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SCORECARD
Edited by Steve Wulf
September 09, 1991
Do Svidaniya
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September 09, 1991

Scorecard

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Divvying Up the Soviet Olympic Spoils
In the 1988 Winter and Summer Games, Soviet athletes won 161 medals-66 gold, 40 silver and 55 bronze. The U.S.'s medal haul was 100: 38 gold, 32 silver and 30 bronze. Here are the medal contributions off the U.S.S.R.'s 15 republics in '88 (medals in team events are divided to reflect each republic's representation):

Cold

Silver

Bronze

Total

Russia

34

18

27.5

79.5

Ukraina

7

3.9

8

18.9

Belorussia

10

3

4

17

Kazakhstan

3.5

6

4.75

14.25

Georgia

4.25

2

4

10.25

Lithuania

3.75

2

2.6

8.35

Estonia

1

1

2.2

4.2

Latvia

1.5

0.1

0.75

2.35

Armenia

0

2

0

2

Moldavia

0.5

0

1.1

1.6

Turkmenia

0

1

0

1

Uzbekistan

0

1

0

1

Azerbaijan

0.5

0

0.1

0.6

Kirghizia

0

0

0

0

Tadzhikistan

0

0

0

0

Do Svidaniya

Goodbye-maybe-to the great U.S.-U.S.S.R. sports rivalry

Over the last 40 years, the world has grown accustomed to watching athletes clad in red CCCP singlets and jerseys excel in international athletic competition. Since 1952, when the U.S.S.R. entered its first Olympics, that country has won more Winter and Summer Olympic medals than any other nation.

And Americans have long reveled in the memorable U.S.-U.S.S.R. confrontations, both individual (John Thomas versus Valery Brumel in the high jump, for example) and team ones (basketball in the '72 Summer Olympics, hockey in the '80 Winter Games). The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and the Soviet Union boycotted the '84 Los Angeles Games, but on many other occasions the two countries met on the playing field—and came away from those competitions with grudging mutual respect.

So it is with a touch of sporting wistfulness that one reflects on the possibility that, in the wake of the failed coup two weeks ago, the Soviet Union may be breaking up. When Russian president Boris Yeltsin, an avid tennis player whose competitive instincts were honed on the volleyball courts of his native Sverdlovsk, rallied his countrymen against the leaders of the coup, he may have been unwittingly laying the groundwork for the demise of the Soviet sports machine.

Last week Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, said, "I think we have seen the red flag for the last time." Indeed, the three Baltic republics—Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—have already petitioned the IOC to allow them to compete as independent teams in next year's Olympics, and the Ukraine may do the same. IOC director general Franco Carraro says that the Baltic states could even be accepted in time to take part in the Winter Games in Albertville, France, in February.

Actually, the Baltic states are not applying to the IOC for admission as much as they are applying for readmission. The three were independent countries and members of the IOC between 1918 and 1940, when they were annexed by Moscow at the beginning of World War II. Since then, Lithuania has provided the Soviet Union with its best basketball players, including Sharunas Marchulionis, now with the Golden State Warriors, and Arvidas Sabonis, while Estonia has supplied the best sailors and Latvia the cream of the bobsledders and lugers.

While some athletes would welcome the opportunity to represent their native republics, others worry that teams representing the various republics would not be as strong as a united Soviet team. Tatyana Ledovskaya of Belorussia, who won the women's 400-meter hurdles at the World Track and Field Championships in Tokyo last week, says, "It's better to compete for the Soviet Union than separately. Separate teams will be very weak."

Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, the former Olympic long jumper who is now the president of the track and field association of the Soviet Union, holds out hope that the athletes can form some sort of coalition similar to a trade union. "In my imagination we may be able to do something to be united in sports," says Ter-Ovanesyan, who is from Armenia. "I cannot imagine a single republic competing against the United States."

But it is also possible to imagine, say, pole vaulter Sergei Bubka setting his future world records for his native Ukraine rather than for the Soviet Union. And would that be so bad? The Soviets—or, rather, ex-Soviets—may now have a more difficult time assembling gold medal hockey or basketball teams, but that seems a tiny price to pay for freedom.
—RICHARD DEMAK

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