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COLUMNISTS

Mon, August 9, 2004

It's hit and miss-ile


They sit there, two of them, 100 feet up on the hill above his venue.

Patriot missiles.

David Ford went through security yesterday at his venue and, other than looking at his credentials, they waved him through. Two Patriot missiles loomed large above him. And security didn't.

"It's weird," says the Canadian kayak competitor who is about to participate in his fourth Olympics.

"You look up at those two Patriot missiles - ground to air Patriot missiles - and you can't help but think about it.

"Then you drive in and go through security and it's like there's no security at all. Today they didn't even look in the vehicle. One day they're really strict. The next day it's like they don't care.

"At the end of the day, it's a little bit scary. It seems a little bit hit and miss."

David Ford is just one athlete. Most, he knows, will tell you how secure they feel here.

"We're athletes. Athletes feel invincible all the time," said the Edmonton paddler. "You assume the Olympics are the safest place in the world.

"Munich was a long time ago. Today's athletes don't remember. I'm 37. I was five when Munich happened," he said of the attack on the athletes from Israel in the Athletes Village in 1972.

Entering this Olympic Village the other day, Canadians report their accreditation passes weren't even examined. Two days later the security was almost the opposite. Maybe it's just a matter of dialling it up as the Games get closer.

Still ...

Greek air force jets patrol overhead, to be joined by NATO surveillance planes. There are a total of 70,000 Greek police and military members on duty. In all the bill exceeds $2 billion Cdn. All of the expense is for a reason.

"The security is going to have to stay vigilant throughout," says Canadian IOC member Charmaine Crooks of Vancouver who, like all IOC members here, doesn't go anywhere without a personal security escort.

"So far, so good."

(It has not been previously reported, but a solid Canadian source told the Sun that a homemade bomb was discovered one mile from the Athletes Village beside a power station on Friday.)

If you can ignore the, er, insecurity, it's Athens-a-go-go. It's otherwise A-OK from the git-go.

Maybe it's like a movie with negative reviews. Your expectations are so low, you end up leaving the theatre saying, hey, that was O.K.

"It's certainly exceeding everybody's expectations," says Crooks.

"Overall, everything has been very impressive."

The XXVIII Olympic Games haven't had many rave reviews on the way to this day but they're getting them now as the birthplace of the greatest show in sports welcomes the world.

At 9 p.m. here tonight Canada will hold its flag-raising ceremony at the Olympic Village and our athletes and support staff here are beginning to believe the experience, against all odds, could be exceptional.

Then again, one security screw-up, and it could, if you'll excuse the expression, all blow up.

"I'm thrilled it seems to be all coming together," says chef de mission David Bedford.

Ford is as good a spokesman for the entire scene as anybody who will compete for Canada at these Games.

"I've been here for three months since Christmas," he says. "I spent a week here in February, three weeks in April and all of June.

"In February, I didn't think they stood a chance. In April, I thought they were still in trouble. What has transpired here since April is incredible.

"A year ago people were saying these Olympics were going to be a write-off. There was every reason to believe that was going to be true. Now it's about to begin and I believe the enthusiasm is going to be so great it will make them one of the best ever.

"The Greeks have worked really hard to pull this off but there's an energy here now and I think a mindset that now is the time to rise to the occasion."

Just as long as those Patriot missiles don't come into play, the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad may end up being the surprise success story of all time.

Otherwise it'll be "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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