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Olympic Spirit and Then Some


I used to laugh at even the notion of synchronized swimming.

I still do. But now, thanks to the Internet, it's at least an informed laugh.

The 1996 Olympic Games, starting Friday in Atlanta, is the first to occur since the rapid flowering of the Internet's most popular entity, the World Wide Web. Olympic sponsors have taken to the Web--which can communicate with graphics, music and other multimedia attributes, as well as text--in a big way, offering numerous information sites (which also happen to hype their products).

One of most handy for those of us who will not be in Atlanta for the Games is at, sponsored by the network that paid big bucks to broadcast the events. At this site you can find a day-by-day breakdown of the scheduled coverage, so you can plan your viewing accordingly. This spot is especially handy for planning Olympics viewing parties.

For lots of additional information, laced with official pablum, you can turn to, created by IBM, the "Official Internet Information Systems Provider." Here you can use a search engine to check when and where events will take place. You can also get additional information about individual sports, including the basic rules, a bit of history and which countries are entered in the various competitions.

It will come as no surprise to anyone but those who still believe the Olympics are purely about sport that this official site also offers the opportunity to buy official merchandise. This aspect of the Olympics spirit is most boldly apparent at the home page of the International Olympic Committee's museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

At this site,, you won't find pictures of the great athletes or events in Olympics history, but you can view the fabulous souvenir shop!

Surfing the Web is more fun when you go beyond the official sites. Every sport at the games is the subject of numerous home pages created by clubs, individuals and schools. Feed "synchronized swimming" into the popular Alta Vista search engine and it quickly comes up with about 800 sites around the world where the sport is mentioned.

To narrow it down to sites exclusively concerned with "synchro," as it is sometimes abbreviated--making it sound like the subject of a lost Alfred Hitchcock film--you can turn to the Yahoo! Index. It found 15 sites.

One of the most educational is at, the online home base of Tucson Synchro, a team founded in that Arizona city in 1972. The site makes it clear that synchro is not just fun and games.

"Don't be deceived, those feminine, innocent, 'little things,' you're watching are every inch accomplished athletes," the site declares, describing the incredible amount of endurance it takes to do a five-minute pool routine, as much of 60% of which is done with heads underwater.

The site also points out what the judges are looking for in a performance and how the competition is scored.

An England-based site,, is one of the most comprehensive and offers a "World Synchro News" section that has articles on events and controversies, including the fact that the French Olympics team was preparing a routine depicting the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. Coaches said it was a strong statement against prejudice; the French sports ministry feared it would be misinterpreted and banned it.

Synchronized swimming fans have long wanted their sport to be taken more seriously, but sports officials weren't ready to risk it veering that far away from the frothy, all-smiles routines that produce inadvertent laughs.

It does show that synchronized swimmers might not be always content to spend half their lives in a pool practicing, just so they can produce frothy, all-smiles routines that seem saccharine even by Esther Williams standards.

Synchro just might get a lot more interesting in the years to come.

* Cyburbia's e-mail address is

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