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A Real Team Effort

WINTER OLYMPICS | Bill Plaschke

Just the Sort of Miracle U.S. Needed

February 09, 2002|BILL PLASCHKE

The reverence then became wild cheering as a bright new American flag was raised and spotlighted at the same time that darkness covered the tattered version.

That cheering reached its peak toward the end of the evening when International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, as part of his welcoming address, said, "We stand united with you ... "

The rest of that sentence was lost in the roar.

It was enough to make a young boy holding a lantern giggle.

Symbolic of the Games' theme--light the fire within--the red-clad child had earlier led the parade of 77 nations and 2,531 athletes into a stadium where, not surprisingly, none were ridiculed and all were welcomed.

Nobody booed skier Bagher Kalhor, the flag-bearer from Iran, one of the countries cited in President Bush's "axis of evil.''

Nobody jeered Patrick Singleton, the luge slider and flag-bearer for Bermuda braving 10-degree temperatures in red Bermuda shorts.

When the Americans entered last, the cheers were loud enough to drown out weeks of criticism for what is expected to be our overbearing patriotism.

While we cheered, the athletes cheered and waved back under their blue berets, even the stoic Michelle Kwan, openly delighted to participate in this parade after skipping the ceremonies in 1998 at Nagano, Japan.

And while the athletes cheered, a television camera showed troops in Afghanistan pointing to the flags on their uniforms and chanting, "USA, USA."

If they can do it, so can we.

If a bunch of college kids can skate through the thickest of flames to carry one, so can we.

Such was the message on a night when America walked bravely into 17 days of what it is convinced-- what it must be convinced--will be a winter wonderland.

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Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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