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If I were IOC president ...

There's no need to synchronize to make the Olympics cool again

Posted: Thursday August 26, 2004 1:13PM; Updated: Thursday August 26, 2004 1:23PM
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  Synchronized diving
Synchronized diving should disappear as fast as these Chinese divers' medal chances.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When I'm elected IOC president, I'm going to change my name to Jacques, move to Lausanne, demand a suite on the road and then immediately begin tinkering with a 28-sport Olympics program so bloated it resembles Carmelo Anthony's ego.

In my Olympics, we do this: The word "synchro" is out. While I deeply appreciate the intricacies of synchronizing anything -- just try getting six sportswriters to sit down to dinner at the same time -- synchronized diving, leader in the clubhouse of dopey Olympic sports, must vanish. Like meditation or singing in the shower, certain things are best done alone. Given the immutable criteria, synchronized swimming also dies. This is a pity considering the incredible athleticism of the participants, but it also falls under the "No-nose clip/No-gel" rule that we will be instituting as soon as my five-ring blazer gets back from the cleaners.

Tennis -- bye bye. The Olympic tournament is basically the Pilot Pen event with drug testing. The men's final in Athens pitted Mardy Fish against Nicolas Massu, which sounds like a middling third-rounder in Cincinnati. In fact if Massu were playing tennis in your backyard, you'd draw the curtains. Not to knock our estimable Chilean gold medalist, but the top tennis players always are preoccupied with the impending U.S. Open, basically blowing off my thing. Nope. If a gold medal isn't a principal goal of an athlete, if the Olympics don't represent the pinnacle of their sporting desires, the sport has got to go.

That means you, men's soccer and baseball. Men's basketball stays because there actually are a few European pituitary cases who harbor little desire to hoist 3s in the NBA.

Softball stays. Now maybe the Greek and Italian teams in Athens looked like they were recruited off the UCLA bench, and the U.S. powerhouse stripped other teams and sold them for parts. But Americans like their softball medals and, dammit, as your IOC president, I will never forget who's paying the bills for my quadrennial party. Even since Dick Pound, who will be my top lieutenant -- my IOC will give great quotes -- got ABC to pony up $309 million for Calgary in 1988, the rings have been floating on a pile of greenbacks. My IOC will express its appreciation to its foremost constituent. Diplomatically, of course.

My most controversial step will be an overhaul of the gymnastics judging. Instead of trusting some graying men and precious women, I will decree that every seat in the gymnastics hall be wired and spectators required to vote on every performance. American Idol meets Paul Hamm. Why not? The fans are at least as competent as the gymnastics federation judges, who are getting laid off faster than Nortel Network workers. Given the catcalls that rang through the arena, obviously the folks in the seats have made up their minds. Let's empower them. Vote the gymnasts off one at time until we have a winner. Donald Trump passes out the medals. This is reality Olympics, unlike the taped stuff NBC is feeding you every night. My Olympics, a ratings monster.

Rhythmic gymnastics, gone. The only ribbons I want to see are the ones USA softball pitcher Jennie Finch ties in her hair. We are keeping Survivor/Gymnastics so rhythmic is redundant, especially now that another artistic sport, trampoline, is on the program. (But not synchro trampoline.) I found the sport "mildly disturbing" (to quote the future IOC president's daughter), watching girls bounce and men in suits leer at them while taking notes. Still, I will not rush to judgment.

Dressage, however, is history. That's rhythmic gymnastics for horses. Say goodbye to keirin cycling. Any sport that I need footnotes to understand is too taxing. Shooting, see ya. My Games will be all about peace, not weapons. Besides, it's not much a great spectator sport. Forget citius, altius, fortius. Our Olympic motto: Make money, not war.

Modern pentathlon stays as homage to the Olympics modern roots. Fencing, too. We have to throw a bone to the French, who have been whining -- not without justification, I might add -- that Athens has not sufficiently respected one of the two official languages of the Games.

Anyway, that's a start. There are some other sports I'd be only too happy to cull, but the beach volleyball dance team is knocking.

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