SALT LAKE CITY -- In a transaction completed on a warped and rickety pulpit, the Olympic ideal was formally sold Friday.
The buyers were public opinion, network television and jingoism.
The price was justice.
The cost was integrity.
The new owners will move in as soon as they can evict those awful Russians.
Two gold medals, for an event that had earlier possessed a defined winner and runner-up.
Two more gold medals than pieces of clear evidence to support them.
Two more gold medals than stomach muscles in the people who made the decision.
There is only one reason the Olympic arm pulled Canadian pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier up to the top step of the podium Friday with Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
Because they were tired of that arm being twisted.
They were weary of newspaper criticism in the United States and Canada, worn out from the screeching on NBC, worried that their Games were being obscured by a fur-lined, bespectacled vision named Marie Reine Le Gougne.
This wasn't a cry for justice.
It was a cry of uncle.
By changing medal colors because of judging misconduct for the first time in 106 years of Olympic history, the Olympic bosses betrayed their own motto.
Faster, Higher, Stronger?
Weaker, Weaker, Weaker.
They changed a medal despite no definitive proof it was awarded unfairly.
They changed a medal despite no exhaustive search for that proof.
Instead of carefully awarding the medal, they tossed it over their shoulders while on a dead run from an angry mob.
The IOC could have simply requested an investigation and kept the medals intact, a long but fair process that could have contributed to the reformation of a troubled sport.
But instead, the IOC took the easy way out and just smelted another piece of gold.
Said IOC President Jacques Rogge: "I don't think this has created damage to the Olympic movement because it was resolved fast."
Hey, he's right. It worked. The mob relented. Smiles all around. The Olympics have been saved!
You won't be hearing that in many places today. Certainly, there is no defense for the sort of vote-rigging for which Le Gougne has been accused. Based on past figure skating problems, who could discount anything?
But it's still only an accusation. And even in this nutty environment, there still exists the concept of a fair trial.
It's not as pretty or charming, but isn't due process still more important than Jamie Sale or David Pelletier? And simply because they have a much smaller voice here, is it really fair to ignore the Russians, who will forever share their gold medal simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
When asked to guess his country's feelings about sharing that medal, a Russian journalist shrugged.
"Can you share a wife?" asked Nikolai Dolgopolov, executive editor of Trud, one of the largest Russian newspapers. "I know I can't."
While only two Russians asked questions during the hourlong medals news conference -- they may have been the only two Russian reporters in the room -- other officials were contacted later.
As stunning as it might sound to those who have increasingly regarded them as invisible, they are alive and hurting.
"This is an unprecedented decision that turned out to be a result of pressure by the North American press, and turned out in favor of the fanatically loyal (North American) fans," Valentin Piseyev, Russia's skating boss, told Russia's NTV television by telephones from Salt Lake City.
Then there was this from Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko: "It's a disgraceful fuss. The International Olympic Committee should get to the root of it and not allow American mass media and amateurs give marks to our skaters."
Oh, but we can counter that quote with a bigger hammer.
"I do think it's the right thing to award two gold medals for the skaters," said President Bush.
That should make you glad that he's the chief executive and not the county judge.
The question was asked Friday, what happens to the Canadian pair's silver medal?
It should go to Scott Hamilton, the NBC commentator who led the charge to have it changed. Walking to the news conference Friday, he was openly congratulated by workers.
A special commendation goes to the media, whose undying support of this issue -- hey, it's an easy column -- was recognized in the opening remarks by Canada's delegation chief Sally Rehorick.
"It's wonderful, the support you've given us throughout the week," she said.
As for the Olympic officials who made this decision, they have earned more than a one-time award or medal.
By popping open a bottle of whines that will forever affect every event that uses subjective judging -- from Roy Jones Jr. until forever -- they have earned a lifetime achievement award.
As I was finishing this column, Sweden was in the processing of upsetting Canada, 5-2, in hockey.
Upon which a colleague shouted, "Don't worry, the Canadians are going to appeal it."
You think that's funny? I don't.
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