Column: "The Sports Trail": Olympic crises today no problem when democracy was born

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

by David McNeal

There is already a huge crises at the Olympic summer games, to be held in Athens, Greece, this 2004 ---- It will be hot!

And the biggest complainers (so far)? Why, the swimmers. Yep, there will be no roof on the swimming pool, so they will actually have to dive and swim in the open air of a Greek summer.

Now, understand. It really does get hot there. Runs into the 90's by June. At least, that's the way I remember it from when Alice and I took a group of kids there about three years ago. It can hit 100 degrees in August, but 90's in June was plenty for me.

So what does everyone in Athens do when it gets hot? Why, they go to the beach and cool off in the amazingly blue waters of the Aegean Sea. You know, sorta like swimmers do.

So why the big fuss from these superior swimmers about no roof and a little sunshine? Tourists pay big dollars to lay on beaches in Greece and soak in the fabulous sunshine. Why are the swimmers whining?

Dollars, of course. These aquatic race horses have trained for years and expect the reward if they win gold. Not a medal ---- endorsements.

Yeah, an Olympic gold medal or top three finish can finance an athlete's career, or even retirement if they play it right. Sounds downright mercenary, doesn't it?

Well, that is Olympic tradition. From the beginning of the games, athletes got preferential treatment if they won, were revered back home, and often were "supported" by the country they represented.

Swimmers have said the heat will sap their strength and prevent them from doing their best. Read that as, "I won't be able to break a world record and earn more money."

We loved the Greek people when we toured through Athens and a number of the Greek Islands. They are friendly if you are well-mannered, and happy to see you and your dollars.

But all the building and preparations for the Olympics may not be ready when the games start, as construction projects have crawled along.

Doesn't matter to me. I'll pull on my 2004 Olympic t-shirts I bought at the market in Athens, and the Olympic pullover my daughter, Kerrie, brought me from Mikanos, and watch every televised second.

I'll rave again at the sight of the ancient ruins that spawned democracy and think again, "If this climate was good enough to produce democracy, it's good enough for our athletes."

Suck it up, swimmers. And marathon runners, too. The original Olympic athletes thrived in this wonderfully warm, dry environment. They set some records that were recorded on stone tablets that we haven't broken yet.

Crises? Maybe of the spirit ---- and heart.

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