The ideals of the Olympic games are certainly worthwhile: sportsmanship, athletic prowess and opportunities for people from many nations and cultures to meet [Aug. 30]. What's wrong is the goal of constantly setting new world records, on which most athletic competitions, including the Games, are based. That world-record ideology assumes that the human body is capable of infinite development, enabling specially gifted athletes to continue breaking records for all time to come. Such an expectation is the reason athletes use performance-enhancing drugs. They know they are not capable of surpassing records without resorting to such drugs. It would be much healthier to forget about world records and let athletes at each Olympic Games compete for records that would be valid only for the Games of that year. Ralferd C. Freytag
While addressing the audience at the Olympics' closing ceremonies, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, summed up perfectly: "Greek friends, you have won!" And we did win, despite all the negative, bordering-on-nasty articles in the British and American press. The Olympics are special in their own way each time they are held. The Athens Games had two tremendous difficulties to overcome: having a small country as host and occurring after 9/11. But both were surmounted. The Games were splendid, they were majestic, they were magic. We Greeks were hospitable, we were proud and, most of all, we had fun.
It was a delight to watch all the athletes participating in the Athens Games. Hats off to the authorities for making this a great event! As an Indian, however, I was embarrassed by my country's performance at these Olympics; we came home with only one medal. I hope we Indians learned something from it. That most of the celebrities involved in the Olympic-torch relay in New Delhi were not athletes is proof enough of the Indian government's attitude toward sports. There is very little promotion of any sport in India other than cricket, which does not help us win Olympic medals. Just participating in the Games is all that counts for many of us, including the Indian Sports Ministry. But as tennis great Martina Navratilova once remarked, "Whoever said, 'It's not whether you win or lose that counts,' probably lost." Winning matters, whether we like it or not.
For Plain Speaking
Joe Klein's column on John Kerry's reluctance to make statements that are controversial or negative, heeding the advice of his political consultants, was right on target [Aug. 30]. Kerry is headed for defeat because he seems to be a politician who test-markets his every utterance, whereas President George W. Bush, love him or hate him, comes across as a man who means what he says and doesn't stick his finger in the air checking to see which way the wind is blowing before he speaks.
Klein's argument that Kerry must campaign more aggressively against Bush's policies was dead on. Bush's litany of mistakes can be defined in common terms by every kindergartner in America, yet Kerry can't bring himself to call a spade a spade. Kerry has to tell us exactly what Bush has done wrong and how Kerry will do it right.
Follow the Money
The ratio of eyewitnesses who support John Kerry's Vietnam War record to those who do not can only be described as overwhelming. Yet your Notebook report "Kerry in Combat: Setting the Record Straight" [Aug. 30] allowed baseless accusations to be elevated to charges worthy of serious contemplation. Follow the money that subsidizes the calumnies of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The trail leads to well-bankrolled Republican Party operatives doing what they do best: smearing good people and lying to American voters.
Who's the fairest? Kerry didn't seem to mind too much when Michael Moore's cheesy film Fahrenheit 9/11 cast aspersions on President Bush. Most Democrats embraced the film and enjoyed the damage it caused. Now that attacks on Kerry's military record are the hot item, Kerry can't take it and has demanded that Bush call off the dogs. Maybe Kerry should show what kind of man he is by speaking out against the kind of unbalanced politicking that Moore's film represents.
Lloyd A. Marshall
What Iraqis Want
In Michael Ware's report on fighting in a rebel stronghold in the heart of Baghdad [Aug. 30], he described the insurgents as "bearing the mark of professional soldiers and sophisticated terrorist groups." Captain Thomas Foley, the American commander on the scene, said, "I don't know who it is. I really don't know what they want." What would Foley want if the circumstances were reversed? We have bombed the cities of the Iraqis, destroyed their homes and killed thousands of their family members. Apparently, our proud religiosity and self-righteous superiority have blinded us to the humanity of others and made us a nation of dimwits. What the Iraqis want is for us to get the hell out.
Lela Knox Shanks
School for Insurgency
"The Lessons of Najaf" [Aug. 30] described the flip-flops of the rebellious cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. Slowly but surely, Iraq is becoming a Shi'ite theocracy like that of Iran. There is absolutely nothing the U.S. can do about it. That change is due in part to the ever growing influence of Grand Ayatullah Ali Husaini Sistani, to whom the Iraqi government turned in order to broker an end to the rebellion in Najaf. Isn't that ironic, since it was Iran and not Iraq that sheltered al-Qaeda operatives? The so-called axis of evil will only be strengthened by the shortsighted actions of a U.S. President bent on making war.
Red Ink in the Philippines
The article "Going for Broke?," about the problems of unemployment, budget deficits and uncollected taxes in the Philippines, was a timely warning [Aug. 23]. Economists are concerned that the country will face insolvency and economic collapse unless the government reins in the widening public-sector deficit by adopting a package of revenue-producing and cost-cutting measures. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has declared that we are in the midst of a fiscal crisis. In spite of those dire conditions, our lawmakers wouldn't dream of cutting their congressional pork-barrel funds. President Arroyo, quo vadis?
Joel R. Hinlo
Las Piñas City, the Philippines
Hawaii's Hiram Leong Fong [MILESTONES, Aug. 30] had a long political career that began in 1938, when he served in the House of Representatives for the Territory of Hawaii. When Hawaii became the U.S.'s 50th state on Aug. 21, 1959, Fong won a Senate seat. TIME described his background in an Aug. 10, 1959, article:
"[Fong] will be the first person of Asian descent to sit in the upper house of Congress. A handsome, graying man, he is an independent Republican and a self-made millionaire whose immigrant father came from Kwangtung province to work in the Oahu cane fields for $12 a month. The seventh of eleven children, Fong decided as a small boy to lift himself out of poverty, worked his way through high school by selling newspapers, shining shoes and caddying ... The University of Hawaii was tough, but Hiram Fong got through in three years with honors, with a bewildering collection of side jobs that ranged from bill collector to tourist guide. After graduation, he worked for two years, borrowed $3,000 to go to Harvard Law School, went back to Hawaii in 1935 with his degree and '10¢ in my pocket.' The law firm he founded is wonderfully Hawaii—Fong, Miho, Choy & Robinson—Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Caucasian, in that order."
Setting the Record Straight
Shadowy Suspect "The Plot Thickens" [Aug. 23], about suspected terrorist Adnan el-Shukrijumah, said he was born in Guyana. He was born in Saudi Arabia, according to the Ambassador of Guyana to the U.S.