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A lesson plan to spare the Olympics from Sochi

Philip Hersh

Globetrotting

8:09 PM EST, January 1, 2014

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OK, class, everyone who really wanted to go to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics even before the recent deadly bombings in Volgograd, raise your hand.

I see you, President Vladimir Putin. Anyone else?

No? Then let’s see how we can get around the problem of having the Winter Games in a hard-to-reach locale with a subtropical climate, repression of gay rights, obscene spending (and related corruption), environmental despoilment and human rights abuses of its residents.

And, oh yes, apparently serious threats to disrupt the Games by nationalist insurgents — aka terrorists — from nearby Chechnya. (Not to mention Dagestan, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.)

The answer isn’t to cancel the Olympics. And it’s too late to move them en masse.

I have another idea:

Stage them — and the Paralympics — over the regularly scheduled time period in manageable pieces at some of the cities or countries that have been previous Winter Olympic hosts, many of which have World Cup competitions every year.

Yes, this would be like a series of isolated World Championships rather than the bring-the-world-together feeling of the Olympics. But I bet most of the athletes wouldn’t miss the overhyped camaraderie and would be much happier without worrying about the possibility of a bombing in Sochi.

Because 99 percent of the world consumes the Olympics via television, some people may not even notice the difference. Yes, there would be time zone issues, but those could be worked out.

And attendance in many of the new sites undoubtedly would be much better than it will be in Sochi.

To those who say this would be giving in to terrorists, my reply simply would be that it is, rather, an 11th-hour return to sanity after the misguided International Olympic Committee decision in 2007 to indulge Putin’s folly. This is how my 2014 Olympics would play out:

Men’s hockey in Canada, with medal games in Vancouver. NHL arenas will be available.

Women’s hockey in Lake Placid. It’s relatively near the Canadian border, and no one outside Canada and the U.S. cares about women mucking in the corners.

Figure skating in Tokyo, part of the one country where the sport still has a large and passionate fan base. Long track speedskating in Kearns, Utah, which has the fastest ice in the world.

Short track speedskating in Turin, Italy, as a sop to International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta.

Curling in the United Kingdom. Never had a Winter Games, but it will take the curling stones back to their Scots roots.

Biathlon in Ruhpolding, Germany, the mecca of the sport. No going back to Garmisch, where Hitler had his retreat.

Nordic skiing in Lillehammer (cross-country) and Oslo (combined and jumping). What could be more Nordic than Norway?

Luge, skeleton and bobsled in Igls, Austria, a site used twice for the Olympics.

Alpine skiing at St. Moritz, Switzerland; Kitzbuhel, Austria; and Val d’Isere, France. Legendary courses for the sport.

Snowboarding at Chamonix, France.

Freestyle skiing at Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to bring the Olympics back to the city that was host of my favorite Winter Games.

The opening and closing ceremonies can stay in Sochi. In lieu of athletes, the thousands of military who would be on hand can march into the stadium, which will be filled with all the friends of Putin who have gotten rich off the Games.

Is this a joke? No less so than the idea to give the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi in the first place.

Time to buy a ticket for Japan to cover figure skating.

phersh@tribune.com

Twitter @olyphil