You! Cold war jargon! Get over here!
Sorry, arms race, but we're splitting you up. Arms, report to the wrestling venue. Race, go find bike; you're both needed at the velodrome.
Throw weight, from now on you're to be taken literally. Go directly to the hammer-and-discus cage at the Olympic Stadium—and that's a new world order.
Window of vulnerability? For the next two weeks you'll confine yourself to an upper floor of the U.S. basketball team's hotel in Barcelona. Unless Michael and the lads fall out of you, no other country has a chance in Olympic hoops.
The Games of the XXV Olympiad end a quadrennium that began before the Berlin Wall fell and apartheid started falling. Thus it may seem odd that the festivities will be touched off by an implement of war. But that weapon—a burning arrow fired by an archer to ignite the Olympic torch—will quickly immolate itself, and at that moment during the opening ceremonies on July 25, it will be hard to find a cynic in Olympic Stadium.
Chris Campbell certainly won't be one. A member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic wrestling team who fell victim to the American boycott, he quit because of a knee injury just before the '84 Olympic trials and began a career as a corporate lawyer. Three years ago, at 34, he launched a comeback. After such a long siesta, no way would he miss so grand a fiesta. Runner Francie Larrieu Smith witnessed the horrors of Munich as a 19-year-old member of the U.S. track and field team. Now that team's grande dame at 39, she has a chance to heal the child within.
Survey the scene in the stadium, and so much of it seems familiar. Carl Lewis and Sergei Bubka aren't mere athletes, nor are they anything so specific as a long jumper and a pole vaulter. They are Olympians, golden oldies we count on to come 'round every four years, as reliably as nominating conventions and February 29s. Olympians, too, are German track star Heike Drechsler, Lithuanian center Arvidas Sa-bonis and Turkish weightlifter Naim (Pocket Hercules) Suleymanoglu. (Who could have imagined that name ever tripping lightly off the tongue? Yet it does, almost.) Call them roundball mercenaries today, but eight years ago Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin were happy to take payment in gold medals for a fortnight's work. We can tell so many of these players without a scorecard—Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Teresa Edwards, Merlene Ottey, Steve Timmons, Greg Barton, Evelyn Ashford, Janet Evans.
It's the countries we need help with. On Olympic scoreboards the nations from which the competitors come are identified by three-letter abbreviations. In Barcelona there will be 172 such truncations, more than ever before. LAT (Latvia), EST (Estonia) and LIT (Lithuania) are late of the old URS (Soviet Union), whose 11 allied remnants, the Commonwealth of Independent States, will join the former Soviet republic of Georgia in competing as EUN (the Unified Team). SLO (Slovenia) and CRO (Croatia) are now proudly distinct from the rump of YUG (Yugoslavia), which is under United Nations sanctions but will compete in Barcelona under another name, most likely the Independent Team. NAM (Namibia) will field an Olympic team for the first time, and the country from which it has won independence, RSA (South Africa), is back in the good graces of the Lords of the Rings after 32 years. ALB (Albania), SEY (Seychelles), CUB (Cuba), NCA (Nicaragua), MAD (Madagascar), ETH (Ethiopia) and PRK (North Korea), all of which passed up the '88 Olympics in Seoul, have apparently decided the Games are back in their good graces. And there is ample coming together as well as coming apart: FRG (West Germany) and GDR (East Germany) are now just plain GER, and YEM reflects the unification of YAR (the capitalist Yemen Arab Republic) and YMD (the communist Yemen People's Democratic Republic).
Barcelona is a felicitous place for so many new and reconfigured nations to gather. Many of the city's residents dream of a day when CAT (Catalonia) flashes up on some Olympic scoreboard. Only 17 years ago the host city came out from under the jackboot of Francisco Franco, who until his death in 1975 tried to suppress Catalan, the region's native tongue. (Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish, and if you dare suggest that it is, Barcelonans will unhesitatingly decant a bottle of cava, the local champagne, over your head.) In fact, the most meaningful three-letter clusters of the forthcoming fortnight promise to be the Catalan words bar, cel and ona.
Ona is a wave in the sea. Cel is the sky. Bar needs no translation. All figure prominently in this proud and convivial city that, about 1,800 years ago, sent chariot racer Lucius Minicius Natalis Quadronius Verus to Olympia for the Games of the 227th ancient Olympiad. (Yes, Cool Hand Luke brought home the laurel wreath.)