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NOT QUITE AN OLYMPIAN FEAT.

Byline: KEVIN MODESTI

On a colorful stage in Singapore, at 4:45 a.m. PDT Wednesday, three singers warbled the final bars of the Olympic Anthem. An off-stage voice introduced a young woman to deliver a huge envelope from ``the scrutinier'' to the International Olympic Committee president at the podium - the scrutinier being the IOC's equivalent of the Oscars' Price Waterhouse.

The woman accomplished the short walk cradling a throw pillow on which rested the envelope. Jacques Rogge picked up the envelope and sliced it open with his fingers. The moment was at hand.

``The International Olympic Committee,'' Rogge began after digesting the result of a final vote, ``has the honor of announcing the Games of the 30th Olympiad are award to the city of ... London!''

This seemed to be Bob Beamon's long jump, Mary Decker's fall, Greg Louganis' dive, the Soviets' basketball thievery and every gymnastics feat from Olga Korbut to Kerri Strug - and all the other great Summer Olympic moments you could name - rolled into one.

An Olympic event so momentous, apparently, that the National Broadcasting Company saw fit to televise it live.

For London, triumph. For Paris, heartbreak. For New York City, Wait `Til Next Olympiad.

It was 4:49 in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. Should I be ashamed to admit I was stifling a yawn?

What a funny world this is. One in which the most anticipated, most celebrated decision of an Olympic Games is not who wins any particular sports event or medal count, but who gets to build the stadium, erect the arena and dig the pool.

Not that it's the first time, but the tail is wagging the dog completely off his paws when the sports score that matters is the revenue and employment growth a sports event promises to bring to the host city.

Or when Sebastian Coe, once a double gold medal-winning and multiple world record-holding middle-distance runner, seems destined to be remembered as a greater hero for heading London's successful bid to stage a record third Summer Games.

In Trafalgar Square, where thousands of Londoners gathered Wednesday to watch the announcement on a giant TV, an NBC reporter was left tongue-tied by the excitement.

It was so quiet there in the seconds before Rogge spoke, the reporter said, ``you could hear the silence with a ... you could hear a pin drop.''

Without irony, England's journalists compared defeating Paris in the final round of IOC voting to the nation's greatest sports moments.

Here's Patrick Collins, writing in The Mail on Sunday three days before the denouement of years of lobbying: ``If, by some happy miracle, the IOC decision should happen to fall in our favour, then all previous sporting victories - from the football World Cup of `66 to rugby's World Cup of `03 - would be rendered insignificant.''

Here's Frank Malley of The Sporting Life, writing online after the announcement: ``There are moments in sport which are so dramatic and awe-inspiring that they are simply unforgettable. Think of Geoff Hurst billowing the net to bring the football World Cup to England for the only time. Think of Jonny Wilkinson dropping that goal to win the rugby World Cup. And then think of the moment you heard London was to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Believe me, in terms of importance for British sport, there is no contest.''

Here's Sean Ingle, in The Guardian online, suggesting a track-and-field analogy for the race just run: ``London stumbled out of the blocks, jogged the first 80m of a 100m race at half-pace before finishing like Linford Christie to pip Paris, the favourites, on the line by 54 votes to 50.''

I'm trying to understand how winning the right to put on the Games can mean more than winning any game.

This is all the sweeter for London because it was Paris getting pipped, just as it mattered to the Red Sox that they beat the Yankees on the way to winning the World Series. It's competition, and it's about rivalries.

How delicious for England to think French President Jacques Chirac might have blundered the Games away by turning off IOC voters with a joke that ``you can't trust people (the English) who cook as badly as that.''

So that there's at least one strong opinion in this column, let me rise to the defense of English cooks. My mother, who was born in Manchester and grew up near London, is an excellent cook. So there's one.

Monica Modesti, who was Monica Duguid then, remembers going to one Olympic event at the 1948 London Games. She went to Wembley to watch a school friend compete in the shot put.

Mom was thrilled to hear the Olympics are going back to London in 2012, although not quite as thrilled as when England beats Germany in anything on the field.

``They'll have to hire a French chef,'' she said, ''to improve the food.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 7, 2005
Words:819
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