Life in Athens: From songs about Dutch swimmers to watching wedgies
Posted: Tuesday August 17, 2004 9:26AM; Updated: Tuesday August 17, 2004 12:25PM
You've heard of swimmer's ear, but what about swimmer's wave? It's the odd way in which Olympic swimmers -- and many gymnasts -- acknowledge applause: By raising their arms to the sky, palms upward, then moving their hands about as if they're changing invisible light bulbs, or spinning invisible plates.
On the other hand, swimming has given the world Pieter van den Hoogenband, the Dutchman whose name sounds so mellifluous when sung to the tune of Camptown Racers. Try it: "Pieter van den Hoogenband, doo-dah, doo-dah. Pieter van den Hoogenband, oh-dee-doo-dah-day ..."
These are the little things you notice in down moments at the Olympics, and the Olympics have more down time than federal prison. Watch the women's road cycling on the city streets of Athens. For five delirious seconds, the peloton passes your position on Syntagma Square. But then you wait 25 stultifying minutes before it passes again. It is sport's equivalent of Halley's comet.
But then most sports -- the NFL, major league baseball, tournament Scrabble -- consist principally of inaction, punctuated by brief (if furious) bursts of activity. Most of life is like that. Let's face it: However exciting the match may be, women's beach volleyballers spend 90 percent of their time sustaining, and removing, persistent wedgies.
Then again, Olympic sportswriters spend 90 percent of their time fidgeting on hot buses -- while sustaining, and removing, their own persistent wedgies -- which is a blessing: It gives us time to write songs about Dutch swimmers, and to contemplate the meaning of life.