The Games of the XXIX Olympiad begin Friday in Beijing, and that means sports fans around the world are preparing to spend the next 21/2 weeks watching a multinational cast of athletes compete in games (Badminton? Table tennis?) they’ve forgotten even exist outside of a company picnic or family reunion.
As far as we know, Las Vegas has never thrown its bejeweled hat into the ring as a prospective Olympics host. Let’s face it: Given the sporting establishment’s queasiness about wagering, we probably never will get that coveted five-ringed nod.
That’s a horrible mistake, because injecting a Vegas vibe into the games would, we think, keep the worldwide viewing audience glued to its seats. But if Las Vegas ever were to host a Summer Olympics — and was allowed to, as per Olympic custom, include a few nonmedal demonstration sports on the agenda — we’d humbly offer the International Olympic Committee the following, only-in-Las Vegas, events.
1,200-METER PORN PURVEYOR SLALOM
Sure, slaloms usually are associated with skiing and the Winter Olympics. But not to worry. We’ve come up with a summer-friendly version of the Grand Slalom.
Athletes will begin at Bellagio. Taking off at timed intervals, they’ll race-walk on the sidewalks of the Strip toward New York-New York, trying to avoid the clumps of porn pamphlet distributors along the way. The winner will have negotiated the course in the fastest time and with the fewest pamphlets.
A confession: We’ve never been able to do it successfully, but we suspect the zigging and zagging that would be required would give vertigo to an astronaut.
WAVE POOL SINK OR SWIM COMPETITION
Maybe Las Vegas resorts’ pools aren’t designed for an Olympic-level swim meet. But Mandalay Bay Beach’s wave pool would be perfect for another, more egalitarian, aquatic event.
Basically, we’ll just jam as many aspiring gold medalists as we can into the pool and, at the starting gun, have them tread water for as long as they can, winner takes all. It’s an efficient use of space — you can fit more people into a pool vertically than you can horizontally — there’s no need for time-consuming heats, and the intermittent crashing of waves and energy spent bobbing around would increase considerably the event’s degree of difficulty.
Besides, at least a few competitors will end up looking like Joe Frazier in the swimming portion of that "Superstars" competition years ago, so it’s an event with certain crowd appeal.
SYNCHRONIZED SWIM/ BELLAGIO FOUNTAINS MASHUP
Speaking of aquatic events, synchronized swimming has gotten its share of grief over the years. But we have a twist on the sport that’s sure to offer synchronized swimming, if not more respectability, at least a potential for creating a few more fans.
So: We have the event in the lake at Bellagio, where swimmers not only would have to synchronize their movements with one another, but with the movements of the fountains, too.
Now there’s a choreography challenge that would have made George Balanchine take up square dancing, considering how elaborate the fountains’ movements are, how quickly the fountains change direction and the variety of music they’re synced with. And, for the swimmers, there’s that additional challenge of dealing with the occasional drunken tourist backstroking by.
Scoring will be based on choreography and execution, and a higher degree of difficulty will be given to teams that perform to music not by Andrea Bocelli.
SLOT MACHINE CLEAN AND JERK
Why should weightlifting be restricted to the strong? Anybody who has ever witnessed the preternatural agility of a retired waitress from Omaha playing in a slot tournament knows that, when it comes to pulling that silly lever, it’s muscular endurance, rather than mere strength, that counts.
Each athlete in this event will take a seat in front of a slot machine and pull the machine’s lever — anybody resorting to that wussy "Spin Reels" button will be disqualified — as fast as he or she can and as many times as possible. Medals go to the athletes who have the most pulls in the shortest amount of time.
Of course, any jackpots won during the competition must be returned to the casino. Wouldn’t want to tarnish that old "Olympic ideal," would we?
MINIATURE SHOT PUT
If you close your eyes and hold your breath until you start to become woozy, you can imagine how dice can be thought of as miniature "shots" (or balls) that are "put" (flung in that push/throw motion) along the felt of a craps table.
In this event, we take that oxygen-deprived epiphany and run with it. Each athlete will stand on a goal line at Sam Boyd Stadium and inside-sidearm a pair of kitten-sized dice as far as he or she can along the stadium’s artificial — and, if you do that breath-holding thing again, sort of green feltlike — surface. Farthest "put" (That can’t really be a word.) wins.
It might sound silly, but "putting" (Yet, it’s beginning to grow on us.) a pair of oversized dice makes as much sense as "putting" a metal ball (All right! "Putting" is officially our new favorite word! Put! Put! Put!) for no apparent reason in the real Olympics.
H-O-R-S-E BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
Frankly, we lost interest in Olympics basketball when they started using NBA ringers on the U.S. team. (U.S. game plan: Dunk. Dunk. Dunk. Yawn.)
So, for our Olympics, we’ll have a variation of hoops that requires real skill: A round-robin, multinational H-O-R-S-E tournament in the cozy confines of the basketball suite at the Palms.
Sure, LeBron James can dunk half-asleep and with one eye closed.
But let’s see him avoid an "E" by shooting from the FIBA back line, blindfolded and between the legs with his weak hand while the whole world watches. Now that’s pressure.
SNOW GLOBE BIATHLON
One of the weirdest sports in the Olympics is the biathlon, which, for some reason, involves cross-country skiers gliding through the woods and then stopping periodically to shoot at something with a rifle.
We’re not crazy about the rifle part, and living in the desert pretty much nixes the skiing part. But that doesn’t mean we can’t follow the Olympics’ example of smushing together two laughably unrelated things and calling it "sport."
So, we’ll issue each competitor a pair of roller skates — the four-wheeled disco era ones, not modern in-line skates — and a shoulder bag that contains 25 snow globes obtained from souvenir shops all along the Strip. Each competitor then will skate from one end of the Strip to the other, pausing intermittently along the way to fling snow globes at designated moving targets — showgirls, Cirque du Soleil clowns, incarcerated Clark County commissioners on temporary work release, whatever — with points awarded for fastest course finish and highest percentage of targets hit.
It’s an event just made for basic cable.
We predict the formation of a Professional Snow Globe Biathlon League within weeks.
INTERNATIONAL BUFFET GORGE
Sometime when we weren’t paying attention, gross gluttony became an athletic event. Apparently, bingeing on 128 ounces of mayonnaise in eight minutes — that really is a world record — is now considered a "talent" rather than a symptom of deep-seated neuroses.
But who are we to judge? So, our tribute to the world of competitive eating will be a marathon that begins at the Tropicana. Competitors run north on the Strip, stopping at every buffet along the route to scarf down a designated ethnic foodstuff — a baguette at Paris Las Vegas, an egg roll at Imperial Palace — before downing a hot dog at the Stratosphere and crossing the finish line. Medals will be awarded to the first three finishers who complete the route without (ahem) having lost any of the food they’ve consumed along the way.
By the way: You know how there’s always a crowd waiting at a marathon’s finish lines to greet the winners? Given the mix of food consumption and physical activity called for here, the finish line isn’t really the place to be, if you catch our gastrointestinal drift.
And, just as it’s traditional for the men’s marathon to close out the Summer Olympic games, this event would be a fine capper to our celebration of the Olympics, Las Vegas-style.
As the Olympic motto goes: Farther, flashier, dumber. Or something.
Contact John Pryzbys at 383-0280 or e-mail email@example.com