My big, fat Greek adventure

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

ATHENS, Greece – If you thought that after three weeks here I would have written all I had to write, then you'd be a new reader to the column.

So I offer up these 20 thoughts on my Olympic experience.

1. If chain-smoking was an Olympic sport, the Greeks would sweep.

2. For all the pre-Olympic hype about the facilities not being done, Athens traffic being a nightmare and the heat being oppressive, well, I guess forget all that.

The Olympics and the Greeks took a beating in the press but for the most part it was baseless.

I wouldn't say the facilities were completely done, landscaping was hardly started, dust was everywhere and construction areas remained.

But the pool didn't leak. The track was level. Everything worked for the competitions, which is really all that mattered.

Traffic was rare, mainly because many Athenians bailed on the city. And the heat was reasonable if not pleasant. It could get hot in the sun during the afternoon, but that is just summer. Nighttime weather was incredible.

3. The biggest headache was dealing with all of the shuttle buses. The buses were fine and the routes good, but the drivers were not above pulling a crowded bus over and getting out on the side of the road for a Lucky Strike.

4. You could write a sit-com on the interaction between always-impatient Japanese journalists and Greek bus drivers. One featuring the interchanges between China's men's basketball coach Del Harris and his "local" media wouldn't be bad either.

5. Easily the most pathetic part of the Games – worse even than that nutcase who stormed the marathon or the bizarre affinity Greeks have with stray dogs – was the shot put competition.

With much fanfare they held it in Olympia on the grounds of the ancient Olympic Games. It was supposed to remind everyone about the historic ideals of the Games and blah, blah, blah.

Then, in true Olympic spirit, the women's gold medal winner, Russia's Irina Korzhanenko, got busted for doping and was stripped of her medal.

6. Before the Games, when asked about security concerns, I did indeed wonder out loud whether the Greek Army could whip our Salvation Army. I stand corrected and apologize to anyone who thought I was serious.

More than 70,000 Greek troops kept the peace by flashing machine guns. It stands to reason the Salvation Army's traditional throw-a-pair-of-second-hand-pants at the terrorist approach would not have been as effective.

7. Of course, I always felt safest when I was covering the Iraqi soccer team. If al-Qaeda had done anything to those guys, every sleeper cell in Baghdad would have had a dime dropped on them by sunrise.

8. The 2008 summer games will be held in Beijing, China. There will be no security concerns for that one. None. No one messes with the Chinese. In fact, I dare them. If they think Guantanamo is no fun...

9. For the host nation, the Games will go down with mixed memories. It looked like the people had fun, but attendance was terrible, there is a sky-high bill due to pay for everything and because of all the bad publicity leading up to the Games, tourism was actually down this month.

Wherever you went waiters were bemoaning the lack of business.

Then there were three high-profile doping scandals involving Greek athletes, including the nation's most popular track star Kostas "Greece Lightning" Kenteris.

On a scale of frenzied media coverage, the scandal in Athens was treated like O.J., Monica and Scott Peterson all in one.

The word disgraced got tossed around a lot, which was amusing since I don't think anyone else in the world cared.

10. How about this for doping scandals? The only American trackster who got in trouble was John Capel, who reportedly got caught smoking dope.

11. When in doubt at a Greek restaurant just order "mixed grill." Good things happen after that.

12. The Greeks invented democracy, science, medicine, law, architecture and about a million other things about 2,500 years ago. Since then they've apparently been on break.

I am not saying Greeks are lazy, but the national motto is "Inertia."

13. If you really want to come and visit here, here's my tip. Schedule the trip for the 1st of the month. Make the reservations. Call to confirm. And then show up on say the 17th.

They might be ready for you by then.

14. The Greeks make a hell of a cup of coffee. The problem is that the largest one you can get is about five ounces. You can't get a real cup around here to save your life. You can get them back by drinking it black.

Freaks them out, like fingernails on a chalkboard.

15. It's not that I don't appreciate some of the genius of the Greeks. Consider that on a beach in Crete a vender came by selling donuts, the single greatest idea I have seen in years.

16. Dick Pound is the name of the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. I know I am supposed to be more mature than this by now, but I laughed every time I heard his name. Why wouldn't you have people call you Richard?

17. Of course Paul Hamm should have given the medal up, if only because how cheesy is it to win on a "clerical error"? But more importantly, he would have been able to cash in on a worldwide movement of goodwill that would have forever painted him as the embodiment of the Olympic ideal.

Now he is a male gymnast with an asterisk next to his name.

18. Everything here at the Olympics is in metrics, which makes things more than a bit confusing. Does lifting 100 kg qualify as good?

I subscribe to the Dave Barry theory on metrics: "as an American I believe if I learn the metric system then the terrorists have won."

19. The cable system in my room carried Al-Jazeera or at least something that looked like the controversial Arabic news channel. I never wished for sub-titles more than when they put a picture of President Bush on the screen.

One of their shows looked like a McLaughlin Group for the Arab world. Some fledgling cable news outlets – CNBC, MSNBC – ought to buy the rights from it, provide a translator and put it on for the American audience.

It might not be pretty, but it would be rating gold.

20. The Acropolis lit up at night is an amazing sight that I can't do justice.

Stare at that thing for a few minutes and you long for a five-ounce coffee and a smoke.

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