SI.com - More Sports - Ueberroth views U.S. Olympians as invited guests - Friday February 22, 2008 6:33PM: U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth views American athletes as invited guests to the Beijing Olympics, not China's would-be reformers.I'm not sure Ueberroth and the USOC would understand a reformer from a discus.
Behemoth, good word. Much like bureaucrat. Behemoths and bureaucrats are not to be trusted when it comes to reforms.
One of the architects of the 1984 Los Angeles Games that helped turn the Olympics into the behemoth they are today, Ueberroth acknowledged the upcoming Beijing Games will be different. They will shine a light on China, which before now was a relatively closed part of the world.Food safety, OMG. Let's not be so quick to toss the first spit ball -- err -- meat ball. My kid's school district just dumped 95 metric cheesburgers into the bio landfill.
But "we don't just go there, we get invited there," he said Friday at the close of a USOC board meeting.
"We accept the invitation, and then there's a set of rules that are IOC rules," Ueberroth said. "We accept those rules. We expect and are sure that our athletes are going to respect their own country, respect their flag, respect the flag of every other country and operate as we all will, under the IOC rules of the Olympic Games."
The International Olympic Committee charter contains bylaws that say the Olympics are not to be used as a political platform. With the Olympics coming to the world's last communist superpower in less than six months, much has been made of China's record on human rights and free speech, to say nothing of its pollution and questionable food-safety practices.
The Beijing Olympics, many believe, are a golden opportunity to expose the problems.
Ueberroth said he's heard many of the same complaints before -- four years ago in Athens, in 1984 and with pretty much every other Olympics in between. But he said he expects these games to be "literally, the best ever."
"This is a virulent worldwide disease that takes place before any Olympic Games, and that's that the doom-sayers all come out and every worst-case scenario is portrayed," Ueberroth said. "I think it's fair for people to do that, but it seems like business as usual."
Of late, Britain's Olympic federation has caused a stir with one potential plan for athletes to wear masks during competition to fight pollution, and another calling for athletes to sign an agreement stating they will not use the Olympics as a political platform. The federation has assured the agreement will not be a restriction on free speech.
A Dutch lawmaker this week suggested a boycott of the opening ceremonies to protest China's human-rights record.
Mia Farrow has been loud in her calls for China to use its influence with Sudan to help end the conflict in Darfur. China is a major buyer of Sudan's oil and is regarded as one of that isolated government's closest international partners.
Farrow's campaign was bolstered by Steven Spielberg, who pulled out of serving as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies because he said he could not reconcile working on the Olympics while China and other nations were not doing enough to ease the suffering in Darfur. American speedskating gold medalist Joey Cheek has spoken out, co-founding the Team Darfur athletes coalition to bring attention to the cause.
Relatively quiet in all this has been the USOC, which has repeatedly stated that it has no concerns with the food supply and is comfortable having its athletes eat the majority of their meals in the Olympic village; that it believes Beijing will get its pollution problems in check; that it won't use the Olympics as a platform to affect political change; and that it believes the Chinese government will fulfill its promise to provide journalists full access to the country through the Olympics.
Ueberroth agrees with the notion that the Olympics are bigger than sports -- "They provide a gift to the world of transparency," he said -- but he does not buy into the notion that the USOC should be out front, promoting change in China.
"In one sense, it's China's Olympic Games, but all they are is a host," he said. "All Los Angeles was was a host, all Athens was was a host. It really is the Olympic movement and you participate under their rules and guidelines, all their procedures and their protocols."
His comments came after a daylong meeting in which USOC board members received updates about the venues and preparation in Beijing, and also on the progress of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Ueberroth said he was pleased with the city's progress, thinks it will be a good thing for leaders to be at the Beijing Games to get a sense of the enormity of the project. They will make the trip if they are named one of the finalists after the next cut in June.
Ueberroth is confident Chicago will make that short list, but still doesn't consider Chicago a favorite in the contest, which includes Madrid, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and three other cities.
"They're improving every day, but so are their competitors," he said.
The board did not reach a decision on whether to relocate its headquarters or remain in Colorado Springs. Ueberroth said an initial list of six potential homes has been pared to three, including Colorado Springs. A decision will likely be reached before the next board meeting in May.
Neither Ueberroth nor CEO Jim Scherr changed their opinion of America as an underdog to win the medals count at the Beijing Olympics.
U.S. teams had a very good 2007 in world championships across the globe, winning four of six gold medals in women's gymnastics (a record), 20 in swimming (best in 29 years) and 14 more in track (nine more than second-place Kenya).
"Those championships were spread around the world, these games are in China," Scherr said. "The Chinese competitors, some were there in '06, some were there in '07, all will be there in '08. This will be a very difficult competition."
China has been "open" in recent times. It is so open that most of the items in any American household have more things made in China than anywhere else -- if you don't count the refrigerator art from your kids when they were in pre-school. Woops, there is another food mention.
American's have "OPEN" refrigerators and freezers -- and they don't have those so much in China.
Meanwhile, Chicago is in line to be a host of a future Olympic Games. Wonder if the IOC remember the last time Chicago hosted a big confab -- as in political convention, Chicago SEVEN. No big deal.
Really, 'doom-sayers' are the best friend of the thugs who wear black boots and swing clubs with badges on their chest. Homeland Security Types, TSAers, and the rest are always keen to cook up or make threats to increase security, spread fear, cause uncertainty and inject doubt.
The Olympic WARNING color is what, code ORANGE? Can the five olympic rings be blended into some warning signal for Tom Ridge's sake.
It was at OUR GAMES, in Atlanta, when the guy's life was changed due to a bogus bomb accusation.
We are guests. Everyone's a guest. They'll roll out the red carpet. It will be great -- because humans are great. Coming together is great. Reaching for greatness is fun, and its great to witness.