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Let the Olympic (mind) games begin

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Workers in Beijing install one of the countless billboards - that are promoting different Olympic sports for 2008.
  • Workers in Beijing install one of the countless billboards that are promoting different Olympic sports for 2008.

Contrary to recent rumors, the U.S. Olympic Committee hasn't brought Lou Holtz out of retirement to serve as in-house psychologist for the buildup to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

It just seems that way.

In truth, as China begins its countdown for the final year before the Olympics begin on Aug. 8, 2008, at precisely eight seconds past 8:08 p.m. Beijing time (no kidding), the games already have begun.

And the USOC's early strategy definitely is reminiscent of Holtz, who spent most of his remarkable college football coaching career making every upcoming opponent sound like possible national champions.

Holtz always was at his bombastic best when Notre Dame was preparing to face Air Force. He pulled out every statistic and superlative in the book to describe the Falcons as being incredible, unflappable and unstoppable. Then, more often than not, his physically superior Irish teams simply would line up and methodically wear down Air Force.

Now working as an ESPN analyst, Holtz would be proud of how USOC officials are approaching the upcoming Olympics.

The strategy, starting with USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth and including the Colorado Springs headquarters with chief executive officer Jim Scherr, is to build up the host Chinese as being practically invincible. Certainly, it's no secret that winning the medals race for gold medals in particular, but also the most overall has been China's obsession since being awarded the 2008 Summer Games.

Three years ago in Athens, Greece, the United States edged China for the most golds, 36-32. As for total medals, U.S. athletes won 102 to 92 for Russia and 63 for third-place China.

Obviously, the gold-medal battle has to be China's first priority, and its tactic has been to focus heavily on sports with multiple medal events (diving, shooting, weightlifting, etc.). But a host nation has the advantage of being able to enter every event in every sport, team and individual, which gives the Chinese a chance to make a leap in total medals. If they show improvement in swimming and track and field, they'll also likely take away medals from the U.S. and Russia.

Yet, as longtime Olympics writer Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune already has calculated, in the most recent world championships for track and swimming, the U.S. totaled 61 medals to China's three.

Those sports don't have quite as many medal events at the Olympics, but still, that would be a tough spread for even Lou Holtz to sugarcoat.

Bronco thoughts: As Denver heads into its preseason opener on Monday, Aug. 13, at San Francisco against the 49ers (6 p.m., ESPN), Bronco Nation already has a No. 1 concern to follow. That would be linebackers, especially outside linebackers.

With D.J. Williams moving inside to replace the departed and revered Al Wilson, that leaves Ian Gold at one of the 4-3 defense's outside spots. The other side was to be a battle of free-agent pickups. But Eddie Moore failed his pre-camp physical and was released. Nobody fretted too much until Warrick Holdman went down last week with an injury called a spinal-cord concussion.

Given that, the starter opposite Gold now is Louis Green, and you have to be more than a diehard to be familiar with his three seasons at Denver. He has never started an NFL game, and has made exactly one defensive tackle (more on special teams) at the pro level.

Unless Holdman makes a remarkably quick recovery, the Broncos are heading into the season dangerously thin and vulnerable at linebacker. Don't be surprised if they watch the waiver wire for veterans being cut by other teams, even at the end of preseason.

Bits and pieces: The folks at Comcast need to get their act together on cable TV baseball games, especially if Colorado stays in the playoff hunt. Sunday, with the Rockies finishing their series in Atlanta, WTBS' national telecast of the game was blacked out supposedly because FOX Sports was showing the Rockies-Braves here. Yet, in Colorado Springs, FOX Sports didn't carry that game, so local viewers were shut out. No excuse for that.

Congratulations to Richard Quincy, Colorado College athletic trainer for 16 years, leaving to become medical director for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in Park City, Utah. It's a huge loss to CC, in particular the hockey program. Quincy had handled the Tigers' travel details for years, and he also was CC's director of academic enhancement for all sports.

routon@csindy.com

SPORTS SHOT

Popping pads
Preseason practice for Colorado high school football starts Monday, Aug. 13, with full contact allowed as of Aug. 16. First games begin Aug. 30.

See the headline?
Major-league umpires union refuses to allow background checks after recent NBA gambling revelations.

Coming up
Taekwondo's Olympic Trials for the U.S. team, men and women, run Aug. 23-24 at the Olympic Training Center.

Hard to believe
Oakland Raiders haven't signed top draftee JaMarcus Russell, so their QB to start the season might be Daunte Culpepper. They're at Denver on Sept. 16.

Worth watching
Five nights of Rockies on the road, at San Diego (Aug. 14-16) and Los Angeles (Aug. 17-18), all at 8 p.m. except 8:30 on Aug. 17, FOX Sports.

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