By: Rachel Marsden

As the 2002 Olympic Winter Games begin this week, figure skating officials and television network executives are warning athletes to keep the ice-melting raunch factor to a minimum. Quite frankly, I think it's the officials and the execs that need to chill out.

Apparently, the fear stems from past routines that have included spread eagle "gyno-poses" performed in skimpy outfits, and controversial hand placements during lifts in pairs skating. Officials fear that skaters are on a mission to sex up their costumes and routines in an attempt to sway the judges and gain attention.

We live in a world where US soccer player Brandi Chastain landed magazine covers and garnered media attention galore when she ripped off her top after her winning goal at the World Cup. Russian pinup girl Anna Kournikova has made a career off endorsements when she hasn't won a single tennis tournament. Given this climate, it would be easy to see why an athlete might want to sex up his or her image with the hope of gaining an edge on the competition--either in the contest itself, or in the endorsement department.

The bottom line is that officials and the network brass need to relax, and realize that fully clothed figure skaters acting out in an on-ice performance are not going to turn the Olympic event into prime-time porn. I doubt that there are going to be any randy, horny viewers trading in their porn tapes for Olympic figure skating over the next few weeks, with the hope of catching a glimpse of some exciting action. I've seen far skimpier outfits in Olympic sports such as swimming and synchronized swimming. With all the inverted splits involved in the latter, it could easily be similarly labeled an underwater peep show, but no such concern has been raised.

So what if a particular move in a pairs skating routine results in an unfortunate hand slip that raises viewers' eyebrows? As a former national-level competitive swimmer, I recall an unfortunate incident where a fellow female athlete swam an entire backstroke race while naked from the waist down because she had forgotten to tie up her two-piece swimsuit. Revealing? Definitely. And more so than any possible skating routine. Sexy or pornographic? Give me a break.

If top skating judges are allowing themselves to be that easily swayed by "sexy" costumes and poses instead of focusing on the athleticism and artistic value of the performance, then the athletes sure aren't the ones who need to be put on ice.