Friday, August 22, 2008

The Rogue

It is my unfortunate duty to report a renegade European.

I am referring, of course, to the somewhat less-than-honorable Jacques Rogue, whoops, sorry, that's Rogge, known affectionately to many Olympic fans as Monsieur Jackass.

Rogge, let me hasten to say, is not French. He is Belgian, which is forgivable. Were he French, I might have to do harm to myself. He is the President of the International Olympic Committee, and to the best of my knowledge, the only worthwhile thing he has done in the past few years is ban baseball from future Games.

Jacques Rogge is a count, a yachtsman aristocrat and a non-practicing surgeon. He recently took Usain Bolt to task for celebrating too heartily after breaking a world record. Now admittedly, the Bahamian overdid it. The new record-holder made it known that he was, indeed, number one, and had little respect for numbers two or three. But that was pretty much the same with members of the US beach volleyball women's team who screamed, hugged and rolled around in the sand following their Gold Metal victory, and Rogge had little to say about that.

He regrets China's invasion of Tibet but has been more than willing to overlook China's appalling human rights policies. Indeed, Rogge did not think that should have anything to do with China's hosting of the games. He apparently has no opinions on the jailing of dissidents who wanted to protest their homes having been razzed to make way for the Bird's Nest stadium. In 2004 in Athens, he had nothing to say when an Iranian member of the judo team refused to fight an Isareli competitor. And when the Chinese surreptitiously tried to censor Internet activities when the Games began, Rogge was found to have colluded with them, much to the surprise of journalists--who had been promised open Internet access--and the IOC itself, which apparently was not privy to his actions.

All this to say he is the wrong man for the job. Yes, to give him credit, he probably has made the Games a bigger spectacle than they have been since the days of Hitler. But advertising, promotion, cute little mascots and money are not what the Olympics are about. Ideally, what we are seeking is a series of contests between the best of the best in the world. Such competitions will never be perfect--there will always be scandals of one sort or another. Which is where the President of the IOC should step in, not as an apologist for governments or individuals, but as a spokesperson for the Games. That, in and of itself, is a large and demanding job, and Monsieur Jackass is not up to it.

Here's installment 40 of Wasted Miracles.
In the morning Colin remembered the black man’s deep voice, recalled that it was rounded about the edges, as if Mamadou had been drinking. That gave him pause. What if the man was himself a drinker or doper? He worried about that for a moment, decided to let it slide, it was unlikely, beyond his control.
He called Catherine who answered on the first ring.
“No news?”
Catherine sounded tired. “Nothing. Not a word, I’m worried sick, Colin. Lars decided he wasn’t going to worry so I’m doing it for both of us.”
“I think I have some good news. I found the limo driver. He said he’d help. That’s a step in the right direction, anyway.”
“Did he know anything, have any ideas? Maybe he...”
Colin cut her off. “I don’t know, Catherine. I saw him yesterday and he called me last night. I can’t tell you anything yet, save that he’s an ex-cop from Africa...”
“Africa?” Catherine laughed but it was empty. “Jesus. That’s all we need, some corrupt Third World cop. I’ve been to Africa. Thanks but no thanks.”
“Actually, I think he’s in the States because he wasn’t corrupt. He wasn’t willing to play the game back in Senegal where he lived, so his career ended. And he came here.”
Catherine sounded resigned. “Sounds like a far reach, Colin. What do you expect from him?”
“Got to start somewhere.”
Catherine’s voice was instantly chastened. “Jeez, Colin. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s got into me. Nerves, I guess. Or Lars’ attitude. I don’t mean to sound so negative. You know I’m grateful.”
“It’s tough, Catherine. Try to keep it together. Going to a meeting later?”
“No. Yes. I mean, I need one, but I’m afraid to get too far from the phone. In case she calls.”
Colin understood. “Put it on call forwarding, have it switch to my number and come over. It’s not good just sitting at home.” He glanced at his watch. “On second thought, meet me at the club. There’s a meeting in an hour and a half. We’ll get something to eat afterwards, and I’ll tell you about my encounter with Mr. Dioh, the limo guy. We’ll try to work something out, a plan of some sort.”
Colin hung up. He didn’t expect much from Catherine, but left home alone she’d become a loose canon. And he needed a meeting too. The encounter with Mamadou Dioh had been a humbling experience he should talk about quickly, before it ate at him and became a resentment, then an obsession. He rubbed his wrist, remembered the sharp pain as the black man had twisted his arm effortlessly and rendered him helpless. The hours Colin had spent pushing and pulling great weights hadn’t helped one bit. He wondered once again if the Senegalese might be a practicing boozer. There’d be a certain irony to that, he thought. Colin glanced at his watch again. Time to do some basic research.
He turned on his computer, hooked up to Digital Ink, the Washington Post online service.
He entered his signup name and password, then headed for the Post’s archives. He punched in a couple of commands, typed in “Mamadou Dioh”, pressed the ‘Enter’ key. He waited, watched the screen as the central computer at the Post digested his request, sorted through the millions of references on file. There were only two entries under the Senegalese’s name. He hit another key and the printer came to life.
The meeting was small, Colin counted 14 people, eight men and six women. Catherine was late, came during the reading after the door had closed. Colin pointed to the empty chair next to him and she slid in, sat, smiled at the others in apology. She whispered, “There was a call just as I was leaving. I thought it might be Josie. It wasn’t. It was Lars, asking what I making for dinner tonight. I really lost it, with him, I mean. Yelled at him. He hung up.”
The speaker introduced himself, spoke for five minutes and threw the meeting open. Colin listened to the litanies, tried hard to remember Orin G’s admonitions, failed. He passed as the sharing went around the room, unwilling at the last minute to divulge the origins of his unease, unable to identify them for himself. Then, glancing at Catherine, he remembered the gist of the conversation with his sponsor. He muttered, “Oh shit.” The man seated on his other side looked at him briefly, raised an eyebrow.
Catherine raised her hand, identified herself and went into details about Lars behavior but Colin noticed she didn’t mention Josie. When the meeting ended, he took her by the arm and said, “Listen, I’ve got to talk to you about something. About me. And about Josie.”
Catherine canted her head, a quizzical look. They walked through the parking lot to her car Catherine said, “So talk...”
Colin nodded. “I don’t know how to go about this. You’re really going to get pissed. So first I’m going to apologize and say I had no way of knowing, because I’d never met her, you know? She said her name was Jane, and of course I had no idea how old she was, she looked like maybe mid-20s...”
Catherine wore a half-smile. “Colin, what are you trying to say. I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”
Colin focused his gaze on something far away, avoided Catherine’s face.
“What happened is, I recognized her from the picture you found, the one taken in Baltimore. It was a while back, during a low period. And I wasn’t very rational, I wasn’t thinking, I just wanted somebody to be close to, just for the night, a body thing. It just happened.”
“What happened, Colin?”
“I slept with Josie.”
Catherine’s eyes became very round and seemed to bug out a little, her jaw dropped. It was just like in the cartoons when Bugs did something outlandish to Elmer Fudd, and it stayed there. Her mouth was open, Colin could see the inside of her lower lip, her tongue, her even teeth, the tiny veins in the whites of her eyes, the eyebrows shaped like horizontal parentheses.
Catherine quaked once from head to toe. “You what??”
“I didn’t know, Catherine, couldn’t have known...”
“You slept with my daughter? With my Josie?”
Colin tried to move her into the car, guided her elbow. She stiffened, resisted, angrily batted his hand away.
“You’re joking.” She looked at him, drew her face close to his, tried to see past his eyes. “No. You’re not. My God. You’re serious.” She squinched her eyes shut like a kid making a desperate wish. “No, you can’t be.”
She moved away as if repulsed, her arm came in a long fast arc and she struck him on the right side of the head with her closed fist. He saw it coming, didn’t move, didn’t avoid it. She drew back her other hand, struck him again, closed her eyes. Her body seemed to go soft, lose its strength. She whimpered, turned from him, first walked then ran away. Colin started to go after her but she stopped, spun around. “Don’t come near me. Don’t fucking come anywhere near me.”
People in the parking lot were watching, Colin saw heads come together, heard vague whispers. Catherine strode to the curb with great deliberation, waved a hand in the air. A Yellow cab veered in from the far left lane and she got in amid a chorus of horns, closed the door softly. Colin watched the cab pull away.
“She all right?” It was one of the women who’d been at the meeting. “Something wrong?”
Colin shook his head. “No. It’s OK. Just a misunderstanding. She just had to get home. She’s fine.”
He looked down the street but the taxi was gone. He smiled without conviction at the woman. “Just a misunderstanding. Really.” He thought of adding another disclaimer, was struck by the foolishness of that, smiled uneasily and walked away.

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