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The dull before the storm

It's difficult to muster any excitement for upcoming Athens Olympics

Posted: Wednesday August 4, 2004 1:11PM; Updated: Friday August 6, 2004 4:36PM
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Pardon my yawn, but I'm having some difficulty activating my pulse for the Olympics. I know, I know. I should feel much shame. The Games have returned to Athens, the hallowed birthplace of the whole shootin' works, but it feels to me like they might as well be holding them on the dark side of the moon ... or in Sydney.

Yeah, the landslide of previews and ads for "The Official Low-Carb Deodorant of the U.S. Olympic Team" are upon us, but it all seems kind of, I don't know, obligatory. And the news out of Athens is on the sleepy side. The fact they're rushing to install amenities such as seats in main venues suggests someone had to give the city a wake-up call. And never mind that Uncle Osama's nasty little glee club is lurking in the shadows, apparently you can't give tickets away to this shindig. Even athletes don't seem keen on going. A cavalcade of NBA superstars begged off. The U.S. men's soccer and baseball teams couldn't muster the gumption to qualify. Local cabbies, transit workers and hotel staff have threatened to go on strike. If all these good folks don't give a hoot owl's posterior, why should I?

Yeah, Michael Phelps is going for eight golds, but methinks the most compelling competition is going to be athletes vs. drug tests. The Olympics have sorely needed a blood-feud rivalry and a bona fide villain since the old Soviet Bloc went kaputnik. France just doesn't cut it. ...

The big bugaboo, for me at least, is that all the romance is gone. The Olympics used to be the one event in which it seemed that a pipe nipple repairman from Zanesville could train in his back yard by the light of the moon and realize his wildest dream by triumphing over some mutant product of the Soviet Machine on worldwide TV. Now just about every country sends its machine-tooled finest. The Olympics have become mere wallpaper in the rec room of life, just one more B-list pro-sports event, even if cities are still willing to engage in all kinds of squalid monkeyshines (the kickback competition is always enthralling) and spend themselves into oblivion to host them.

Curious to see if acute apathy is merely my affliction, I abused my position as senior editorial content configurator at SIKIDS.com and polled the little children who are, after all, the future. I posted the following question: Are you excited about the upcoming Olympics?

The results:

No way, dude: 48 percent.

You bet: 39 percent.

Huh, what?: 13 percent.

And a goodly number feel a new Olympic sport is needed to rekindle interest. In yet another ultra-scientific SIKIDS.com poll, the greased pig chase took 32 percent of the vote, followed (in order) by hot dog eating, thumb wrestling, hopscotch, skydiving, bungee jumping, elephant polo, stock car racing, and bog snorkeling.

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Personally, the true spirit of this multi-billion dollar clambake would be greatly enhanced by the official addition of the "International Coin Battle on the Table." My stepson reported seeing it on TV while he was in Japan: "Basically, there was a round table and each contestant had a coin from a different country. They had to flick their coins across the table to knock the other coins off without letting their coins fall in the process. The winner got some points. It was the kind of thing that seems really interesting at about midnight when there's nothing else to do."

That's exactly how I feel about the Olympics.