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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

We'll Stage the Games, You Lend Us the Cash

"The longest journey," wrote Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse, "begins with a single step." He didn't add, but could have, that if you trip and fall flat on your face with that first step, you might consider just cutting your losses and settling down in front of the television instead.

St. Petersburg officials would do well to heed that little pseudo- philosophical corollary after a week of bad omens cast a pall on their efforts to win the 2004 Olympic Games. Not only did the Atlanta Constitution report that St. Petersburg was making a weak showing among the 11 contenders for the Games, but after city Governor Vladimir Yakovlev had already taken a delegation to Atlanta to schmooze International Olympic Committee officials, heated squabbling then began back home about who was paying for the trip. Yakovlev had decreed that the specially organized Bidding Committee-2004 should pay, but the committee claims to be not only broke, but deep in debt. And the city can't pay -- theoretically, anyway -- as Yakovlev promised that no city funds would be used for the bidding process.

So, let's get this straight: St. Petersburg officials are having trouble coordinating and paying for a five-day trip to Atlanta, with the city's bigwigs all looking at each other and saying, "I thought you were gonna take care of that." And this in an effort to convince IOC officials that they are ready and able to prepare this elegantly decaying city for the logistical nightmares of a modern-day Olympics. One can just imagine Yakovlev's pitch to an IOC official at some Atlanta cocktail party: "Sure, we'll be ready -- we're gonna build new sports stadiums, highways, a new airport. No problem. [Pause]. Say, can you lend me a few bucks for a cab back to the hotel?"

Last summer, Communist deputy Yury Ferentyev was quoted as suggesting that the money spent on trying to bring the Olympics to St. Petersburg should be spent instead on the development of sport and leisure facilities for ordinary citizens. Fair enough. Now, just for a lark, let's combine this notion with the concerns raised by media fixture Jesse Jackson on his recent Olympics-related tour of Indonesia, where he made the point that local workers making Reebok shoes are paid so little they can't even afford a television to watch the Games (of which Reebok is a major sponsor).

See where this is headed? It's all so simple, once you've figured it out: St. Petersburg could just spend all the money earmarked for this doomed Olympic pipe dream on television sets for city residents! Then Petersburgers could watch the 2004 Games in the comfort of their own homes, sipping tea and marveling at the clear-headed realism of city leaders. Televisions for the masses! To each according to need! It could be the unifying post-post-Communist credo that Russia's been searching for ...