OUT OF LEFT FIELD
(Assuming We Can Con Him
Into Watching Enough Of It
To Write A Part Two)
The Olympics from Inside the Head of a Left Fielder
By STAN ISAACS
These are some of the thoughts I will be having while watching, I dare admit, only a few of the 1,250 hours of the Olympics on television this week:
I confess I will be rooting for Denmark to win the Olympics. How can Denmark possibly win the Olympics against such powers as the United States, Russia and
Germany? It relates to the adage that it isnt who has won or lost, but who is keeping score. I recall reading some time ago that Denmark claimed it won an Olympics because on the basis of medals won in relation to a countrys population, little Denmark had triumphed. So I will be rooting for Denmark to win again.
I will listen to the talk of the fear of terrorism that has forced the Greek organizers to spend a staggering $1.5 billion on security and wonder what I would do if I were Osama Bin Laden and his band of evil-doers. Would I try to disrupt the Olympics for the world-wide attention we would get or would it be shrewder to pick a soft, ordinary target knowing that we get world-wide publicity any time and anywhere we strike?
Ill be remembering the one time I visited Athens. As always on the first day in a foreign country, I took an all-city tour bus for an overall sense of the city. Afterward, walking around town by myself I came upon the stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. The stadium was only a block away from the route the all-city bus had taken, but the bus did not detour to the stadium and the guide did not dane to mention the stadium and its Olympic history. The stadium was so narrow it is hard to imagine runners making the hairpin turns. This marathon is supposed to end in the old stadium so I am guessing they will finish only on the straightaway ending at the first turn.
Most of the pre-Olympic stuff here has centered on swimmer Michael Phelps with the preposterous suggestion that he could best Mark Spitzs 1972 record of seven gold medals. I dont think hell do it but Ill be rooting for him to top Spitz because I found Spitz so unlikeable when he won those gold medals in Munich. Spitz was an artificial shell of a man, closely guarded and kept from the press because he was prone to make stupid comments. The press conference scheduled for him after he won his medals happened to occur just after the incident in which the eleven Israeli athletes were murdered. When asked how aware he and his teammates were of the hostage situation (they were located only a few hundred yards from the terrorism scene) he said, No comment. More than a few of us looked with disgust at a Jew not being able or willing to talk about the tragedy involving fellow Jews.
In the midst of the constant hype we have come to expect from American television networks, I cant help but keep thinking that the Olympics have evolved into the private preserve of millionaires and officials of third-world countries on the make. The three Ps--politics, profiteering and professionalism with a dose of another P, pharmaceutical skullduggery--mark the Olympics these days. Not that the ancient Olympics were the personification of high ideals. The ancient Greeks, wrote Australian historian Tony Perrottet, were vain and individualist, with a very narrow definition of democracy that allowed only free-born Greeks--no slaves or foreigners allowed--to compete at Olympia and forbade women even from watching. (The men competed in the nude).
Whlle not watching rhythmic dancing and synchronized swimming I will wonder what those activities have to do with the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius,--swifter, higher, stronger.
On Thursday I will be gnashing my teeth because ping pong (okay, table tennis), one of the most exciting sports to watch on television, will be in progress, but NBC will relegate it to only some eye-blinks of coverage during the afternoon.
When hearing another encomium to the glory of the Olympics I will think anew that not enough ever has been made of the fact that the Japanese fatcat who led the successful effort to land the 1998 Winter Games for his home city of Nagano made a contribution of a few million dollars to help build the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, the project dearest to then Olympic panjandrum Juan Antonio Samaranch.
While the final competition, the marathon, is paying homage to Philippides---the professional runner who allegedly ran to carry the news of a Greek victory over Persians at the 490 B.C. Battle of Marathon all the way to Athens and then dropped dead--I will be thinking of one of my favorite sports page leads of all time:
When Stylianos Kyriakides, a Greek, won the 1946 Boston Marathon, Harold Rosenthal wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, Until today he was just another Greek named Stylianos Kyriakides.
©2004 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illustrations are from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
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