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Mile High Sports

Sochi is digging up some Cold War feelings

Raise your hand if you miss communism.

Go ahead. Just a little? Every two years? Every four?

Oh, lighten up – certainly, not that part of communism. That would be socially irresponsible. Unconscionable. Un-American! And sure, there are still a handful of communist countries. But seriously, is China really that good at communism?

Maybe just an ever-so-slight longing for the Cold War? No?


I do. I miss the days when the Olympic Games were underlined by an unspoken, yet severe, hatred. When there were just two powers competing for the medal count. When gold, silver and bronze were less important than Red versus Red, White and Blue. It was must-watch TV.

The Olympic Games in Sochi have reminded me of these “good” ol’ days – a little anyway. To begin, the facilities and general lack of preparedness which have been well-documented have marred the Games from the get go. Think that would have happened in Old Russia? Don’t think so. Not on Gorby’s watch.

And then, the Russians have been busy griping about the disallowed goal in Saturday’s instant-classic hockey game against the United States. With 4:40 left in the third period, it appeared as if Team USA had given it a nice go, but a Russian goal was about to spoil the fun back home. However, referees said the net had been knocked off its peg, and called it off. A couple of overtimes and a shootout later, the Russians were – both literally and figuratively – upset on home ice.

“Nobody touched the net,” Alex Ovechkin told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The goalie touched the net and pulled it out. But the referee didn’t give him two minutes.”

In fact, the Russians claimed that Jonathan Quick, the American goalie, dislodged the net on purpose.

“I play with him; I know that’s his style,” said Russian defenseman Slava Voynov, who plays alongside Quick for the Los Angeles Kings.

Vladimir Putin? He was pissed.

Protesters in Moscow chanted, “Make soap out of the ref!”

Sounds reasonable.

Russian politician Alexei Pushkov whined even worse, when he took to Twitter with this rant (which, by the way, abused the 140-character limit): “How can a referee from the U.S.A. judge the U.S. team?! The puck was in the goal! What an abomination! Cheating in front of the whole world!! Disgusting.

“It was not a victory by the U.S. team over Russia: it was a ‘victory’ by the judging panel of the U.S. and Sweden. Nobody saw the goal shift.

“We all saw how the referees of the United States judged in Salt Lake City. Now, they are judging the same way in Sochi. This was a stolen victory – and there’s a nasty feeling of deception.”

Ironically, Pushkov is the head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee. What a jerk!?!

He’s bringing up 2002 in Salt Lake? Give me a break, Al. How conveniently you forget ’72, the biggest stolen victory in the history of sports. How easily you dismiss the entire sport of figure skating (in America, the phrase “The Russian Judge” is one of two things: A punch line or a widely understood way of saying one has just been screwed). And wasn’t it 1952 when you introduced steroids to international competition?

Cheating in front of the whole world? Disgusting is right.

And to think this wasn’t even a medal round. C’mon, friendskis, let’s try to keep things in perspective. Didn’t sportsmanship arrive when communism left?

Apparently, the Russians are still a pretty serious lot – just ask the fella who messed up the lighting of the final Olympic ring during the opening ceremonies. Well, you could have asked him…

There were reports from multiple sources (which later appears to be a bit of a hoax) that he was found dead the next morning, stabbed multiple times – an “accidental death,” say Russian investigators. Yikes. Even if it was false, it would not surprise us, right?

We realize that the Olympics are your “Super Bowl” and all, but geez, nobody in Denver got overly worked up at Joe Namath for botching the coin toss.

What is this, Colombian soccer? Better yet, in the words of Ty Webb, “This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia?”

Maybe it is Russia. Maybe it’s the Old Russia – the one I thought I missed, but perhaps I don’t have to miss it after all. Seems like the “new” Russia is doing the trick – sans communism and all. These Russians are doing a great job of providing a “healthy” rival during the Olympics.

Bring it on Vladimir, Boris and Sasha. Here’s hoping we see you again in the gold medal game. It’s on in Sochi.

For complete coverage of the Winter Games in Sochi.

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