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COLUMNISTS

Sun, August 15, 2004

Getting the Olympic run around


Welcome to the Hotel California version of the Olympic Games. You can check in any time you like but you can never leave.

That's if you find your way in. And once you're in, you can't find your way out.

Greece will be a wonderful country if it ever gets its signs posted. The Olympic venues here are spectacular -- and frankly, make a Torontonian envious -- if you can negotiate your way in.

I went to diving and ended up at gymnastics. And that was after getting directions from several smiling volunteers who are extraordinarily friendly but directionally challenged.

For a person who loses his car in shopping mall parking lots, we have become test rats in a giant Olympic maze.

THIS AND THAT

The problem with some amateur athletes: They complain they don't get coverage between Olympics and then when you try to cover them at the Olympics, they complain they have to do interviews ... Canada played Chinese Taipei in softball yesterday and in baseball today. This great Canada-Chinese Taipei rivalry is heating up ... Just wondering: What is Athens going to do with two baseball stadiums, side by side, once the Games are over? ... One of the media villages for the Olympics was never built, which meant Boston Globe staff writers are staying in the maternity ward of a local hospital. Said columnist Bob Ryan: "The good thing is, there are nurses on duty, 24/7. It'll be fine as long as they don't ask us to deliver any babies." ... If Joe Torre doesn't invite Carlos Tosca to be a coach at the all-star game, the likelihood is the Blue Jays would have fired him at the break. As if Kerry Ligtenberg was his fault.

HEAR AND THERE

The best thing about Athens: Big, plush, juicy tasting tomatoes, best I've ever had ... Managing the Netherlands in baseball: Longtime big-league manager Davey Johnson. Coaching China in basketball: Longtime NBA boss Del Harris ... About that Marcus Brady trade to Hamilton: Never mind ... It hit me the other day, when news came across that legendary Detroit columnist Joe Falls had died, why I chose to do this for a living. Joe Falls took me places with his prose. He made you feel like you were sitting right there with him, smelling the popcorn, hearing the crowds, tasting the hot dogs. The best do that ... Working badminton and modern pentathlon for NBC at the Games -- Former NHL player Bill Clement ... More name dropping: Working for the Canadian water polo team here: Olympic women's hockey coach Danielle Sauvageau ... First question a New Yorker asked of a Canadian in Greece: When do we get Vince Carter? ... Too much of Athens looks like housing project low rises in South Florida ... If given the choice between Josh Phelps and J.P. Ricciardi, long term, I'm betting on Phelps.

SCENE AND HEARD

The Athens weather reminds me of an old Mickey Rivers line: "It was so hot I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking." ... Why did the Maple Leafs board of directors have to approve the contract Ed Belfour signed? Doesn't John Ferguson have a budget, and have to work within it? And if the board is involved with player signings, isn't that just slightly over the top? .... Now that Belfour has a bad back, the only Maple Leaf with Team Canada is Pat Quinn ... Of course, Brett Hull signed in Phoenix. He is an FOG --Friend of Gretzky. The Coyotes general manager, Mike Barnett, used to be Hull's agent ... Double standard from the Canadian Olympic Committee: To qualify for Athens, you had to be top 12 in your sport. To qualify for Torino, the standards will be lessened. Why? Because the COC wants to prepare its athletes for Vancouver in 2010. Clearly, the Winter Olympians are getting a break their summer friends weren't privy to ... Not recommended as a breakfast beverage: Ouzo ... According to those who have seen him lately, Canada's fastest growing sport happens to be Lennox Lewis ... In case you weren't aware the Olympic hockey tournament begins today ... Rhetorical question: Do they have official scorers in softball?

AND ANOTHER THING

The NHL's great financial fights keep getting beaten up by the arbitrator's. No one in today's financially challenged NHL deserves $7 million a year but Scott Niedermayer in New Jersey is now getting it ... Four years later, how come nobody is paying much attention to kayaker Caroline Brunet, the flag bearer in Sydney. She can win gold here ... This is when you know that some of the kids at the Olympics are still kids. When one of the Canadian water polo players is asked what she liked best about the Olympics thus far, she answered: "My cell phone." And she was being serious ... I know it was nice of Bell to provide all the Team Canada athletes with cell phones but it got to be a little much watching the opening ceremony with every athlete holding something to their ears ... Did anyone look happier marching at the opening ceremony than Ernie Whitt? ... One last Athens story: We finished dinner in a restaurant the other night and asked the waiter to call us a taxi. He came back to our table and explained he couldn't get a cab. He then pulled out his car keys and drove us home. Like that happens every day ... And hey, whatever became of Greg Joy?


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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