKE CITY -- Excuse me, I'm getting all verklumpt.
After a week of controversy, worldwide headlines, litigation, news conferences, outrage and debate, the great pairs figure skating drama concluded in a powerful, emotional ceremony Sunday night when Canadian skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier received the most coveted and revered of all Olympic awards: the little blue Roots beret.
Ha! Just kidding. Everyone knows that not even International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge can get his hands on those berets. The line was two hours long at the Roots store in Parks City this weekend and even longer at the Salt Lake stores. Waiting in line is expected to gain full-medal status in 2006, with the Russian women favored for the gold.
No, Sale and Pelletier received their long desired gold medals, granted to them when the International Skating Union admitted that the judge from France, or maybe Cook County, was guilty of misconduct. The ISU president, the impossibly named Ottavio Cinquanta, awarded the medals to Sale and Pelletier in a special ceremony at the end of original ice dance competition Sunday just before NBC signed off for the night.
Rogge said the IOC did not consult with NBC in scheduling the ceremony for prime time, and I don't doubt him. They didn't have to. They knew without asking what they were supposed to do. NBC paid billions for broadcast rights and wasn't about to let this precious moment be held on a weekday morning opposite the Price is Right.
After political negotiations more involved then the Dayton Accords, the Canadian pair and the Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, marched out together and took the podium together. The Canadians received their medals (Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze wore theirs onto the ice) and then both national anthems played with the Russian anthem first.
And then everyone posed with their medals and went home happy.
"I am happy it is all over," Berezhnaya said. "Everybody happy, so I happy, too."
See? Everybody happy.
"This was better than I expected," Pelletier said. "I'm happy to put some closure to it."
Yes. He actually said closure. And isn't closure what the Olympics are all about?
Unfortunately, like those endless ice dance routines, this matter isn't entirely closed. The ISU meets Monday to discuss rule changes in the sport, as if that will make any difference whatsoever.
It won't. Figure skating is inherently subjective and prone to scandal. But fine. Let the ISU make its changes. Just keep it to yourselves guys and let the rest of us enjoy the Olympics in peace. This soap opera was entertaining for a couple of days, but I think we all reached the end of our patience sometime after we figured out how to not only spell Cinquanta's name, but also how to pronounce it, as well.
Elsewhere there are actual athletic events going on at these Olympics. Yes, it's startling but true. In speedskating, Chris Witty won the gold medal in the women's 1,000 with a world record time and Jennifer Rodriguez won the bronze. The U.S. Nordic combined team might be still lying in the snow at the finish line after exhausting themselves for a fourth-place finish. The greatest hockey tournament in the world is in full swing.
There's even more figure skating. The ice dance final is Monday night after the original dance Sunday. Ice dancing is part of the pairs scandal but for the life of me, I can't see how anyone can look at ice dancing and consider it legitimate enough to be tainted by corrupt judges. Here are actual comments from two ice dancers:
"The next thing is our free dance to Michael Jackson. It's hip and new and the audience will love it."
"My costume was under my skate."
And people are worried about the sport's credibility?
Meanwhile, the beautiful Sale and the witty Pelletier have a huge career ahead of them in "When Harry Met Sally on Ice." The Russians prospects aren't quite so bright. They'll so be appearing at shopping malls and car lots where fans will pay $5 to stand on podiums and receive gold medals alongside them.
As for the rest of us? Well, when the four skaters wore their medals atop the podium, NBC gushed, "This is a moment none of us will ever forget."
No, we won't. But we'll try.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com.