PERESTROIKA IN SPORTS
Soviet tennis player Natalia Zvereva has made headlines by demanding the right to keep a substantial percentage of her pro winnings (page 24), which have customarily gone to the U.S.S.R.'s government sports establishment. Both her demands and her country's reluctance to give in to them evince an increasingly apparent point: The quest for money has become a driving force in Soviet sports.
The explanation is simple. As part of perestroika—Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's program of economic restructuring—sports federations in the U.S.S.R. are being required to pay more of their own expenses. "We now have perestroika in all spheres, and many regulations are being revised," says Victor Galaev, head of Sovintersport, a two-year-old body responsible for the international marketing of Soviet sports.
To bring in cash, the Soviets have jumped into a dizzying variety of Western professional sports, ranging from harness racing (top Soviet drivers will begin a U.S. tour later this month) to bicycling (Soviet cyclists will ride in Europe this summer) to pro wrestling (several aging Soviet amateurs appeared on a pro card in Tokyo on Monday). In late March, hockey player Sergei Priakin became the first Soviet athlete given permission by his government to play in a North American pro league, and made his debut with the NHL's Calgary Flames. Soviet basketball players may be playing in the NBA as early as next season.
Last week Galaev announced a deal with U.S. boxing promoter Lou Falcigno under which a number of fighters from the Soviet Union will turn pro. Falcigno will reportedly pay Sovintersport a sum in the high six figures for the exclusive right to promote bouts involving Soviet boxers for the next 10 years. The fighters won't necessarily get rich from the deal. As a rule, Soviet athletes who turn pro are paid only a small stipend, while the Soviet sports hierarchy receives the bulk of their earnings. Alexander Zavarov, for example, one of several Soviet soccer players to have joined pro teams in Western Europe in the past year, signed in August with Italy's Turin-based Juventus club for a reported $4.5 million—most of which went or will go to Soviet sports bodies.
Galaev explained the U.S.S.R.'s new policy with an old Russian proverb: "There's always a lot of money in somebody else's pockets." From the athletes' point of view, perestroika hasn't changed that very much.
ZAP, THE WONDER DOG
A living legend passed into the realm of the merely legendary recently when Zap, the mixed-breed husky of Arctic-expedition fame, died in St. Paul at age 13, or 91 in dog years. Zap, who logged more than 14,000 miles on explorer Will Steger's team, gained renown during a fund-raising campaign for Steger's 1986 North Pole expedition. The dog's ruggedly handsome mug—he had one blue eye and one brown, and his ears were chewed up from too many dogfights—appeared on posters, T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers. Zap went on the lecture circuit with Steger, usually upstaging his master, and was in great demand on television talk shows.
As one of two wheel dogs (they're the pair hitched closest to the sled). Zap had to be stronger than others in the pack; it was his job to pull the sled back onto the trail when the glamour-boy lead dogs strayed off course. Zap was named for the seeming electric current that kept him squirming as a puppy, and even as an adult he didn't know when to stop. In 1982 he charged a musk-ox and was soundly trounced. A year later he was nearly killed while attacking a moose cow.
Zap never finished the North Pole expedition he was so instrumental in raising money for. More than halfway into the 500-mile journey, he had one of his frequent scraps with his son Chester, who severely bit his father's right paw. Zap had to be flown home. He then retired and went back on the lecture circuit. To him, that was truly the dog's life.