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Thursday, August 12, 2004

GREECE LIGHTNING
Not that anyone has really noticed, but the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad (aka the Olympics) begin tomorrow in the birthplace of the modern games, Athens, Greece. When the ancient city was awarded the games over a decade ago, organizers probably didn't foresee that most of the hype leading up to the opening ceremonies would be about whether or not the Velodrome would be blown up. I'm an avid sports fan, and have always enjoyed the summer games, but the only thing I can tell you about these Olympics is that the security is really high and if a terror strike doesn't mar these games, a drug scandal certainly will.

The stories out of Athens leading up to these games have been anything but positive. In addition to the terror fears, critics have been saying for months that Athens - the city and the venues - would not be ready and could prove to be a logistical mess. But organizers are assuring the public that everything is ready and safe. Despite that proclamation, these games can still be considered the "hope nothing bad happens" Games.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is bidding to host the 2012 Olympics right here in Manhattan (yeah, that's all we need), has urged city residents to travel en masse to the games in Athens to "show that we are not going to let terrorists rule our lives." A nice sentiment yes, but people who aren't multi-billionaires and don't have a private jet and don't run one of the most powerful cities in the world really don't have the means to take three weeks off, hop a flight to Greece and spectate amid the ruins in order to symbolically fight terrorism. Besides, why do we have to go all the way to Greece to look terrorism directly in the eye? Don't we do that here in Gotham every single day?

Attendees to the games need not worry about terrorism, say officials. Greek security personnel at the Games will have their eyes peeled for the real terrorists: Pepsi drinkers. Yep, spectators attempting to get through the gates while clutching a bottle of the non-sponsor beverage will be turned away. And, in addition to checking for bomb belts, chemical-spreading aerosol cans and homemade explosives, staff will be "on the lookout for T-shirts, hats and bags displaying the unwelcome logos of non-sponsors." So you see, everyone should feel perfectly safe... that is, if they were worried about being attacked by a Whopper.

Not surprisingly, due to overriding world opinion of America, athletes on the US team have been told to, uh, tone down the jingoism that has become more prominent with each Olympics. As USOC president Bill Martin said, "We're not the favorite kid in the world right now." Bearing that in mind, if you are traveling to the games, it may be wise to wear a big 'ol maple leaf on your chest, carry a Labatt's at all times and talk a lot about how they should implement hockey into the summer games.

One team who will most likely wear their nationalism proudly on their sleeves is the Iraqi athletes. For once, they can actually compete without fear of death and torture on their minds. And hey, it looks like death isn't the end-all-be-all motivator, the Iraqi soccer team already upset Portugal in the first round of Olympic competition. Now I know why we went to war in Iraq! It wasn't because of WMD or ties to al Qaeda, it was to give their soccer team a shot at Olympic gold!

All kidding aside, the Olympics are something we should all be happy to have - if only because we get to make fun of them every four years. So, if you're not going to watch to find out if US swimmer Michael Phelps can break Mark Spitz record in the Olympic Pool, or if the US basketball team can avoid making an ass out of itself, at least watch for the skimpy outfits on the women's beach volleyball team... yowza! And if that doesn't do it for you, check out this month's FHM or Playboy to get the full Olympic monty.

Enjoy the Games Everyone.
Athens Official Site
Yahoo full coverage

New York Times guide


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