POST SEOUL SCRIPT. Or, How I Spent My Summer Olympics.
It was the Olympics where I covered my first archery meet. And my second. And my third. I was not alone. The first day I went to the archery venue I got into a cab along with a reporter from Finland and a photographer from Japan. En route, the writer from Finland, in good English, said Finland had a strong medal contender in archery. Then he added in a confessional tone, "I've never seen an archery meet before."To which the Japanese photographer confessed, "Neither have I." To which I confessed, "That makes three of us."
*** I saw international relations first-hand. Like at the U.S.-Soviet basketball game, where, in either a rush of anti-Americanism or because they had been given free flags, an entire section of Korean schoolchildren sitting in the balcony waved Russian banners and held up "CCCP" signs. The booed Ensign David Robinson, who had parked his aircraft carrier just outside the bay.
*** I got to cover the local angle of big breaking international incidents. I recall sitting in the post-race interview room waiting for Ben Johnson - now what could be taking Ben so long? - when someone said, "I hear a couple of American swimmers who won medals got in trouble last night with the police for stealing something." I'm thinking, "One of them couldn't be Troy Dalbey, the double gold-winner American swimmer who's transferring to BYU? Naw, it couldn't be."
*** I saw firsthand what they mean by tight security. Even the manhole covers in the streets were secure with little pieces of tape across them so the police could tell if anyone had removed the cover and planted something in there, like a bomb, or steroids.
*** Speaking of security, I got to see the first fully chaparoned 26.2-mile marathon. First there were a dozen cars with plainclothes detectives. Then there were a dozen jeeps with plainclothes detectives, then there were motorcycles. Then came the 124 runners, followed by truckloads of soldiers. Up above there were helicopters and down below, on the Han River, there were plainclothes detectives on motorized hang gliders. All very unobtrusive. And all pouring out carbon monoxide. It was no wonder the race was slow.
*** I saw all the trouble Ben Johnson got into over the steroid thing, but the person I saw get into the most trouble was a sprots writer from Texas, who, in one of his columns back to Dallas, reprot3d tht erhe were rumors running rampant that Florence Griffith Joyner, the fastest woman on earth, was using steroids, othewise how could she run faster than most men? To which he observed, "But if steroids make you look like Flo Jo, I'm going to get some for my wife."
On his next call home, his wife answered the phone. "So!" she began. "If you think Flo Jo looks so good..."
*** I saw a beautiful city, with its boulevards lined with flowers and huge "WELCOME" signs and banners everywhere. I also looked behind the banners and saw a lot of shanty towns, where people lived in tents and makeshift houses that didn't qualify as the official dwellings of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
*** I never did see Bryant Gumbel.
*** I became an expert with another monetary system, learning that one won was worth something like a seventh of a penny and a 1,000 won note was worth about $1.40; and I learned that the Koreans have a very admirable economic policy. They don't tip. Once I paid a taxi fare that came to 2,800 won with three 1,000 won bills and said keep the change and the driver chased me down the sidewalk with the extra 200 won.
The picture on their paper money is of an ancient Korean ruler with long hair and a goatee. The first day in Seoul at the money exchange counter in the press village I heard a writer from Texas, not the same one, wondering why the Koreans had a picture of Willie Nelson on their money. The Texan was cautioned by a banker that Koreans wouldn't be pleased if they heard him mocking their honorable ancient ruler, to which the Texan's reply was that obviously they didn't know who Willie Nelson is.
*** On the way home, I got to live Monday twice, one there and once here. I consequently wrote this column at 3 a.m. But it was 7 p.m. over there.