There was much to appreciate in the morning calm of the Seoul Olympics: the smiling hospitality of the Korean people; the splendid architecture of the various arenas; the easy accessibility of the venues; the beautiful weather.
But by the figurative noontime of the Games, clouds had rolled in. There was the disqualification of Ben Johnson (page 20) and the ugly boxing incident (page 48). The track and field competition at Olympic Stadium was usually a scene of constant chaos, the athletes often unable to properly warm up because the area was crowded with officials and security men. Then there were those empty seats, both in Seoul and before TV sets in the U.S. Three-quarters of all tickets had been sold, but some events were so sparsely attended that children were invited to fill the seats. Only 131,000 of the expected 250,000 foreign spectators had shown up. No Olympics is perfect. Munich was left with a tragedy, Montreal with an enormous debt, Moscow and Los Angeles with thoughts of what might have been. While acknowledging the no-show problem, Mich�le Verdier, the director of information for the International Olympic Committee, said, "Until now, we feel these Games have been successful. The performances have been spectacular."
As Korea celebrated Chusok, its Thanksgiving Day, on Sunday, we could also be grateful that almost every country was here, enjoying the culture and the camaraderie and the sports. But the Johnson incident left a very bitter aftertaste, and there were fears that the drug scandals thus far were but the tip of the iceberg.
The South Koreans had trouble putting fannies in the seats in more ways than one. They apparently didn't take into consideration the size of Western cabooses; then again, most of the visitors would be leaving after two weeks anyway. For instance, the molded plastic seats in Chamshil Gymnasium, the basketball venue, measured only 14 inches across, a size that American basketball fans would not take sitting down. The seats in New York's Madison Square Garden range from 16 to 18 inches across, and they're thought to be small. Architectural Graphic Standards, considered the bible for American architects, recommends that auditorium seats be 18- to 24-inches wide, with 21 the ideal.
Jeff Crane, a 6-foot, 175-pound U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, found the seats a tight fit while watching the U.S. basketball team squeeze by Egypt 102-35. Crane, sitting with his wife, Nancy, and his 10-year-old son, Joshua, said, "If you think these are bad, you should have sat with us at taekwondo [in Changchung Gymnasium], where we were practically in each other's laps." But Crane did find a silver lining in his discomfort. "Actually, these seats have brought me and my family closer together."
A VISIT WITH TIRIAC
Even though West German tennis star Boris Becker withdrew from the Olympic tennis tournament, his manager, Ion Tiriac, has been a ubiquitous presence in Seoul. SI's Robert Sullivan caught up with Tiriac at the U.S.- Yugoslavia water polo match and asked him his reasons for being at the Games.
"I love the Olympics," he said. "I have a 30-year friendship with [ IOC president] Juan Antonio Samaranch, and I am here as his guest. I attended the Games in Calgary, and I expect to be in Barcelona. Did you know I was once an Olympian?"