July 12, 2004

Athens takes on Double Secret Probation

I truly believe that people are kidding themselves if they really think that there will be no major problems at the Summer Olympics in Athens. The organizers and the government can make all the pledges they like that it will go smoothly and that everything is well in hand. Whenever I read their assurances that it's going to be just fine, however, all I can think of is the guy at the end of Animal House (a very young Kevin Bacon) trying to contain the panicked crowd with a shrill, "Remain calm. All is well!"

But when we have story after story about what has gone wrong or what went right by the slimmest of margins, and then something like this happens a month before such an enormous event, it's time to take off the rose-tinted glasses, folks.

When the XXVIII Olympiad was awarded to Greece in 1997, it was clear that it would take a massive amount of work to bring the modern Games to an ancient city. When it was discovered almost four years later that progress was almost non-existent, the IOC kicked up a fuss. But they backed off from seriously considering taking the games away from Athens, and moving them to a city that was more Games-ready, after more assurances from the Greek government and (I feel) fear of the negative press such a move would incur. The organizing committee got things moving, telling us that it was just "the Greek way" for things to get done at the last minute and that it would all work out fine. All well and good for internal ventures, but when you're inviting the world onto your island, a little more commitment is required.

Added to all of that is the heightened terrorist element the Games must now address, and I fear that Athens could wind up with more than egg on its face when all is said and done. With the current world climate, an attack has the sad potential to make the horrible events of the Munich Olympics pale in comparison.

For years I have felt like Cassandra with prophesies of gloom and doom for these Games. And I hope I'm wrong, I really do. But so far I haven't seen much to give me a great deal of hope that all is, in fact, well in Athens.