And You Call This the Olympics?

Moscow News, #32, 1984   The 23rd Olympic Games are drawing to a close.  They have added new names to the list of Olympic champions who have gone down forever in the history of these splendid competitions born in Ancient Greece.  But the Games in Los Angeles can in no way be considered a worthy page in that history.  The trouble is not so much the results (there are fine records among them) as the organization, the TV coverage and the eulogies of praise for the winners, not for all of them but only for those coming from the 'hospitable host country.'  This is most probably the first time that an IOC President has had to lodge an official protest over the chauvinistic slant in the way the Games were covered on American TV.

The American press makes no bones about dividing the participants into "goodies" (their own) and "baddies" (all the rest).  The Games are openly exploited to glorify America, the American way of life, to show its superiority over other nations.  All this is absolutely out of keeping with the Olympic ideals, with the image of a genuine festival of youth, friendship and sports.  What is happening in Los Angeles both justifies and provides yet further confirmation of the wisdom of the decision taken by a number of NOCs not to send their athletes to the Olympiad-84 so as not to be a party of this hypotrophy of the Olympic spirit.

There will undoubtedly be repeated comment on the Games.  Let us see how the awards have been distributed in certain events.

Koji Gushiken, 27, scored 118.7 points to win a fourth gold medal for the Japanese team in the overall championship.  Before him, Sawao Kato won two Olympic gold medals, and Yukio Endo one.  Gushiken is a familiar name to Soviet gymnastics fans.  In 1978 he placed fifth in the Moscow News Prize.  In the 1981 world championships (in Moscow) he was third in combined events.  In last year's world championships in Budapest he went another step up placing second in the overall count, and today he has achieved the top honor.  The narrow margins in individual scoring (Peter Vidmar, of the USA, was second with 118.675 and Li Ning, of China, third with 118.575) and in team scoring (the USA placed first with 591.4, China second with 590.8, and Japan third with 586.7) indicate the tense competition.  But to judge from the accounts of the participants, judges and spectators had a hand in the course of events too.  The coach of the Chinese gymnastics team, for example, said: "We did fine but we simply couldn't win.  The judges were against us.  Besides, the spectators made it impossible for our gymnasts to concentrate by their continued yells."  The Austrian Arbeiter Zeitung wrote in this connection: "The judges awarded fabulous points influenced by the level of noise in the gym."  And in view of the fact that most of the spectators supported the home team one can easily see how the latter were helped by performing on native soil.

There was a "sensation" in the women's overall event.  Mary Lou Retton became the first ever American Olympic overall gymnastics champion.  There is no way we can discuss her progress before the Olympics in recent world events for the simple reason that she did not take part in them.  At the end of last year she won the Chunichi Cup.  She won the gold medal scoring 79.175 points.  Ecaterina Szabo, of Romania, came second (79.125) and her teammate S. Pauca third with 78.675 points.

American girls did not manage to place first in the team scoring.  Romanian girls performed so successfully that they made it to the top.  The USA placed second and China third.  Considering the composition of women's teams they placed according to their merits.  In the 1983 world championships, Romania placed second, the USSR first, China fifth and the USA seventh.  That the USA team has edged China can be explained by the growing skills of the American girl gymnasts and by the fact that they were supported by friendly fans.

Weightlifting results register a steady progress and these can be easily compared and assessed.  Let's contrast some of the Los Angeles achievements with those of the 1983 world championship.  We don't mean to belittle the importance of the personal achievements of the athletes.  Such analysis makes it possible to judge standards, to see whether the current competitions represent a step forward.  From this point of view, the weights lifted by the winners in the first five weight categories are by no means a new word in the sport.  Moreover, the results scored by the Olympic gold medallists in two movements are 20 or more kilos less than those scored by 1983 world champions.  It should be noted here that statements addressed to the athletes of a number of socialist countries with the aim of belittling their world records -- made by representatives of nations taking part in the Olympics are absolutely groundless and only sow discord and suspicion.

That Italian athletes should have won both gold medals in the modern pentathlon event is only natural.

Eight countries won gold medals in the Greco-Roman wrestling events.  The wrestling events, as the cycling events, are over and comparison of the achievements of the Olympians with those who stayed away are not in favor of the former.  In the rowing events the absence of strong competition was clearly felt and that could not but negatively affect both the results and the overall impression given by their key sporting event of the four-year period.

This page was created on September 26, 2001.
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