February 10, 2002 11:00 pm

Its great to have the Winter Olympics practically in our own backyard. Athletes from 77 nations have converged on Salt Lake City, just 500 miles from Northeast Oregon. America stands ready for another miracle on ice as was performed when the U.S. hockey team beat the U.S.S.R. in 1980 at Lake Placid, N.Y. And after the Sept. 11 attacks, a miracle would be appreciated.

The 17-day Olympics show with apologies to the Barnum & Bailey Circus is the greatest on earth. The 2002 Winter Games kicked off Friday with opening ceremonies. But there are a couple bones to pick with these Olympics: delayed telecasts and lip syncing.

First, lets discuss delayed telecasts. The Boise station, KTVB Channel 7, to its credit, is showing Olympic evening coverage live. The Portland station, KGW Channel 8, to its shame, is carrying the Olympics tape-delayed in the evenings and most afternoons. The not-so-great 8, however, will show the Olympics live on weekend afternoons.

Now lets discuss lip syncing. When Milli Vanilli lip-synced a whole concert tour using the voices of other performers, we hoped wed seen the last of such practices. But no. Don Mischner, executive producer of the Olympics opening ceremonies, decided to go with lip syncing during Fridays show because a year ago on Feb. 8 a blizzard blanketed Salt Lake City with 6 inches of snow. Mischner feared wind, not the talented human cast, would be the star of the show. Its a sad day when such an outstanding, world-renowned group such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has to lip-sync the national anthem.

How about a new Olympic event? The best lip-synced, tape-delayed pairs ice skating performed by Channel 8 news executives. Can anyone say crash and burn?


La Grande High School got a dose of good news last week when the Oregon School Activities Association decided to split the Class 3A/2A/1A soccer playoffs into Class 3A and Class 2A/1A divisions starting next school year. The move takes perennial power Catlin Gabel, a Class 2A school that has built one of the most successful soccer programs in the state, out of the 3A division.

Catlin Gabel, a private school, has been able to draw some of the states best soccer players to its beautiful southwest Portland campus. The school won or shared seven of the first eight Class 3A/2A/1A boys titles. Class 3A teams have managed to win the last six titles. In the girls ranks, the school has won nine of 10 Class 3A/2A/1A championships.

The move will give teams like La Grande, which has developed a strong soccer program despite not having the wherewithal to recruit players, a better chance at winning a title. But pity the 36 other Class 2A/1A teams that will have to compete with Gabel.