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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SPOTLIGHT / THE
SHORT AND SWEET SIDE OF THE GAMES

Brown Wouldn't Mind if U.S. Drew a Blank on 1972 Game

September 28, 2000

The most famous upset in Olympic basketball history was news to many of the U.S. men's players.

"I wasn't even here," said Vince Carter, born in 1977.

Half of the team wasn't, and the oldest player, Tim Hardaway, was 5 when the Soviet Union beat the United States in 1972 in the controversial finish when time was put back on the clock, allowing the Russians to score the winning basket.

"I wouldn't bring that up. We beat 'em," assistant coach Larry Brown said before the U.S. played Russia in a semifinal today. "Doug Collins made two of the most pressure-packed free throws ever."

The Americans took a 50-49 lead, but officials twice allowed the Russians to replay the final few seconds, and Russia won on a layup, sparking a protest that ended with the U.S. players refusing to accept their silver medals, reportedly still in an IOC vault in Switzerland.

"I remember watching it," said Brown, who played in the 1964 Olympics for Henry Iba, also coach of the 1972 team. "I was sick to my stomach. I really looked at him [Iba], and it was like he was lost and didn't know how to react.

"Then they did it again, and then they did it a third time until they got it right. And you know, I loved him. I had the greatest experience playing for him, and I knew how much pride he had in being the Olympic coach and what a decent man he was, and it was just a terrible injustice."

HE'S A POET BUT DOESN'T SHOW IT

Russian Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin, who Wednesday lost for the first time in 15 years of international competition, is not the grouch he appears to be on the mat.

He is remarkably soft-spoken. A former student of literature and rhetoric, Karelin, 33, lists his hobbies as reading the classics, listening to classical music--especially Bach and George Gershwin--and opera.

He compares his wrestling style to poetry.

But he says, "I am a lot more fun off the mat than I am on it."

He is, however, adept at political infighting. He is a representative of Novosibirsk, Siberia, in Russia's State Duma lower house.

JUST YOUR FRIENDLY SAUCER SIGHTING

Part of the fun at the baseball stadium at Olympic Park is listening to the public-address announcer.

With the usual reporting of game situations comes some droll commentary, even though he probably doesn't know U.S. fans are taking it that way. Some samples:

After the U.S. tied a game: "The level of this game has clearly been lifted."

After a series of exciting plays: "These two teams are really rocking this ballpark tonight."

After a single sent a runner from first to third: "We have runners now on one and three."

And when a reliever came in: "There will be a pitching change on the saucer."

NO REVENGE, NO REGRETS

Four years ago, Natalie Williams was one of the final cuts from the U.S. Olympic volleyball team.

Now she's in Sydney playing for the basketball team, but she was headed to the Entertainment Center to watch the surprising U.S. women's volleyball team face Russia today in the semifinals.

"They've been playing great," Williams said.

The two-time national volleyball player of the year at UCLA, as well as a basketball star, Williams switched sports after failing to make the 1996 team that finished seventh in Atlanta.

Now the WNBA all-star is coming off the bench for the U.S. Olympic basketball team, averaging six points a game.

Williams isn't the only former member of the volleyball team at these Olympics: Misty May, who has attended some of the upstart team's games, toured with the national team before giving up indoor volleyball for the beach, where she finished fifth.

WOULD THEY LET C.J. PARTICIPATE? . . .

It wouldn't be proper to allow Sydney 2000 to end without mentioning the Not the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (NOCOG), the Cooktown, Queensland-based group that made itself heard during the Olympic torch relay.

Miffed that the relay route entirely bypassed the Cape York Peninsula, NOCOG organized its own torch run, using as a symbol a torch made in the shape of the peninsula turned upside down.

According to NOCOG's Web site:

"The torch run will terminate in Cooktown when the flame is placed in front of the 1803 cannon in Charlotte Street and [is] extinguished by a blast from the cannon.

"The extinguishing of the torch will signal the commencement of 'the complete relaxation games,' which will involve participants in activities such as beach walking, rain forest strolling, wharf fishing, chair sleeping and navel gazing."

. . . WELL, THE FLYING DOCTORS MIGHT

NOCOG also showed some initiative in seeking out sponsors.

Shunning traditional sources of funds such as soft-drink companies and the like, NOCOG targeted "more relaxation-oriented companies, such as mattress makers, slipper manufacturers, hammock makers, swag manufacturers and so on."

All this fun had a worthwhile purpose at heart. Funds raised by the torch run were to benefit the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a vital component of life to residents of remote Cape York.

IT CAN PAY TO BE OUT OF FASHION

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