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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Olympics Haven't Begun Yet, and Already There is a Figure Skating Controversy

Aired January 23, 2002 - 09:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Olympics haven't even begun yet, and already there is a figure skating controversy. All right, it's not the grassy knoll, but it is a controversy. The reason? Well, take a look at the costumes and the moves. A bigtime ice skating move from an exhibit of talent or exhibitiionism. The International Skating Union is up at arms about it all, promising point reductions for what they call undignified movements.

So have these spins and lifts gone too far? Well, "Sports Illustrated" Rick Reilly weighs in this week with his column and he joins us now from Denver. Also with us Leon Hall, co-host of "E!s Fashion Emergency."

I'm sure you guys hang out all the time together. We appreciate you both.

LEON HALL, "E'S FASHION EMERGENCY": Always.

RICK REILLY, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Unfortunately, with figure skating, now they're mixed, so you have to.

COOPER: Let me start off with you, Mr. Riley. What is all the fuss about?

REILLY: It's just hilarious to me. There's a new rule with the International Figure Skating Union that if you -- I don't know how to say this on television. But they're unhappy with so many crotch shots, these pairs and ice dancing teams that come up some crazy, awful moves, and the judges are just sick of having, you know, a woman upside down doing the split, you know, for the world to see.

As one judge told me, he said, you know, "We just have crotches coming out of our faces all the time." We have a woman upside down, and she's got her crotch in his face, and then she comes up smiling with her hands up. Is that supposed to be elegant? So they're going to start taking points away from this.

And it's all based on, this is not really a sport; this is ballet on ice. And you know, to give points for this is just so ludicrous it's crazy.

COOPER: That last picture was positively gynecological. The International Skating union actually say they are recommending that judges reduce points from skaters. I know, Mr. Reilly, you have talked to some skaters, someone named Zimmerman and Ina. Are they actually going to change their routines?

REILLY: Yes, at the championships in L.A., I was there, and almost all the teams talked about moves they had to take out, and maybe rightly so, maybe not, because they were worried they were undignified. Look at this. This looks like something you might see on the Spice Channel.

HALL: It looks like Las Vegas guys. Even the costumes look like Vegas.

REILLY: Hello, this is sports; this is what I get a gold medal for.

COOPER: Let me ask you, Leon. Let me bring in here at this point. What do you see out there on the ice? People are saying even the costumes are becoming skimpier and skimpier.

HALL: I expect to see topless Olympics next. And the thing is, these are young girls, and they almost should be as pure as Doris Day and Sonya Henning (ph), and those people used to be, and all of sudden, they're dressing like Las Vegas showgirls.

COOPER: I got to you, Oxsana Bayul (ph) is no Doris day.

HALL: Not at all.

REILLY: I don't know who this Doris day is.

And nor is Tanya Harding for this matter.

HALL: Some of these girls are very voluptuous, and some have no "volupt" whatsoever going for them, and I think the ones that are really, really very voluptuous end up looking a little more provocative, far more provocative than these young girls.

COOPER: Is this what happening at society at large, though? No. I mean, younger and younger girls are becoming more and more sexualized.

HALL: Absolutely. They start at nine and 10 and 11, trying to copy people like Britney Spears, so we've introduced an element of tart to these young girls that I sometimes wish they didn't have.

REILLY: Well, it's funny, because what you are really selling in figure skating, in a weird way, is sort of the sexual innocence?

HALL: It is.

REILLY: It is, and yet they're trying to push that boundary a little, just the way "Friends" is, just the way MTV is, but since they're constantly trying to ratchet up these points, they're coming up with more and more crazy moves, and in a lot of way, they do sort of get undignified. But talking to some of the skaters, they say, like I'm more controlled than any athlete at the Olympics. I mean, did you ever see the two-men luge where two men are in body suits, laying on top of each other? How about the center hike in football? How about the crazy adjusting that goes on in baseball?

So sports has these things. It's that for some reason figure skating, with these spandex and all these spangles on their uniform make it look like some sort of blue channel.

COOPER: Leon, also it's not just the women; it's men, too, and they have pretty.

COOPER: I think the men got sexier before the women, because I remember that great guy from Canada. And you know, all of a sudden he was introducing these little shoulder shakes and fanny twitches, and the audience simply went wild. So, you know, I think there's also -- the audience responds, because every time someone does a sexy routine, the audience is on their feet. Now that may do something for the judges.

I watched the national championships last week, and I was sort of amazed at some of the costumes, a, how ugly some of them were, and then I thought if I were a judge -- I meant really, really, ugly, and then some of them sort of looked like lap dancers. And then I thought if I was a judge, how would I react to this? And then I read an article how I would react to it.

But you know, a few years ago, they were wearing all the illusion clothes. Know there's no illusions. That's real cleavage they're showing. It's not a piece of spandex. It's not a piece of sheer fabric that you're looking through; it's skin.

COOPER: Sorry, I know this is burning controversy, and we could talk about it all day. I'm surprised we didn't blow out the whole hour on it.

REILLY: We will switch over to pay-per-view now, and we'll do it there.

COOPER: Leon Hall, I would pay to see you do your sexy shoulder shimmy, again.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Thanks a lot, Mr. Reilly and Mr. Hall for being with us. We will hear more about this, and we would love to have you on later. You can both go out for a beer now together and hang out. I'm sure you will.

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