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Columnist
Going for gold at Million
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/9/2008 12:05 AM

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All sorts of sports are trying to squeeze into the Olympics.

Rumor has it that bocce ball is campaigning to be included but solitaire and "Guitar Hero" are acing it out.

My understanding is that softball is in now, won't be at London in 2012, and would beat someone over the head with an aluminum bat to be reinstated four years later.

The roster of Olympic sports is fluid. So if Chicago gets the 2016 Games, why not thoroughbred racing in Arlington Park?

Please, stop with the horse laughs already. I'm serious. The marriage seems natural.

You might have noticed that the 2008 Olympics began this weekend in Beijing. You might also have noticed that the Arlington Million is today in Arlington Heights.

Actually there's an even stronger relationship between the events. Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois' son Bruce has a horse in the equestrian in China.

These Olympics and this Million share timing. If eight years from now they also share location, horse racing should make a concerted stretch run at being included in the Chicago Games.

You would have an international event and an international race. Why not marry them for the couple of minutes it takes to navigate the Million?

South Africa, France, England, Ireland, Hong Kong, Dubai, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Panama and, oh yes, the United States will be represented at Arlington today in some way, shape or form - owner, trainer, jockey, homeland or headquarters.

That's with a seven-horse field after the aptly internationally named Sudan was scratched Friday. If the Million were an Olympic sport, horses would stampede over each other to get into the race. A field of 20 wouldn't be out of the question.

Heck, by 2016, a horse from Uranus might try to qualify.

Arlington already has the flags flying - international if not intergalactic - one of the prerequisites for staging an Olympic event.

(Cynics might point out that it also has as many competitors on performance enhancing drugs as the Olympics have, but I'm not going there.)

Anyway, is beach volleyball more compelling than horse racing? Maybe because of the bikinis, but that's about it.

Do the Olympics need both judo and taekwondo? Both flatwater canoe/kayak and slalom canoe/kayak? Both road cycling and track cycling?

Consider that both fencing and shooting are Olympic sports. Folks, do kids at home need to see how sharp objects and firearms can be used in competition?

My goodness, the next thing you know, poisoning and strangling will be Olympic sports.

Why would anybody watch these events? Two reasons: They're the Olympics and they're on television. Apparently that's all it takes to draw a large TV ratings, judging by recent Games.

Imagine the boost horse racing generally and the Million specifically would enjoy. It isn't any secret that racing's popularity has faded the past half-century. Olympic exposure and credibility would restore some of its appeal.

Somehow, some way, the Arlington Million should be associated with the Olympics if Chicago gets the 2016 Games.

Hey, it's either that or pinochle.

mimrem@dailyherald.com