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Wed, August 11, 2004
It's too hot even for Africans
By BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

Hendrik Mokganyetsi, the South African 400-metre national record holder, is taken to hospital after being overcome by the Athens heat and collapsing during a training session. The Australian swimming and rowing teams will skip the opening ceremony to avoid standing up to six hours in the heat.

These are athletes from countries where they are used to temperatures Canadians see only on the dials of their kitchen stoves.

Never mind winning medals, our athletes will be lucky not to come back looking like some wicked witch that Toto has dragged in after Dorothy has thrown out the wash water.

SHEEPISH GRIN

In the ancient Games, Greek athletes reportedly tried to improve performances by eating the testicles of sheep.

In other news, embarrassed hosts of the Games yesterday announced that two Greek baseball team members, Andrew Brack and Derek Nicholson, had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Shepherds are counting their flocks as we scribble. After all, everyone knows ewe can never be too careful.

TICKETS ANYONE?

What do you call an $8-billion dollar party where guests are afraid to show up? Answer: A Michael Jackson birthday bash. Or, the Athens Games. Your choice. Either way it ends in tears.

Four days before Friday's opening, and three million tickets remain unsold. Hotels, some of which raised prices by 1,000%, have seen a 73% drop in bookings from last year. Potential guests, apparently, don't like the prospect of ordering complimentary breakfasts and having their eggs scrambled tableside by their friendly kamikaze waiter named Al Qaida.

Liz Faherty, of travel firm cheapholidaydeals.co.uk, said: "Plans to cash in have backfired. People are worried about their safety." Guests don't like picking body parts out of their appetizers? Who knew?

The terrorist threat has left hotels with 6,000 empty beds and has seen owners go from greedy to panicky. Hotels asking $1,476 for a room a few weeks ago now have them listed on buzzhotel.com for $88.56 a night. Holiday Inn in Athens has lopped $1,160 a night off the $3,099 it was quoting last month. Double rooms in many Athens hotels are now about $250, a fraction of the $1,300 average price quoted several weeks ago.

Athens waits 108 years, and, when it does finally get back the Games, every time the starters' pistol goes off half the people in the stands duck. Bummer.

SPEAKING OF BOMBS

Phevos and Athena, official Olympic mascots.

My 18-month-old granddaughter can come up with better caricatures -- and we have the drawings on our fridge door to prove it.

MR. CONGENIALITY

Maurice Greene arrived in Athens yesterday and, dismissing recent losses to Jamaican rival Asafa Powell as irrelevant, reiterated his claim as the greatest sprinter in history. It was Greene who, with other members of the U.S. relay squad, celebrated victory in Sydney by wrapping themselves in the U.S. flag, preening and flexing their muscles during a victory lap, and then posturing on the medal stand.

And Americans wonder why other nationalities consider them to be about as cuddly as a gator with a toothache. Anyway, all modesty aside, retaining his Olympic crown will bolster Greene's claim. Of such predecessors as Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson, Donovan Bailey and Jim Hines, he said: "I don't think any of those people can stand up to my stats."

Not to mention, his ego.

JIBES AND JAVELINS

Not sure what is sharper, the javelin American Olympian Breaux Greer throws, or his wit. An excerpt from Greer's Road to the Olympics journal includes these:

"My roommate from Algeria checked in at 1:30 a.m. and began praying while watching porn. True story. I told him he had to pick one or the other."

And this entry: "Reese Hoffa just won a silver at the indoor world championships ... not too bad seeing how his diet consists of Twinkies and Mountain Dew."

SMART 'N' SASSY

"Games officials have accepted a donation from Durex of 130,000 condoms for athletes," Cam Hutchinson of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix writes. "I fear this could start another Trojan War."




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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