A controversial Olympics comes to an end

By Eugene Iacovelli
February 28, 2002

After two weeks of scandal and controversy, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics came to a close on Sunday. The closing ceremonies gave us memorable performances by acts such as the rock group Kiss and Christina Aguilera, who was showing a lot of skin despite Utah’s cold climate. But wait a moment; there was a bunch of medals and athletes.

Canada won its first gold medal in 50 years in hockey on Sunday, the last day of the games, beating U. S. The Canadians were awarded a second gold medal after a French judge was accused of misconduct in pairs figure skating. Russia’s Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berznaya won the pair’s figure skating gold medal, but after a week-long investigation, Canada’s Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were given gold medals as well. Russia was so angry at the judging in several competitions that it threatened to pull out of the games in the last several days. Russian President Vladimir Putin even spoke out against the refereeing as the country lost two gold medals in the doping controversy. Two Russian athletes were accused of using performance – enhancing drugs.

On the ice athletes displayed tremendous ability especially as the first black athlete took the gold in the women’s bobsled race. The country that came in first with 35 medals was Germany, with three gold medals in the speed skating competition. Impressively the U.S. didn’t do too badly either, taking away 34 medals, compared to the best record of 10. Sarah Hughes got the gold in woman’s figure skating after the favored to win; Michelle Kwan tumbled after performing a triple axle. Kwan still managed to take home the bronze medal and Irina Slutskaya won the silver for Russia.

The Mormon Church didn’t do any recruiting during the games, as promised, but some of the fans could of used a little bit of peace time after Saturdays riot. Roughly 30 people were arrested and nearly two – dozen people were injured when a riot broke out during a pre – closing event got out of control. Fans smashed cars and storefronts and at one point threw bottles at the police. Many of the police on hand were volunteers.

Though there were a few problems with a judge and the occasional drunk and rowdy curling fan, the Olympics went off without a hitch. The $1.9 billion event went smoothly despite fears of possible terrorists attacks. There will always be controversy with judging and even doping will always remain as a scar on the games. Olympic officials threw two cross – country skiers out of the games and stripped them of their gold medals for using an unnamed performance – enhancing drug. Despite a few negative incidents that may or may not have brought a great deal of shame and embarrassment to the games the 77 countries that participated were to represent harmony and sportsmanship between the athletes and nations. And in the end, the great event of winter came and went without as much trouble that was initially expected. That is something positive for the Olympics and for all of those that participated.

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Eugene Iacovelli

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