Before the bombing, when the greatest misfortune of these Games looked to be nothing more sinister than their blinkered lack of international character, I found myself in a polyglot gathering of seven postmidnight revelers—two Spaniards, an Australian, a German, a Serb, a Swiss and me—in that cheesiest of American places, a sports bar. One of the Spaniards spied Prince Felipe of Spain at a nearby table. The Aussie in our midst took this sighting as a dare. Cadging pen and paper from a waitress, he scrawled out a "Dear Felipe" note, informing the heir to the Spanish throne that two of his subjects were in the house and wanted to challenge him to a game of Pop-a-Shot basketball. Then the Aussie got up, marched over to the prince's table and handed him the invitation.
Moments later the 28-year-old pride of the House of Borbón, wearing jeans and a look of world-weary duty, stood before us. Felipe's athletic ability is highly specialized—he competed in yachting at Barcelona four years ago and our contestant, Marcos from Madrid, beat him easily enough to underscore that fact. But afterward Felipe good-naturedly posed for pictures.
Pop-a-Shot is not likely to be added to the Olympics anytime soon. But here Atlanta wrenched me for a few minutes from the unsatisfying Olympics she was staging. In an episode that at once harkened back to the Old World enchantment of Barcelona and peeked forward at the fun awaiting in Sydney, I came out from a dense forest of Peachtrees and into a clearing, from which I could again see the vistas of a world out there.