Arts Are Alive At Nagano

Ok, I admit that at first I thought it a stretch to put sports stories in a section on arts and leisure. After all, what do the Green Bay Packers have in common with Robert Duvall? Or basketball with regional theater? But since the winter Olympics began, my skepticism has melted away.

For sheer entertainment value, the Games can't be beat. Not even the handsome Leonardo DiCaprio or the humorous Robin Williams on the big screen can compete with these magnificent athletes on my little TV. Their performances are simply riveting.

The Sporting Scene said it best: "Olympic Puppy Love Strikes Again." For two weeks, we become completely infatuated, and all other forms of entertainment exit stage left - with the exception this week of a brief intermission for Oscar nominations.

There's even a high-art element in attendance at Nagano. Not just the glorious performance of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" by Boston Symphony conductor Seiji Ozawa and his five choruses on five continents. Or the exquisite artistry displayed by those figure skaters. But beauty, grace, and drama are also present on the speed-skating rink, the ski slope, and the luge course.

Those sumo wrestlers are a different story. With the exception of their flowing silk aprons, beauty isn't a word I'd use to describe them. But they certainly offer a fascinating glimpse of Japanese tradition. And perhaps they're not supposed to be beautiful, but powerful and reverential.

A spectacular Olympic performance like Dutch speed-skater Gianni Romme's or French snowboarder Karine Ruby's can inspire the same sense of awe that one feels when admiring a great work of art.

I'm now convinced that sports and the arts aren't always from Mars and Venus. In fact, they often inhabit the same planet, the same venues, and touch many of the same sensibilities.

* Comments? Write to Arts & Leisure editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail wolcott@csmonitor.com

And remember that we're still eager to hear from you regarding your favorite artists. So far we have votes for Joan Mir, Grant Wood, Picasso, and others. We will publish your responses in a future section.

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