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FRANCE’S SYNCHRONIZED ABSURDITY

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Forget the dream team and the steeple chase. Obviously, the thing to keep an eye on this summer in Atlanta is the French synchronized swim team.

After its planned routine depicting the Holocaust was nixed this week, who knows what team leaders will think of next?Odd as it seems, it took a strong public outcry for French officials to figure out that World War II's bloodiest and most tragic chapter was not appropriate for something as happy and benign as synchronized swim-ming.

Imagine this: The participants were to goose-step to the pool in black swimsuits, jump in and perform a rendering of the arrival of Jewish women in the death camps and their march to the gas chambers. Frankly, we can't. But we don't doubt the routine would have given new meaning to the term "show-stopper."

The team's technical director called it an artistic rendering of "great emotional value." Yes, one can fairly imagine the emotions that would have been rendered around the pool.

At a competition earlier this year, the underwater Holocaust drew jeers and disapproving whistles. Apparently, even the French think the routine is, well, all wet. Observers said it was almost as bad as the time France's ice dancers skated their own rendering of torture in Chile.

Let's face it, synchronized swimmers, with their smiling faces and precision tandem movements, have as much business depicting the ghastly slaughter of millions as Barney the dinosaur has singing about the Manson murders. Or, to use a comparison somewhat more meaningful, it would be like Jerry Lewis dancing an interpretation of the storming of the Bastille.

On second thought, the French might enjoy that. C'est la vie.