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FIRST-PERSON Olympian vote count: Let’s not repeat sour ’72 Olympic history

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–The 2000 presidential election could well be a promotion for a popular brand of battery — it keeps going, and going, and going.

As the vote count lingers on, the race for the White House bears an eerie resemblance to the 1972 Olympic basketball finale, which took place in Munich, West Germany. That year, the Soviet Union captured the gold medal in basketball, snapping the United States’ unbeaten streak in Olympic competition. But the gold medal game ended in one of the most disputed results in Olympic history.

The controversy began when Doug Collins of the U.S. team sank two free throws to give the Americans a 50-49 lead with three seconds remaining. The Soviets inbounded the ball, but head referee Renato Righetto of Brazil stopped the game with one second on the clock. After a conference among the officials, it was determined that Soviet coach, Vladimir Kondrashkin, had called time out.

The clock was reset to three seconds, and the Soviets were allowed to inbound the ball once more. The Soviets attempted a desperation shot from midcourt that was off the mark and the U.S. team began to celebrate. However, Kondrashkin protested that the clock had not been reset correctly, and R. William Jones, an International Amateur Basketball Federation official who had no actual authority in the contest, agreed with the Soviet coach.

The game officials were persuaded to give the Soviet team another three seconds. This time the ball came to Aleksandr Belov, who had gained position right under the basket. The Soviet star sank the winning basket with ease.

The U.S. team, believing that the final result was unfair, did not attend the victory ceremony, refused their silver medals and filed an official protest. Despite sworn testimony from the referee and the timekeeper that the Soviet victory was illegal, a five-man jury of appeal denied the U.S. protest.

On November 8, in the wee hours of the morning, George W. Bush seemingly won the race for the White House by capturing Florida’s 25 electoral votes. One small delay kept him from claiming victory. The Sunshine State has a law that mandates a recount on elections that are so close. Another “three seconds” were added to the electoral clock and a recount ensued.

When the recount was completed, Bush had lost significant ground, but, again, came out on top. The Gore campaign protested, insisting the machine recount was not fair. They demanded that more time be put on the “clock” in the form of manual recounts in specific counties — four counties, to be exact, that just happen to be Democratic strongholds.

Legal wrangling by the Gore campaign has kept time on the “electoral clock,” as well as kept Bush from being declared president-elect.

The final buzzer has yet to sound on the presidential marathon. However, if Vice President Gore does somehow manage to find enough “votes” to claim “victory,” his “triumph” will be as tainted as the 1972 Soviet “win.”
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: KELLY BOGGS.

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  • Kelly Boggs