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Steve Springer

A Permanent Olympic Site Needed? Fer Sure

June 21, 1987|STEVE SPRINGER

Suddenly, there is doubt. Uncertainty. Even the first hints of panic.

The 1988 Olympic Games, long ago awarded to South Korea, could be without a home at the 11th hour. Discontent with that nation's political system has fueled frightening student riots in Seoul this week, riots that seem to put the future of the Games in peril even though this upheaval has ignited 15 months before the Olympic torch is scheduled to be lit.

So, what now?

Forget '88? Kill the Games?

Here's a better idea. Let's hold them here.

No, not Los Angeles. We've already done that. Let's host them right here in the good old San Fernando Valley.

Ah, but there's this little matter of facilities, you say. They could hardly be built in fifteen months.

No problem.

A lot of people have advocated for a long time the idea of taking politics out of the Olympics. Remove the blatant nationalism, say the would-be reformers. Give the athletes a better feel of the country they are competing in. A major goal of the Olympic movement long has been to put the athletes in touch with the common man of the host country, to expose them to life at the everyday level.

Now's the chance to really do it, once and for all. Let's put on the first People's Olympics.

It shouldn't cost any of us a penny.

How would it work? Let's start with basketball. First problem is finding a site for the competition. Well, without doing any surveys, I think it would be safe to say that a majority of homes in the Valley have a hoop over the garage.

So let's cut Olympic basketball down to half-court games and stage them in private driveways.

You'd volunteer, wouldn't you? Hey, Fred, want to come over tomorrow? I've got the West Germans and the Russians going at 10.

Wives would love it. We might all get out there and actually paint the garage like we've been threatening to do for the past three years.

The Olympic athletes would find out what American basketball is really like. It's one thing to dive into the seats at a fancy arena after a loose ball and land in someone's lap. It's another to dive into the flower bed and wind up with your son's toy truck embedded in your back.

Then there's the marathon.

Enough of these glamorous runs through downtown streets, nicely blocked off from the real world.

Let these athletes do their running where most of us do it, through a crowded mall when we've got to hit five stores in an hour.

We'll stage our Olympic marathon at Sherman Oaks Galleria. Let's see what kind of times the Olympians record when they have to dodge shopping carts, strollers, food on sticks, spilled drinks and teen-agers on skateboards.

Tennis will be in the Games in '88. We could break precedent and stage them on public courts.

The pros are going to be allowed to participate. Don't you think it would do a John McEnroe or a Jimmy Connors good to have to sit on one of those rickety old courtside benches, like the rest of us do, and wait an hour while two novices stumble through a set that is constantly interrupted for one of them to go out into the street and retrieve a ball?

That's real tennis.

On to swimming.

Forget those multimillion dollar pools with neatly divided lanes. That's not how the plain folks swim.

We'll stage our Olympic competition in a public pool. Let's see how many records these people can set while cutting their way through fallen leaves, rubber rafts, beach balls and little Joey's floating diaper.

Some events might have to be altered. The Olympic equestrian steeplechase, for example. Creating an obstacle course for a horse and rider wouldn't really be an activity indigenous to the Valley anyway.

For the People's Olympics, let's turn the rider into a driver, the obstacle course into a crowded freeway and introduce the Olympic car chase. The gold medalist would be someone adept at speeding, tailgating and illegal lane changing.

So leave the riots and the unrest behind, Olympians, and come on out to suburbia, where the only thing students would ever riot over is year-round school.

Let the People's Games begin.

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