April 29, 2004

Slower, Lower, Weaker?

Swifter, Higher, Stronger. Ah, the Olympic motto, which strives to capture all that is admirable and worthwhile about the Games. A good friend of mine is a huge fan of all things Olympic. We were recently discussing by e-mail the state of the impending Games in Athens -- which, I'm afraid are not shaping up to meet the lofty motto thus far -- and, with all the articles I've seen on the subject recently, I decided to turn my reply to his e-mail into a post. E is he. :-)

E: Looks like all the major stuff will get done JUST within time. A lot of the extras won't be done. I would expect there to be some problems because they won't have any time to fix anything that might not be right...No roof over the swimming pool or stadium. So what? Outdoor sports don't need no stinkin' roof!...The marathon route may not be landscaped as planned.

That's pretty much what I've heard, the latest being that there will be...might be...should be...could be a stadium roof. Woo-hoo! (I should point out that we have always disagreed about the need for roofs on outdoor venues and this is part of a bigger, very long and determined, overarching and ongoing argument about the nature of The Sport vs. The Fan. Sounds almost intellectual when I put it that way, doesn't it, E?) The most comprehensive article I've read is this one, since it really hits all the points of concern in my opinion. I truly think the IOC should have taken the games away from them when it was clear that the worst was coming to pass, due to massive corruption, huge cost overruns and cultural proclivities, and it wasn't too late. I fear that the description of "razor-thin" deadlines in that last article is scarily accurate. The other cities hosting the Olympics in the modern era have managed to get their preparations ready in time, and usually with enough time to have the test events that they're supposed to have. I just hope some hastily built structure doesn't collapse and cause a disaster.

E: A major item is a transit line that may not get finished. But, as long as the athletes can get around that's all that really matters in the end.

I must respectfully disagree. Considering that people pay dearly to get to go to the Games -- and without them and their tourist dollars and euros this thing doesn't happen -- I don't agree that it's only important for the athletes to get where they're going. This shouldn't even be an issue! The roads in and around Athens, and a fragile transportation system, have been a concern from the start and addressing them should have been one of their highest priorities. I hope if something does go terribly wrong -- apart from terrorism because I do believe that they're doing all that can be done there, even if it took them a long time to ask for help -- that the selection committee gets a major shake-up and learns a valuable lesson. Nostalgia, sentiment and history should not have played a role in selecting them as a city when there were strong indications that these very circumstances could come to pass and that the infrastructure of the city just might not be able to handle it all.

I have nothing against Greece -- it's not that I think they didn't deserve to get the Games, the way I don't believe that Beijing should have been awarded them -- but Samaranch should have stuck to his guns and his initial declarations and revoked their status when they didn't meet the first couple of important deadlines. I find it highly interesting that the people of Athens, who were portrayed as desperately wanting to bring the games back to its place of birth and were just crushed when they didn't get the 2000 Games, are mostly planning on fleeing the city and are bitching about the Games -- a once-in-a-lifetime event for them -- possibly disturbing their vacations. I think they should be a little less concerned about missing or delaying their holidays this one time and a whole lot more concerned about the state of their septic system, so they don't come home from their month-long vacations to find their city floating in crap and toilet paper!

But, hey, let's forget about all that and start looking forward to the sterling quality of NBC's coverage of the Games and how many "human-interest" stories we'll get to see about sweet little gymnasts and other adorable or deserving athletes, 95% of whom will be American, instead of actual events! (That sound you hear is me opening another can of worms, labeled "Bone of Contention." It would seem that I am a glutton for punishment.) Let the Games begin!