THE SEOUL GAMES : Notes : For a Change, Laughter Rings the Ring

From Staff and Wire Reports

At last, a little comic relief at the boxing tournament.

After 10 days of turmoil, Kuwaiti boxer Ali Albaluchi brought some laughter to the arena Monday.

Cheered on by about two dozen of his countrymen, the 5-foot 11-inch, 260-pound Albaluchi climbed into the ring to take on formidable Alexander Miroschnichenko of the Soviet Union, all 6-4, 235 pounds of him.

Almost immediately, Albaluchi went to a kind of pounding Ali shuffle, and the Kuwaitis sent up a chant: "Al-i! Al-i! Al-i! . . ."

Turns out that Albaluchi couldn't fight a lick. But his Muhammad Ali imitations were superb, including the wobbly-knee act, pointing to his chin and daring his opponent to hit him there (Miroschnichenko couldn't), the rope-a-dope, and mugging his opponent.

In the third round, Albaluchi actually hit Miroschnichenko softly on the chin. When the bout was over, even the referee was laughing. And when Albaluchi was declared the loser, he remained in the ring, took deep bows and blew kisses to the crowd, which rewarded him with a standing ovation.

The Cook Islanders tried their best to bring a boxer who would have been a featured attraction to the tournament, and certainly the biggest.

Here's how Jerry Shears, a Canadian Olympic boxing official, tells the story:

"I put on a clinic there (Cook Islands) 6 months ago. They have a 6-foot-8 heavyweight who is completely tattooed, shoulders to ankles. He's huge, fairly athletic, and he can box a little bit.

"But he got mixed up with a girlfriend who doesn't want him to box. She's convinced him his brains will fall out if he does."

Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee are among the athletes here who, by themselves or through sponsors, have issued glossy brochures about themselves crammed with facts, photos and what passes for wit and wisdom.

For instance, "Jackie Joyner-Kersee, A Quick Reference" lists her records and discloses that among her awards she was the "Ultra Athlete of the Year" for 1986. It also features quotes from press notices, such as one from a magazine writer who lauded Joyner-Kersee's "good genes."

"Being called the world's greatest female athlete is something I have learned to take in my stride," Joyner-Kersee writes.

Every time Matt Biondi says he'd like to make his next Olympic appearance as a member of the U.S. water polo team, he's quick to add that he would have to make the team first. But Terry Schroeder, a veteran on the U.S. team, says Biondi's chances are good.

"He would certainly add speed to the team. . . we'd never lose another sprint," Schroeder said. "He was an All-American at Cal and we (Pepperdine) played them. He has good ball-handing skills. I think he could make the team if he's serious about it."

U.S. diver Kelly McCormick has come up with a suggestion to recruit younger divers. She suggested the United States should try to recruit women gymnasts.

McCormick, who won a bronze medal in the springboard Monday, has every reason to feel like a senior citizen in her competition. The gold medalist, Gao Min of China, is 18 years old, the silver medalist, Li Qing, is 15. Even fourth place finisher, Irina Lachko, is 15. In contrast, McCormick is 28 and U.S. diver Wendy Lucero, who finished in sixth place, is 25.

Zimbabwe's husband-and-wife archers, Wrex and Merrellyn Tarr, are using some of their time in the Olympic Village to increase awareness of a campaign to save the rhinoceros from extinction in Africa. Poachers kill hundreds of the animals each year for their horns, which are used as decorative knives or for making a powdered aphrodisiac.

The Tarrs brought dozens of T-shirts from home to give to people contributing to the Zimbabwe 'Save the Rhinoceros Campaign Club.'

Some Latin athletes are hoping that Spanish will become the third official Olympic language in the 1992 Summer Games at Barcelona, Spain.

At present, the official Olympic announcements are limited to French and English. But, after Puerto Rico defeated the Central African Republic in men's basketball, the Spanish victors helped to press their point when they demanded the postgame news conference be conducted in Spanish.

Solving the problem of the language barrier in Seoul has been one of the tougher problems for Olympic organizers. Few South Koreans speak English or any other Western language. And even though the South Korean government set up a massive English-teaching program 4 years ago, the results have been limited.

When South Korean taxi drivers can't understand their passengers, they drive up to a police officer to ask where his passenger wants to go. However, passengers from places such as Eastern Europe and South America who speak no English can be in trouble anyway. Taxi drivers have been known simply to unload such passengers, leaving them to the next driver.

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