Posted: Sunday August 29, 2004 2:31PM; Updated: Sunday August 29, 2004 2:31PM
We asked the Sports Illustrated writers who covered the XXVIII Olympiad to leave us with their indelible memory of the Games.
What will I remember of Athens?
The taste of the Greek salads and Mythos beer from Eat at Milton's in the Plaka, however belatedly and/or begrudgingly served.
The quiet on the road outside the OAKA Olympic Complex in the 90 minutes before the conclusion of the Opening Ceremonies, when all public transportation was suspended and those of us who had had the hubris to leave the stadium early to beat the crowds were reduced to throwing ourselves in front of speeding, uncooperative taxis and running after stray buses heading in any direction.
The sound of the female Romanian journalist/fan, who would scream -- encouragingly, believe it or not -- just as the Romanian male gymnasts were trying to stick their landings in the high bar of the team competition. (My colleague Ed Swift would describe it as "the sound I'd make if someone was stabbing me in the liver with a fork.")
The look on Michael Phelps' face as teammate Klete Keller held off a surging Ian Thorpe on the final leg of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. After days of maintaining superhuman composure in his quest to win eight medals, Phelps finally lost it when the U.S. won that relay, shooting his arms into the air and screaming. (A very different scream from the Romanian journalist's, I might add.)
The feel of the water in the Olympic pool in the high-noon heat of last day of the swimming competition. Under the guise of helping SI photographer Heinz Kluetmeier adjust some underwater camera housings hours before the night's finals, I took a few laps in Lane 4, the lane Phelps virtually owned during the competition. I wasn't worthy, but I didn't care.
There were no cheering crowds, no national anthems, no medal ceremonies, no mixed zones. There were only a few volunteers around to witness my breach of hallowed territory. It was about 105 degrees out and the pool was perfectly, deliciously cool, just as I expected it would be.
What was the biggest stage in the world for Phelps became for me, for a few moments, the best retreat in Athens.