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What might Pierre think of scandal?

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LAUSANNE -- I am sitting in a hotel room overlooking Lake Geneva. The lake is quite tranquil today. As is the town. As is the country.

I straightened the bedspread on the bed even though I normally don't do that.But this is Switzerland.

I also synchronized my watch and ate some chocolate.

The lake gets my mind going, and I remember a quote I once read in an Olympic history book written by William Oscar Johnson. The quote is about Pierre de Coubertin, the Frenchman who revived the Olympics in 1896 after a 1,503-year layoff and moved the headquarters here, to this Swiss city by the lac.

"In the final years of his life, he lived in Lausanne and was occasionally seen rowing alone on Lake Geneva. His ancient family fortune was gone, and he lived with his shrewish wife and mentally disturbed daughter in a hotel suite provided free by the city of Lausanne."

In spite of all that he wrought, de Coubertin, it is said, died something of a disappointed (not to mention completely broke) man.

He gave birth to the modern Olympic movement but did not and could not live long enough to see it find its full stride.

He was denied the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936 -- he had been nominated, ironically enough, by Hitler's Germany -- and at the time of his death, in late 1937, the Olympics were entering a state of extended suspension, and feared extinction, on account of World War II.

The world was in trouble. The Olympics were in trouble. Peace, brotherhood, harmony and sport weren't at the forefront of many agendas.

Everywhere Pierre looked: adversity.

He gave his life, his fortune and his heart and soul to something that, in the end, had him rowing across Lake Geneva, muttering to himself.

I am a student of Olympic history. I know that de Coubertin relocated the IOC headquarters from Paris to this place, Lausanne, because the Swiss had been neutral since 1291 and he figured they always would be.

What better place to protect the Games? To put them out of harm's way? It is the same reason the World Health Organization is in Geneva, and the International Red Cross; the same reason untold billions lie in bank vaults from Zurich to Bern.

This is a safe place.

And de Coubertin, it seems, was right.

Half a century later and both Switzerland and the Olympic movement, current scandals notwithstanding, are still in business.

That there are ongoing problems with the Olympics is undisputed, but the very fact that the world cares so much is a testament to the status of the modern Games.

Excellent idea, Pierre.

The Games themselves . . . and also having that lake to row on.

If he were rowing across the lake today, watching the limos roll up the hill for the emergency sessions at the IOC's elegant Palais de Beaulieu, if he were watching the latest Olympic crisis from the water, what would Pierre Coubertin think? What would he say?

How would the man responsible for reviving the Games react to Bribegate, the high-stakes scandal of international give-and-get involving some very rich and/or very zealous people in Salt Lake City and some very influential Olympic caretakers around the world?

What would he think of billion-dollar budgets and billion-dollar television rights and brokers and agents and bloc-voting and people who would sell their bid city vote for a trip to the Super Bowl?

What would his response be to nearly a third of the IOC membership coming under investigation?

That adversity had its challenges and so does prosperity? That attacks can come from both without and within?

Perhaps. And also perhaps, as he picks up his pace: "Well, all right! We're still here!"

Send e-mail to benson@desnews.com, fax 801-237-2527. Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.