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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

Risque business at Olympics

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

No more splayed legs around a dancing partner's neck. No more holding a partner upside down while she performs splits. No more above-the-head, hand-to-groin holds.

The judges have had enough.

At this Olympics, those crowd-pleasing poses can cost an ice-dancer or pairs team a tenth-of-a-point deduction under new rules that penalize "undignified" moves. The new rules, instituted last year by the International Skating Union, would also cover pelvis pumping, crotch-grabbing, lap-dancing and all simulated acts as well as any move requiring a stripper's pole or an exam table.

This is, needless to say, an outrage, not to mention bad for TV ratings.

Figure skating officials are trying to put a pinafore on a pinup, turn a soap opera into an after-school special. Why do they think figure skating draws more viewers than any other sport in the Winter Olympics? The music? The spins? The jumps?

OK, sure. But it's mostly the sex and the gossip.

This is the sport that gave us Torvill and Dean seducing each other to "Bolero." It's the sport that gave us Katarina Witt posing for Playboy, Tonya Harding having Nancy Kerrigan clubbed (and a few years later, Tonya's wedding night video), Oksana Baiul arrested for drunken driving and Nicole Bobek convicted of burglary. It has supplied us with a steamy parade of love stories and fiery breakups between pairs and ice-dancing skaters.

KISS AND CRY

This is a sport that has an actual place called the "Kiss and Cry" area, where skaters and their coaches sit and wait for the scores. And it dresses its athletes not in uniforms but "costumes," often designed to give the illusion of partial nudity.

Now the ISU wants to go legit and run the sport like, well, a sport.

Naturally, the fans are shocked and angry. Conspiracy theories abound on the ISU Web site's discussion groups.

"The judges are only bowing to the Mormon-controlled Salt Lake City Olympic Committee," wrote "Chezeddiesf." "They are way too conservative."

"Kobi" offered a different theory. "I'm not sure that we can blame this on the Mormons - the Bush administration has given the religious right a strong voice in the USA. They are, after all, his voting constituency. No flames please, just repeating a well-accepted fact."

START OF A TREND?

The truth is that the skating community managed to do this all on its own. Perhaps it will start a trend of modesty in other sports. Only shotgun snaps will be allowed in the NFL so we don't have to watch a quarterback slip his hands between another man's legs. No more two-man luge. No more baseball players adjusting their cups. And definitely, definitely, definitely, no more wrestling. Is there a more indecent sport than wrestling? You have two sweaty guys in tiny tank tops rolling around on a mat, hands all over each other.

"It's not like they are out there skating circles on their heads with their dresses up," wrote "Meg." "This is skating. Porn is on a different channel. It seems a shame to stop creativity and aesthetics because we are worried about the perverts of the world being turned on."

"Personally," wrote another fan, "even if figure skaters skated around completely naked, I wouldn't find it offensive. The sport is just too damn beautiful."

Now there's an idea for NBC.

CHANGE IS THE RULE

Perhaps we should accept that nothing stays the same forever. Rules change. Values change. We have to adjust with the times.

But there is one thing at the Winter Olympics that never changes. We can count on it like the lighting of the Olympic flame and the parade of athletes in the Opening Ceremony. And now it is here, just as always:

Figure skating has a controversy.

Let the Games begin.

Joan Ryan writes a weekly column for the Pilot-Tribune.