Thursday, August 5, 2010

Culture: Remembering the Goodwill Games

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Twenty years ago today, the Goodwill Games were coming to a close in Seattle, Washington. Living in the Seattle area at the time, I managed to attend only one night of track and field events during the game. Here was my summary in the "Vacationer's Notebook" feature from Tuesday, 24-July-1990:
The Goodwill Games are finally here! After years of planning by Turner Broadcasting and the Seattle Organizing Committee, competition finally began last Friday, though the opening ceremonies were not until Saturday. Some people think the games are the best thing to happen to Seattle since the World's Fair [in 1961] with the entire world looking at the Gateway to the Pacific. Others, like Art Thiel, think the games are scaring off tourists and will attract growth we don't need. I think Art needs to spend some time at the venues...

As a Seattle-area resident, I felt obligated to attend at least one Goodwill Games event. When my mother won tickets to track and field, I was set. Last night, my farther and I took a crowded Metro bus to Husky Stadium. We had excellent seats, just six rows away from the track near the finish line.

For a person used to watching athletic games on television, actually being there was extremely exciting. The biggest stars were just a few feet away, and just the athletes. Ted Turner and Jane Fonda walked by several times.

Of course, the real highlights were the athletes. Jackie Joyner-Kersee put on her usual show of excellence in the pentathlon events, even seeming to take it easy in the 800 meter race. Patty Sue Plummer ran an excellent women's 1500 meters, staying at the back of the pack until the last lap. Little Joe Falcon led the entire men's 3000 meters. Vicki Borshiem looked like a mannequin before high jumping, as the Soviet jumper Telesina dominated the competition but was unable to set any records.

Perhaps most amazing were the men's sprinters. In the 110 meter hurdles, Roger Kingdome was victorious in a photo finish. Carl Lewis--and his ponytail--were defeated in an amazingly quick 100 meters.

One truly cannot experience the Goodwill Games without being there.
A lot can change in twenty years. While the goal of bringing United States and Soviet athletes to each others' soils in the wake of Olympic boycotts was clearly successful, Ted Turner never made any money from the Goodwill Games. He would eventually sell the games to Time Warner Australia, who held a final event in 2001 and then canceled the series. That same year, Jane Fonda and Turner divorced. By 2006, Ted Turner would step down from Time Warner and largely leave the public eye.

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