Goodwill Games in Seattle / 10-yeear anniversary

Mark the calendar, Seattle. In a few days, we recognize the 10-year anniversary of the Goodwill Games, and whether you choose to celebrate with goose bumps or rolled eyes, you won't be out of fashion.

It was 10 years ago, in the middle of a summer in which the Mariners would finish 26 games out, that much of the amateur athletic world came to the state. Washington played host to the second Goodwill Games.

Rhythmic gymnasts unfurled their ribbons and balls in Spokane. Hockey players faced off in Tri-Cities. Track athletes actually turned Husky Stadium into stopwatch heaven. Gymnasts powered and pranced at the Tacoma Dome.

Carl Lewis was here, and so was Dan O'Brien. So were Michael Johnson, Summer Sanders, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Matt Biondi, Oscar De La Hoya, Alonzo Mourning, Toni Kukoc, Ana Quirot, Fu Mingxia and Nancy Kerrigan.

So were Jane Fonda and Ted Turner, whose Turner Broadcasting System partnered the Games. And so were some spinoff events - a well-received Goodwill Games arts festival and a human-rights conference.

For two weeks, Seattle tasted a slice of that peculiar phenomenon known to the Olympics. For most of a quadrennium, the American sporting public pays scant attention to decathlon scoring tables and triple toe loops. Then, it squints hard at the Olympic rings, just before clicking the remote control back to a discussion of what constitutes catcher's interference.

So, was it a fortnight of fluff or a glorious exhibition of glasnost a year before the Berlin Wall came crashing down? A Seattleite's response might depend on which one you talk to.

Merchants left with unsold goods might snarl. Residents who hosted Soviet visitors might remember it as the warmest summer of their lives.

To appreciate the range of opinion, just listen to sound bites on one issue from two principals, former mayor Norm Rice and the promoter who attracted the Goodwill Games, Bob Walsh.

"It wasn't an economic boon," says Rice, now CEO of a local bank.

Walsh: "They had a very good economic impact, estimated independently to be over $300 million."

A Seattle Times poll by Elway Research conducted just after the Games showed that 33 percent believed the event had a "very positive" effect and 47 percent saw "somewhat positive" results.

But when people were asked the best thing about the Games, responses varied widely, none overwhelmingly. The top responses: Exposure and publicity for the area (20 percent); personal interaction between residents and visitors (19); international goodwill and friendship (16); benefit to the local economy (13); and education about different cultures (10).

At year's end, a Times readers poll put the Games sixth in regional importance in 1990. No. 1 was weather - two doses each of heavy snows and flooding.

Here's the most shocking thing about the Goodwill Games: 10 years after Turner's network lost $44 million on them, they still exist.

Expressing the tenor of the day, a Times columnist wrote then: "Barring a Lazarus-like recovery, these will be the last Goodwill Games . . . who will want to take another bath in 1994?"

Well, jump in the tub. The Goodwill Games survived a 1994 run in St. Petersburg, Russia's perilous economic conditions, returned to New York in 1998 and even branched into a winter version at Lake Placid a few months ago. Now they go to Brisbane, Australia, next year.

Jeff Pomeroy, spokesman for the Games, says prosperity has been achieved with budget tightening and a proprietary philosophy much like ESPN has attained with its X-Games.

"The Goodwill Games is financially now under control," Pomeroy says. "In the past, it lost a lot of money. I don't believe it was managed correctly.

"In today's sports landscape, owning and operating your own sports venture has become a very attractive opportunity."

The first Goodwill Games, in Moscow in 1986, came about as a means for bringing together Soviet and American athletes, whose countries' politics had engendered boycotts of each other's Olympics in 1980 and 1984.

Walsh, the can-do entrepreneur who attracted two Final Fours and an NBA All-Star Game here in the '80s, went headlong after the Games and got them, after a connection with Turner in 1985.

"We had to convince people it was a viable thing," Walsh said. "The other TV networks were against it because of Turner. We had the IOC (International Olympic Committee) against us in the beginning.

"It was a tough four years. In the end, it came out. It wasn't the Olympics, but I think we pulled together a lot of stuff between the countries."

Walsh was aggressive. He drew the ire of University of Washington officials for volunteering their facilities before gaining their approval, and Rice remembers some nasty battles between Games organizers and the city over funding issues like security.

"We debated, we argued," Rice recalls. "It was contentious. We were trying to make sure we (the city) weren't being stuck."

On the day the opening ceremonies took place at Husky Stadium - a blistering, 94-degree Saturday that broke a heat record for the day - former president Ronald Reagan addressed a crowd numbering close to 70,000. Strangely, it did not include Rice, an omission for which Walsh later apologized.

Athletically, the Games - which also featured Cubans and Eastern Europeans - have become better with time.

Summer Sanders was a relative unknown at 17, when she upset Janet Evans in the 400 individual medley and also knocked off two other Olympic champions.

Aaron Sele was a relatively anonymous pitcher for Washington State, not the guy with an 11-3 record who appeared last week in the All-Star Game. Oscar De La Hoya was 17, still to win an Olympic gold medal and four world titles. Dan O'Brien was a Northwest decathlete with an upside, not yet the Olympic champion he would become.

"It was the meet that kind of put me over the top," Sanders recalled last week, "the first time I had won on a national level.

"For me, it was really significant - for my career, but mostly for my confidence. I'd have a tendency to get passed at the end. It was really huge for me, to tell me, `I can be tough, I can compete.' "

After her victory over Evans, Sanders remembers family and friends celebrating at Salty's on Alki, a place she has since revisited.

Sele, who can click off the American lineup in 1990, recalls the novelty of the Russians playing baseball.

"Mike Hostetler, another pitcher out of Georgia Tech, hit into the first competitive double play that Russia ever turned," Sele says, smiling at the recollection. "They got real excited about it. It was nice to see. It was like, `That's how it's supposed to work.'

"It was a really fun time. The way Seattle ran the (Games), it was really well done."

To everybody but track aficionados, Michael Johnson was obscure. Six years before he blistered the Atlanta Olympics, he ran a pedestrian 20.54 in the 200 meters.

But the feature race on the track was Leroy Burrell against the great Carl Lewis. Burrell ran 10.05 to beat Lewis (10.08) in the 100 meters.

"Before the Goodwill Games," says Burrell, now track coach at the University of Houston, "I was Leroy Burrell, a good sprinter from Houston who ran with Santa Monica (Track Club) and ran with Carl."

Suddenly, he recalls, he had a new image: " `Wow, this guy is one of the best in the world. He beat Carl in a big race.' It was really a launching pad for me. When we left Seattle and went back to Europe, people looked at me in a different light."

Burrell is almost hyperbolic in discussing Seattle's image after the Goodwill Games.

"Maybe I'm reading too much into this," Burrell says, "but I think every city has a defining moment. To a casual observer, before the Goodwill Games, Seattle was just another city up north. The way Seattle opened up to the event, and the way people came out, it was a lot like a launching pad for the city, at least in the national perspective."

Walsh takes it a step further, to an international level. His firm does business in the republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, building hotels and organizing a 2001 peace conference among the three states.

"A couple of years ago, at least, the Pacific Northwest was doing more business with the Soviets than any other part of the U.S.," Walsh said. "All because of things that happened during the event."

Those who panned the Games charged that they were oversold, both by organizers and outsiders. One real-estate consultant predicted breathlessly on a local TV station that the housing market "would never be the same" after the Goodwill Games, a forecast that proved unfounded.

Some downtown merchants complained that business was off. Yellow Cab said its fares were down 25-50 percent during the Games.

"I put that flat on the press," Walsh said. "Go back and look at the articles before the Games, and there were these traffic-watch things about how bad the traffic was going to be. There wasn't a mess. It was pretty normal."

The view of the games, then and now, is not unlike the mixed aftertaste of most Olympic cities that experience all the attendant joys and pains of hosting a massive event.

"The trouble with these kinds of exercises is we oversell them for the economic benefit," Rice says. "We don't maximize the indirect benefits, the infrastructure improvements."

Indeed, the Goodwill Games brought a pool to Federal Way that still hosts national events, and they brought a new track to Husky Stadium.

"The legacy in Atlanta (for the 1996 Olympics) is restoration of some depressed areas, the public housing and transportation improvements," Rice contends. "If you're saying, `Do people get rich?' Probably not."

It was Walsh's dream that the Goodwill Games would augur a successful bid for the Olympic Games in Seattle. But in 1998, the city council voted down support for a run at the 2012 Games.

Alas, our Olympics was the 1990 Goodwill Games. Or, if you prefer, hooray.


Names of the Games

A look at the biggest names at the Goodwill Games of 1990, held in and around Seattle:

Matt Biondi

Then - Beat Tom Jager in their 50-meter freestyle rivalry.

Later - Two relay golds at Barcelona in '92 made it 11 Olympic medals.

Now - Retired after 1992, is earning teaching certificate at Lewis and Clark College in Portland; does promotional work for Coca-Cola.

Oscar De La Hoya

Then - At 17, weighing 125 pounds, won a Goodwill Games gold medal.

Later - Angeleno won '92 Olympic gold in the lightweight division and subsequently claimed four professional titles.

Now - Just lost world welterweight title to Shane Mosley.

Fu Mingxia

Then - At 11, Chinese diver won Goodwill title in platform.

Later - Won three Olympic gold medals, including platform and springboard in 1996.

Now - Retired after '96 but has returned; two more gold medals would give her the most individual Olympic diving golds by a man or woman.

Michael Johnson

Then - Still relatively unknown, won the 200, running a slow 20.54 into a wind.

Later - In 1996, became the first man to win the 200 and 400 in the Olympics, running an unheard-of 19.32 in the shorter race.

Now - Aiming for repeat of 200-400 feat at Sydney Olympics.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Then - Won the heptathlon with 6,783 points, but quadriceps strain prevented a try at world record.

Later - Repeated her '88 Olympic championship in 1992.

Now - Retired in 1998 but has entered the Olympic Trials in the long jump.

Nancy Kerrigan

Then - Late figure-skating replacement had a bad meet, falling three times in the long program and leaving in tears.

Later - Realized forever-fame as the recipient of the January 1994 blow to her leg masterminded by rival Tonya Harding's cohorts.

Now - Skating professionally.

Carl Lewis

Then - Nipped in the 100 by Leroy Burrell, Lewis rebounded to win the long jump.

Later - Won two more Olympic long jumps, making it four in that event and nine Olympic golds, a feat accomplished by only three others regardless of sport.

Now - Doing promotional work for Nike and working on an acting career.

Dan O'Brien

Then - Obscure ex-Idaho athlete, 23, finished second to Dave Johnson in the decathlon.

Later - After notorious no-height in the '92 Olympic Trials pole vault, O'Brien rebounded to set the world record and win the Olympic title in 1996.

Now - Competing in Olympic Trials.

Summer Sanders

Then - Upset Janet Evans in the 400-meter individual medley and won two other Goodwill individual golds.

Later - Claimed two gold medals at Barcelona Olympics.

Now - Doing television work with Nickelodeon and as reporter on WNBA.

Aaron Sele

Then - Poulsbo product was a Washington State pitcher in the Goodwill Games.

Later - Won 37 games with Texas in 1998-99.

Now - Winningest Mariner pitcher, his 11-3 record netted him an All-Star berth.