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U.S. OLYMPIC FESTIVAL : LOS ANGELES--1991 : Olympian or Not, It's a Festival

July 10, 1991|MIKE DOWNEY

I have been asked to welcome you to our exciting Olympic Festival. (Well, to our Olympic Festival, anyway.) You can call me personally if you have any questions. I know a lot of you want to know when the intermediate bi-coastal multi-gender synchronized canoe/kayak thing starts.

Make yourself at home. Dress is casual. In California, wedding dress is casual. We wear Reeboks to the opera out here. You tourists, you be careful out here and don't speed on our freeways. I know that literally dozens and dozens of you have been pouring into town for the Festival, and, well, try not to slap any Beverly Hills cops, OK?

I am a huge fan of the Olympic Festival. (Well over 200 pounds.) I went to one in Colorado Springs, at which I covered the roller-skating competition, which was great until some girl from Wyoming tried to do a triple axel and crashed through the rink into the basement.

Oh, and I also got into a big stink with Mark Spitz over something he said about the Festival, but later we patched things up and now we spend a lot of time together, often being mistaken for one another in public.

The festival begins with the thrilling Parade of States, as athletes from coast to coast march into Dodger Stadium wearing native costumes. The Idaho kids are coming as giant baked potatoes, wrapped in aluminum foil. Oh, and the Utah athletes will be dressed as Jazz.

If the earth begins to rumble, take cover under a larger person.

Here is a sport-by-sport rundown of what to expect at the 1991 U.S. Olympic Festival. We apologize for not having a sumo wrestling competition, but everybody out here is too in to being thin.

ARCHERY--The Costner kid from Fullerton is the heavy favorite. The guy splits trees.

BADMINTON--Henri Agassi, younger brother of Andre, is back after being out for two years with a broken shuttlecock.

BASEBALL--The Festival's one-on-one competition is unique in baseball throughout the world.

BASKETBALL--Excellent chance for the Americans to win, especially since we didn't invite the Soviets, nyah, nyah.

BOWLING--Dominated for many years by East German women and their really strong arms, this is easily the best of all the Olympic sports requiring rented shoes.

BOXING--Beware of this one kid from Rhode Island who idolizes Mike Tyson and is looking to make somebody his girlfriend.

CANOE/KAYAK--The Festival's weakest events. It's a simple case of not enough inner-city kids learning to kayak.

CYCLING--At the moment, I'm leaning toward this one guy from Iowa who just bought a new 11-speed.

DIVING--Meet officials were

astounded by the last-minute entry of Greg Louganis and his announcement that he intends to win every diving competition held until he is 80 or 90 years old.

EQUESTRIAN--These California horses tend to show off because they're all trying to break into the movies.

FENCING--The favorite at this point continues to be a Mr. Bob Vila, who also does houses and sun decks.

FIELD HOCKEY--U.S. Coach Bruce McNall has just purchased several

outstanding Olympians from Canada.

FIGURE SKATING--A controversy has developed over male figure skaters wearing costumes that are too revealing.

GYMNASTICS--The most popular athlete in the Festival probably will be little Mary Lou Button, the 3-foot-9, quarter-pounder from Texas.

GYMNASTICS (RHYTHMIC)--This event was nearly postponed after last year's near-tragedy when one girl's ribbon got sucked into a nearby air-conditioning unit.

JUDO--Keep an eye on young Rod Piper, Jr., who also competes in the World Judo Federation, under a pseudonym.

MODERN PENTATHLON--Big crowds are expected, because, as a rule, California sports fans tend to be interested mostly in baseball, basketball, football and modern pentathlon.

RACQUETBALL--Perhaps the most famous of Olympic sports, it began in 1898 with the Greeks training at a popular Athens health club.

ROLLER SKATING--Now that those damned figure-eights have been eliminated, the skaters can go back to concentrating on dying properly to the music from "Carmen."

SHOOTING--Californians are favored in both the street competition and drive-by.

SOCCER--It's not that other soccer. It's the one with the table and the little wooden men and the spinning handles.

SOFTBALL--The Greeks were not good at this Olympic sport in the late 19th century, usually losing to the Romans, who brought a big picnic cooler filled with wine.

SPEED SKATING--I don't know how those figure skaters are supposed to do their routines any faster, but good luck.

SWIMMING--Only shorter races will be permitted, what with Mayor Tom Bradley attempting to conserve water.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING--Every gelatin-head from Maine to New Mexico will be here to watch the team of Candy and Cookie Cutter, who will swim with lit sparklers in their teeth to the sound-track music from "Backdraft."

TABLE TENNIS--Skippy McEnroe's temper tantrums ("It was in! It hit the line!") aside, the tennis star's son remains the odds-on favorite.

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