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OLYMPICS TOOK A BACKWARD STEP

Watching the Olympic games at Barcelona made me happy to be a member of the human race. Inspiring examples of athletes struggling to compete and even finish the race, in some instances, were heartwarming. To see superb athletes perform courageously and gracefully was an inspiration.

Medal superiority was once again achieved by the team from the former Soviet Union, although we came closer than we have for decades. But this year, it seemed irrelevant because the real contest, the fight for democracy, already had been won in a sudden and shocking way.With the "Evil Empire" suddenly gone, it was harder to find a foe to hate in the Olympics this year. Although exuberant when Americans won, I had no remorse when we lost.

I am greatly disturbed, however, at the move to professionalism among the performers. For years, we competed admirably with amateurs against Eastern Bloc countries with their corps of professionals. Now that has somehow changed. I believe this subtle but dramatic metamorphosis in the Olympics is a step backward, all the arguments for a "level playing field" aside.

This shift, this capitulation by the leader of the free world in Olympic competition is really insignificant except in the disturbing trend toward taking the easy way. Sure it's harder to compete with amateurs, but when mercenary professionals get involved, it takes something away from the spirit of the games.

We've caved in to the notion that winning is everything, which is reflected in our culture where priorities are often distorted. Is it really that important to win at all costs? Are we still that insecure?

In spite of the incredible changes in Olympic competition and world politics, a far more important struggle escalates within the Land of the Free. This battle centers on what the very values of America should be.

Lack of consensus on the direction of this great country is much more disconcerting than who wins or loses at the Games, and even more alarming than the battle in the world for competing ideologies.

If America, the bastion of democracy, cannot agree on the values that has made it great, the dramatic demise of communism will pale in comparison to the fall of freedom. The frightening prospect of moral bankruptcy, if we don't get our team together, will cause such minor diversities as the Olympic Games to be a luxury we will not afford in the future.

Glenn C. Lewis

Midvale