Giuliani makes bold prediction


TORINO, Italy -- Rudy Giuliani predicted Sunday that the New York Rangers will lift the Stanley Cup before he wins the presidency and former Formula One world champion Mario Andretti ruled out a shock bid for the White House.

The two prominent Italian-Americans made their comments during light-hearted one-on-ones with ESPN.com before their official U.S. delegation duties at Sunday night's Closing Ceremony.

Both men have performed sporting miracles in their lives.

Andretti, 65, is, for many, the greatest driver ever. He won the Formula One crown in 1978, Indy 500 in 1969, Daytona 500 in 1967, and almost everything else. Born in Montona, Italy, he became a naturalized American citizen in 1965.

Giuliani, 61, a possible candidate for the 2008 Republican nomination, was mayor of New York the last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. For non-elephant readers, it was as far back as 1994. Giuliani is often called "America's Mayor" for his calm and courage during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

I had booked to speak with Giuliani but, by accident, the organizers scheduled me to interview Andretti instead. All set with prepared questions about Rudy's political ambitions, what do you do when a racing legend walks over and sits down 80 centimeters from your face? Be polite, my Dad taught me. Be honest, my Mum taught me. Here goes:

ESPN.com: Hello, it's very nice to meet you.

Mario Andretti: Thank you.

ESPN.com: I actually booked to interview Mayor Giuliani.

Andretti: Ah ... OK.

ESPN.com: You have no intention of running for president of the United States?

Andretti: Not at the moment.

ESPN.com: Could there be a future run?

Andretti: You never know.

ESPN.com: Where were you born: Italy or America?

Andretti: I was born in Italy.

ESPN.com: So I'm afraid you can't [under the Constitution].

Andretti: Ah, that's right, I can't, unless they change the rule.

Bravo Mario, a good laugh and a great driver. Immediately afterward, I got the chance to speak with Mayor Giuliani himself and was tempted to ask his views on Formula One, but decided against it.

Giuliani did the interview standing up. He looked happy and relaxed to be here with third wife Judith Nathan. Amid trademark loud laughter, the mayor answered my questions.

ESPN.com: Mr. Mayor, which will happen first, you become president of the United States or the Rangers win another Stanley Cup?

Mayor Giuliani: I hope the Rangers win the Stanley Cup this year. And my consideration of running for president won't take place for another year or two, so I think that the Rangers are going to win [first]. I'm rooting for them to win this year. I think they're still in first place.

ESPN.com: If you ran, would yours be the most misspelled presidential candidate's name ever?

Giuliani: I would say that, whether I run for president or not, I may already have that distinction of seeing my name misspelled so many times. But the one thing that I'm sure of: When I'm in Italy, they get the name right.

ESPN.com: You're a great fan of history. If you were in a Winter Olympics two-man bobsled, who would you want in there with you?

Giuliani: Ronald Reagan.

ESPN.com: More seriously, in 100 years time, will historians look back on 2001 as the second biggest date in U.S. history after 1776?

Giuliani: Well, I hope they look back on it as the day of our worst attack, so we never have any one worst than that. And I hope they also look back on it as a day of one of our best responses, meaning commitment to America, helping each other, assisting each other and then having a sense of unity. You never know what history has in store. There's been a lot of big days in American history. Critical days. The attack at Pearl Harbor (1941) or the assassination of President Kennedy (1963) are probably the most recent ones, but Sept. 11 is probably one of those days also. It's one of those days where everyone who's alive remembers where you were when you found out about it.

At an earlier press conference, Giuliani called the Torino Games "a complete success." He praised the security cooperation between some 26 countries as "the model" for future Olympics.

Well that's all folks! As a huge fan of chess and soccer, I was a natural choice to help ESPN.com cover the Winter Olympics. It was a pleasure to write for you. Until we meet again ... have a nice day!

Brian Church is a columnist with the Athens News in Greece. He will be contributing to ESPN.com throughout the Olympics.