THE SEOUL GAMES / THE FINAL DAY : Now That It’s Over, Fun and Games Begin
Looking back on the Olympic Games, these were a few of my favorite things . . . Favorite group portrait: The heavyweight boxing also-rans on the medal-presentation platform.
Ray Mercer won the gold and he looked fine. The silver medalist Korean was missing a front tooth. The co-bronze medalist, a Polish fighter, wore dark glasses to hide an eye cut that had been opened up like a can of tomato sauce. The other bronze medalist, from Holland, had his left arm in a cast and sling.
Is this a great sport or what?
Favorite sportsman: The Canadian yachtsman who was sailing along in second place until he turned around to pick up a competitor who had fallen out of his boat in heavy seas.
You like to think that this is what the Olympic Games are all about.
This is not what the Olympic Games are all about, but you like to think it is anyway.
Favorite fashion trend: The hoods worn by some American runners.
Really, really chic. But where were the snorkels and flippers?
It was an especially inspired idea for the U.S. men to wear the hoods in the 400-meter relay, an event where it is essential to hear well and to swivel one’s head quickly.
How did the USA do in that event, anyway?
Favorite gender: How ‘bout them women?
For personality, poetry and performance, for simply lighting up the Games, I’ll take FloJo, Jackie and Janet and give you any other three athletes in Seoul.
Despite what the final medal count says, it seems to me that in the big events, the American women had a sensational Games.
Favorite cabbie: Mr. Kim, a peppy little gentleman who was doing his darndest to master English.
He hummed the Star Spangled Banner, then spoke glowingly of the U.S. warships cruising off the Korean coast, providing Olympic security.
“Meedway. Neemitz. Thank you, USA, thank you.”
Then we talked politics. He held up his right thumb and said “Boosh?” He held up his left thumb and said “Doo-cocky?”
He pointed at himself and said, “Me. Boosh, number one.”
It was refreshing to meet someone with whom I could hold my own in a political debate.
Favorite trend: The phasing out of amateurism in the Olympics, the dying of an elitist, hypocritical and unworkable concept.
By ’92, all sports will be open. I like Hulk Hogan’s chances to kick some butt and bring home the wrestling gold in Barcelona.
Favorite mystery: The Mystery of the Yellow, Gooey Substance.
What was in the bottom of that bottle that Ben Johnson drank from just before running the 100 meters and then testing positive for steroids?
What was that stuff? Who gave it to Ben?
And how credible is a conspiracy theory that involves some stranger walking up to Ben Johnson just before the Olympic final and saying, “Here, Ben, have a drink from my water bottle. Never mind that yellow, gooey stuff in the bottom of the bottle. It’s not steroids or anything.”
Favorite non-athlete adult in the Games, be it doctor, coach, judge or official: None.
Favorite play on the word Seoul: None.
Favorite stereotype-buster: Anthony Nesty, the black swimmer from Suriname who beat Matt Biondi to win a gold medal in the 100 butterfly.
Favorite comeback kid: Kadima Tshibalababa, a heavyweight boxer from Zaire.
He lost a decision early in the boxing tournament and wept unconsolably for several hours, until some Korean friends convinced him he still had a chance to win a medal.
With the coaching of his pals, Kadima memorized a Korean folk song phonetically and took a bronze medal in a singing contest.
Oops, I just gave away the ending of “Rocky XXVI.”
Favorite small talk: Two portly American reporters visited a Seoul university campus to check out the student riots.
The Americans were confronted by an armed soldier who demanded to see their press passes. Satisfied that they were properly credentialed, the soldier thought it only proper to break the ice with a little polite chit-chat.
“So,” he said, “you are two well-fed gentlemen.”
Favorite scandals: Tie among the mask-stealing Americans, the ring-invading Korean boxing officials, Ben Johnson’s flunkout and U.S. boxing Coach Ken Adams and his bizarre hinting at bribery.
I’m sure everyone involved will eventually get fair hearings, but I miss the old days, when the Olympic trials were held before the Olympics?
Favorite faces: A thousand-way tie for first.
Florence Griffith Joyner, smiling her way to the tape in the 100. . . . Ben Johnson’s memorable, menacing scowl. . . . Oscar Schmidt, the Brazilian hoopster, happy and gracious in defeat. . . . Roy Jones, the American boxer cheated out of a gold medal, unable to hold back the tears but facing the press with a poise and dignity far beyond his 19 years. . . .
A seemingly stoic East German boxer, so overjoyed at winning a decision that he burst into tears. . . . Andre Phillips crying, overcome with emotion after beating Edwin Moses. . . . Jim Abbott, smiling because he was just so thrilled to be here. . . .
Favorite micro-event: Insect swimming and diving.
The venue was my orange juice cup every night at dinner in the Press Village cafeteria, a place so well lighted and unscreened that it attracted competitors of many species.
The most courageous winner was Fred, the backstroking mosquito, who touched out a gnat, then drowned.
Don’t ask who won the 50 fly.