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IIHF supports officiating in U.S.-Russia game

By Times wire and staff reports
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2002

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- The International Ice Hockey Federation responded angrily Saturday to Friday night's comments by Russia coach Slava Fetisov that the men's hockey tournament, through the use of NHL referees, was intentionally "designed to have finals between Canada and USA."

"You can always criticize certain calls and try to prove the referee made a mistake in certain situations," IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement. "But when a coach of a team tries to undermine and question the integrity of the Olympic ice hockey tournament, it makes me angry and disappointed.

"Everyone who has seen the Games must agree the officiating in this tournament has been of the highest possible level. ... I have known Slava Fetisov for many years and I consider him a good friend and hope that he made the comments in the heat of the moment and that he didn't really mean what he said."

Fetisov said he did not sleep Friday night, instead watching the videotape of the semifinal.

"I got video evidence of this stuff," he said after Russia beat Belarus 7-2 for the bronze. "I don't want to try to find excuses, but in a competition like that, it's supposed to be a neutral referee.

"The NHL has two referees, and then those guys who don't know the international rules, they ref by themselves and that's another problem. (The IIHF) made the agreement and we were held hostage over the situation."

The referee for Saturday's game was Sweden's Ulf Radbjer.

AMERICAN REBUTTAL: The U.S. Olympic Committee president accused Russia's top Olympic official of waging an "anti-American" crusade.

Vitaly Smirnov, an IOC executive board member, was upset by a poorer-than-expected medals showing by Russians and turned his displeasure to the host country, USOC president Sandy Baldwin said.

Baldwin said protests from countries such as South Korea and Canada over figure skating, skiing and speed skating were part of the Olympics and helped attract attention around the world.

But the Russian protests, including an aborted threat to pull out of Salt Lake City, were another matter, she said.

A visibly upset Smirnov denied Baldwin's accusation.

"It's not anti-American," he said. "No! The answer is no! She's wrong!"

Smirnov said he personally had praised American preparations and management of the Games, including telling Organizing Committee chief Mitt Romney these were among the best Games he has seen in 31 years on the IOC.

PROTEST DENIED: Apolo Anton Ohno can keep his first gold medal. An arbitration panel dismissed a South Korean protest that would have stripped the American speed skater of gold in the men's 1,500 and given it to Kim Dong-sung.

Kim was disqualified minutes after crossing the finish line first, when the race judge ruled he interfered with Ohno when the American tried to pass on the final lap.

The USOC successfully argued the South Koreans "had no basis for alleging that the field-of-play decision was arbitrary or made in bad faith."

BUYING HAPPINESS: A South Korean book and electronic sales Web site claims to have raised $3,500 to buy Kim a gold-medal replica. "Let's give Kim Dong-sung a true gold medal," was posted on the site, which claimed hundreds have contributed.

Chung Jin-wook, who runs the site, said the campaigners plan to make a replica of an Olympic medal and present it to Kim when the Korean delegation returns.

"We want to give a gold medal to a true winner of the match," Chung said. "We consider our campaign an expression of national pride and true sportsmanship."

LANGUAGE BARRIER: After winning the 50K cross-country classic, Johann Muehlegg, a German native who became a Spanish citizen in 1999 after a spat with the German ski federation, was asked by a Spanish reporter if he would like to thank anyone.

Muehlegg, who has learned enough Spanish to get by, began to answer in English before the reporter stopped him. "En Espanol," he said.

"Many thanks to the people of Spain and to the king of Spain," Muehlegg said through an interpreter.


2002 Olympics: Today's coverage
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  • IIHF supports officiating in U.S.-Russia game
  • Americans end 46-year drought
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