Hide Your Poor—the IOC’s Coming!

Even as the International Olympic Committee’s selection of Beijing as host of the 2008 Summer Games was proving yet again that the Olympics and political repression go together like, well, like International Olympic Committee members and hookers, it was equally big news in runner-up Toronto. But while CNN’s Web site displayed a weeping Canadian athlete on the day of the decision, not all Torontonians are sobbing.

“We really have mixed emotions,” says Jan Borowy of Toronto’s Bread and Circuses coalition, an Olympic watchdog group. “On one side, we all feel a great relief. On another side, holy smokes, we really empathize with the people in Beijing. The tornado is coming in their direction.” For the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Borowy notes, 750,000 people were displaced to make way for Olympic facilities, and it’s unclear what Beijing organizations are in place to prevent something similar.

Meanwhile, repercussions are being felt here in the States. If Toronto had won, that would have all but quashed hopes of a North American host city for 2012. Instead, the seven prospective U.S. cities, including New York, can kick into full gear. A U.S. Olympic Committee delegation is expected to arrive here July 30 to examine the bid by NYC2012 Inc., which last made headlines in May by asking state lawmakers for a $250 million contingency fund to cover losses. (Boosters invariably insist that the Games make money, but the IOC requires such slush funds.)

“We’re now seeing a cookie-cutter approach from city to city that leaves a horrific negative social impact,” says Borowy, noting the massive tenant displacements and homeless sweeps of the 1996 Atlanta Games. “Anita Beaty [of the Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless] says the biggest mistake they made was not questioning what people were saying during the bid phase.”

Life Cycles

As the Tour de France heads into the crucial mountain stages, two-time defending champion Lance Armstrong remains the favorite. But be aware that, only a few weeks short of his 30th birthday, Armstrong is on the cusp of old age. The Tour places incredible demands on a rider’s ability to recover from the previous day’s efforts. That’s why during the past 30 years, the Tour has been won by only three riders over 30: Joop Zoetemelk, who won in 1980 at age 33; Bjarne Riis, who won in 1996 at 32; and Miguel Indurain, who won the last of his five Tours at 31. And looking at the four riders during that period who won three or more Tours—a club Armstrong aims to join—reveals a striking pattern: During the years after their last Tour victories, five-time champs Indurain (then 32), Eddy Merckx (30), and Bernard Hinault (31) and three-time winner Greg LeMond (31) all dominated the early action and seemed ready to cruise. Then each had a single, sudden, seemingly inexplicable bad day in the mountains that cost him a huge amount of time and any chance at victory. All retired—from the sport—soon afterward.

Trading Punches

An entertaining sideshow emerged last week in the daily press coverage of the Rangers’ failure to land Jaromir Jagr. The Daily NewsSherry Ross excoriated Rangers GM Glen Sather‘s “arrogance” for believing that his offer to Pittsburgh was the only one on the table and wondered if his hubris would prevent him from turning the Rangers around after the once great Neil Smith era fizzled. She was joined by the hockey-challenged Mike Lupica, who engaged in reverse provincialism, charging that Edmonton refugee Sather failed to grasp that the botched Jagr deal was “about stars, and the business of stars, and a big New York deal that was waiting to be made. Only Glen Sather didn’t have the game for it.” From Westchester, Rick Carpiniello wrote in the News Tribune that “Jagr would be a Ranger today if Smith were still the GM or if Dave Checketts were running the Garden. They understood this isn’t Edmonton.” The Post‘s Larry Brooks fired back, questioning Lupica’s hockey cred (he “hasn’t set foot in a hockey locker room since 1994”) and reminding all that the Penguins demanded top prospects for Jagr, “whether [Lupica] or the Neil Smith Fan Club believes it or not.” Of course, Carpiniello pointed out, Sather had offered some of those same top prospects for trade last season, and added, “It’s funny, too, how those who battered Smith because he wouldn’t give up his prospects for Pavel Bure praise Sather for not giving them up for Jagr, a player in a different stratosphere.” You can just envision the barbed wire and barricades going up in the Garden pressroom this fall.

Two things here: First, Smith is hardly the sole culprit in creating the Rangers’ mess (he executed corporate decisions), and he’s not in charge now. Second, Sather is. And he’ll have to make some bold moves. His immediate task should not be chasing a substitute star like Eric “Bad News” Lindros or aging, cranky Brett Hull, but rather giving his team a fighting chance by getting a goaltender—perhaps Detroit’s Chris Osgood or Montreal’s Jeff Hackett—who can win while Mike Richter rehabs. If Sather fails, the Rangers will be dead before the puck drops in October.

Contributors: Neil deMause, Allen St. John, Stu Hackel Sports Intern: Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz Sports Editor: Ward Harkavy