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2/15/06 4:11 PM
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Oddessa
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Edited: 15-Feb-06
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WAGERING ON WINTER GAMES
 
 
By DAVID SCOTT

The planet's most prodigious sporting spectacle is something less than Olympian when it comes to betting. The problem with any Olympics is that there just isn't that much knowledge of the events.

As just about any bookmaker worth his diamond pinkie ring will tell you, people are reluctant to bet serious money on events totally unfamiliar to them.

For example, although the United States reportedly boasts one if its finest winter teams in decades, the average American sports fan would be hard-pressed to name more than two competitors on this year's squad. Get past figure skater Michelle Kwan, who at age 25 seemingly has been around since the invention of ice, and downhill racer Bode Miller, who is best known for an interview on "60 Minutes" during which he admitted skiing inebriated, and it's 10/1 that your couch potato friends can't name another US Olympian.

In fact, take away figure skating and there's even less knowledge, let alone interest, in any of the other individual sports. To that end, Nevada oddsmakers, as well as those who cater to a largely American clientele, haven't exactly been besieged by requests to accept wagers on alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsledding, cross country skiing, curling, freestyle skiing, luge, Nordic combined skiing, short track skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snow boarding or speed skating.

Ironically, figure skating owes its high profile not to the artistry and athleticism of its performers (or even the short skirts worn by the women) but rather to an act of brutality that focused world attention on the sport in 1994.

It was then, just weeks before that year's Winter Games, that henchmen representing Tonya Harding attacked Nancy Kerrigan, hoping to inflict an injury that would knock Kerrigan out of the Olympics. Though the plot failed, Nevada sports books quickly posted prices and props on what quickly became the most talked-about, most watched and, yes, most wagered event of the Olympics.

For the record, Oksana Baiul of the Ukraine took home the Gold as the 2/1 favorite, with Kerrigan second at odds of 7/2. Harding, 12/1, was off the board, although a nude wedding night video, a failed singing career, a bizarre rescue, an ill-advised attempt at boxing and an almost predictable string of domestic violence complaints have managed to keep Harding's name in the news far longer than even the 15 minutes she deserved.

 

2/15/06 4:11 PM
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Oddessa
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Edited: 15-Feb-06
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Posts: 5193
JoeyOddessa.com

Since the Kerrigan-Harding dustup, figure skating has been near the top of the Winter Olympic Games A-List of wagering priorities. That's a fact only fueled by a controversy involving judging in the pairs competition at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.

Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the Gold over Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. However, the fix was uncovered when French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne spilled the beans, or the baguette.

Bookmakers, who had paid off on the Russian team, now had to fork over cash to those who still held ducats on the Canadian duo. The cheating scandal not only led to a change in the scoring system but also assured that figure skating would preserve its fan interest and remain an entree on the Winter Olympics wagering menu for years to come.

Russians again are the ones to beat in this Olympics' men's and women's figure skating singles. Both Yevgeny Plushenko and Irina Slutskaya opened as overwhelming 1/3 favorites in their separate disciplines. U.S. champion Sasha Cohen is the 9/2 second choice to Slutskaya, while Kwan is held at odds of 15/1 to win Gold.

Unfamiliar with individual performers, most Americans watch the Winter Olympics so they can root for their country's athletes, a benign brand of nationalism that translates to a betting interest in hockey. Canada opened as the 2/1 favorite to win the Gold Medal at this year's Games. The Czech Republic, 13/5; Sweden, 5/1; Russia, 13/2; and Slovakia, 15/2; are Canada's main rivals in the 12-team field. Do you believe in miracles? Team USA is held at odds of 10/1.

Perhaps the most fun is betting on the medals count. Germany is an 8/11 favorite to win the most hardware. The United States is second at 9/5, while Norway is next at 10/3.

When it comes to just Gold neckwear, the Germans are even-money to walk away with the most 24-karat jewelry. The Norwegians are quoted at 3/2 and the United States is the third choice at 7/2.

A handful of sports books also offer "mischief" bets, in which the player may wager on positive drug tests and other such scandalous revelations.
 


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