August 14 - Will someone PLEASE turn on the air conditioning? Please. I beg you. Someone. Please.
It is ridiculously hot out today. Keri told me Katie said it was 108 degrees here yesterday. It might be even hotter today. You sweat the moment you walk outside. And you have to wait out there for the bus. And to walk between venues. Fortunately, all venues and events I'm working are indoors - I wouldn't survive. Its going to put a serious change into my plans, because I have no intention of sitting in the sun for any events. I have already dropped soccer from my list - neither the Greek men nor the US women are playing in Athens until the quarterfinals at the earliest, so I'm bailing on soccer. I'm not all that heartbroken about it.
Swimmers have it easiest of all competitors in this weather (and are the ones all other athletes are jealous of). And that was one of the events I paid a visit to today on the first day of competition. We had an 8:30 women's field hockey game this morning (yeeha - 5AM wake up call). The Netherlands crushed South Africa 6-2 in a game that was not pretty and more than likely will not air back home - we taped it for filler purposes if they need something. We are doing another game tonight at 6 - Australia and New Zealand in that one. After this morning's game, we all went our separate ways for the afternoon and it looks like that is going to be the plan now that things are starting up. So, I decided to wander around OAKA, although stagger is probably a better word. There wasn't much going on in these venues today. After passing by the Stadium and checking out the torch (VERY cool, by the way) I watched some swimming preliminaries (all the finals are tonight) and had a chance to watch Ian Thorpe from Australia in his heat. The real races are at night, and that is when you see the good stuff. Swimming is an outdoor venue, but the area I was sitting in was under a ledge and out of the sun, so that was good.
From there, I needed to go indoors for a little while, so I hopped into the Arena and watch some men's gymnastic qualifying. Ladies, you should have been there (actually, for the swimming, too). I'd never seen gymnastics in person, so I was really impressed with how athletic these guys are in person. Didn't see any American men, but there was a Greek gymnast who I saw bring the place down on the horizontal bar. Those were the only two events at OAKA this afternoon, so I came back to the AC in the IBC. And what a contrast. I haven't really gone into it yet, but it is cold in the IBC. Not chilly, but, in some areas, downright freezing. To the point of shivers. Its to keep all the tape machines from overheating, among other reasons, and is a necessity. Many people wear sweatshirts or jackets in some of the areas. So I was quite excited to wander into one of those areas for a few minutes to cool down. Unfortunately, it doesn't cure that perpetual feeling of having been really sweaty. And with the low humidity here, combine the dried sweat and the dry skin. It ain't a pretty combination. I hope you all enjoyed that visual as you finish your breakfast.
One other place I visited in OAKA was the Super Store. Its exactly what it sounds like - an Olympic souvenir Super Store about the size of a medium-sized supermarket. You name it (within reason) they sell it there. Don't worry, Keri, I'm not buying anything there without your expressed written permission. But if anyone out there collects anything specific that they need brought back, let me know and I'll tell you whether they sell it or not. Beware the prices, however. It ain't cheap. I bought my obligatory t-shirt already, but it was 26 euro (around $33). Fortunately, I don't need any more apparel from here (we got a small gift bag when we got here with all I need).
The Today Show set is also right in that area - its located right between the Stadium and the Store. At this point, I'm planning on heading over there on Wednesday afternoon (morning for you guys in the States). And, to put a smile on all your faces, I should be on camera at some point. I had a drink last night at the bar with a couple of the cameramen from the show and they told me to show up and they'll make sure I get on. So, set your VCRs, DVRs or TiVos for Wednesday!!!!!
Oops, I almost forgot. I have seen bits and pieces of the opening ceremonies (Keri taped them for me to watch in English when I get home). We were able to see the fireworks from the roof of our hotel, so we watched that from up there, but didn't see a whole lot on TV. I hear it was great.
I made it to Changing of the Guard at Parliament yesterday. What a spectacle that was. I took a funny picture posing next to a guard, too. Great stuff!!! I found the whole thing fascinating, though. So ornate and so theatrical, yes very, very serious. It really is quite a contrast when you think about it. I also made a trip to the top of Lycavittos Hill for some amazing scenic pictures. This is the highest point in the city of Athens and the views are breathtaking. There is also an old monastery up there. Its an wonderful spot to spend a half hour, or longer if you visit the taverna there.
Wow. That was a lot in the last 24 hours or so. We have this other game tonight at 6 (airing some time overnight on either Bravo or MSNBC, I believe). Tomorrow, we have a men's game at 8:30AM and I think that is it - the rest of the day should be free. There isn't a lot to do outside of Olympic stuff this weekend, as it's a holiday weekend here - not sure the name, but its a religious holiday. I have to check the sked of events to see where I'm headed, but it could be a great day to either check out a different venue complex, or to make it a lazy day with a dip in the pool.
Either way, I'll talk to you tomorrow. Stay cool...................and those of you in New York, stay dry.
August 15 - And on the seventh day, Athenians rested Its Sunday here in Athens and everything is closed. That is just the way it is here. Restaurants are open, but most stores are closed. The only open places are (maybe) the shops in Plaka, but those are all the touristy stops (and where I've already been.........twice).
And, on top of that, there ain't a lot going on here at OAKA, either. Some swimming, some gymnastics and that is it. I've already been to both and have plans on hitting big events at each again before they wrap up - Michael Phelps versus Ian Thorpe on Monday night in swimming and the women's all-around gymnastics Thursday night. So, I think I'm leaving the IBC and OAKA right after lunch and heading elsewhere. Not sure where, though. We've already done our game for the day, so there is no need to come back here later. That leaves other venues in the area. I'm thinking a little badminton in the afternoon and a little archery tonight, although I'm still on the fence about the badminton. Archery, though, takes place in Panathiako Stadium, which is the original Olympic Stadium. And even though its outdoors, it doesn't start until around 6:30, so it will have started cooling off. Between now and then, though, who knows? If it weren't so damn hot out (I think Zeus has decreed that the temperature go up every day until we all leave his city), I'd just wander around somewhere or even sit by the pool. Then again, the pool might no be a bad idea. The views from the roof at the hotel are stunning. And the views of the city aren't too bad, either.
By the way, as New Yorkers, we all think we have the wildest cab drivers in the world. But that just ain't the case. The drivers here are crazy. I was in a cab the other day and the driver actually picked up someone else because that person's stop was along the way. From what I understand, that is commonplace here. There are no rules for the cabbies and the think they own the road. The people here in general are a strange breed. They yell at everyone. They drive recklessly. And they don't care. I was standing on the corner waiting to cross the street. When the crossing guard let more cars go through, even though the light was red (there was a lot of traffic, so they threw the rules out), the women next to me started yelling and screaming at the cop. Of course, he just blew it off. I've seen mopeds cut off buses, cars parked on sidewalks and many other bizarre things that are out of place even in New York.
And now I'm off to find something to do. Enjoy your Sunday.
August 16 - The best laid plans of mice and Mirl I could have called this e-mail a lot of things. Adaptation came to mind. So did Changing on the Fly. A few others too. That is because, as I was warned, things can change at a moments notice. Some good, some not. Most of these were good, though.
Remember yesterday how I had no real plans? Well, I found some and had some fun. First, I looked at a schedule and saw that the US Women's Gymnastic Team had their qualifying at 1:30 in the afternoon. So, it was off to the arena. Now, I will admit there was another reason to want to go. Rumor had it Pamela Anderson was going to be in attendance, as she is the sponsor of one of the women and attends many of her competitions. Unfortunately, she wasn't there (yes, I was disappointed). The US team qualified, but looked a bit shaky in the process. Got some great pix, though, as I was sitting right in the front row next to the NBC table.
From there, I came back to the IBC and ended up attending a live show on Australian TV called "The Roy and H.G. Show". Its a very popular show Down Under during the Olympics that has fun with everything that goes on here - I believe it is their Third Olympics doing this. For an Idea of what its like, think "The Daily Show", but with two hosts. They even have special guests - yesterday's was the Crown Princess of Greece (I kid you not!!!!!). So that was two real fun things that came along.
It was VERY windy here last night, so I bailed on archery, thinking that was an event that might get cancelled in those condition (it isn't). I went up to the roof for a bit, but it was too windy to even read a magazine, so I went back to the room and watched the US Basketball Team get their asses kicked by Puerto Rico. By the way, here is the Mirl Solution to fixing that team (I refuse to ever call it the Dream Team, as that label should only apply to the original team in '92)..........next time, send over the NBA Champs from that season. To get and extra All-Star or two on there, replace the foreign players on that team with guys to make your team better. For instance, this season, you send the Detroit Pistons over - you can't tell me they wouldn't have destroyed Puerto Rico last night. And, to make the pistons better, you replace Mehmet Okur with Tim Duncan and Darko Milicic with anyone you want who will fill a need. Need a forward? Add LeBron just so you can market him here. That last part is the problem with this whole team, though. The NBA seems to be more interested in marketing than anything else with this team and they think by putting together a group of All-Stars and sending them out there is enough. I've told anyone who will listen that this team has no chance at the gold. And last night, I present Exhibit A. No outside shooter (3-24 from 3-points, with a shorter line than in the NBA). No pass-first point guard (Marbury didn't even get off the bench in the fourth quarter). No gold.
Tonight is the big event so far. Michael Phelps against Ian Thorpe in the 200 meter freestyle finals. And, just for kicks, there is a Dutch swimmer (I'm not in the mood to try and spell his name) that is the former world record holder also in the race, along with two others that have won this race recently. This one is going to be a doozy. I almost had to miss it, as there was talk that we might have to do another field hockey game tonight for some extra programming (we've already done two today), but we don't have to, so I'm off to the pool for the evening program. See, its all about being flexible. I'm here to work first, experience things later. This one worked out in my favor, but they might not all.
I think I'm going to hit an event right now. Talk to you tomorrow.
August 17 - From the Book of the Prophet Bon Jovi Oh. we're halfway there. Oh. Livin' in on a prayer. Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear. Oh, oh. Livin' on a prayer. --Livin' on a Prayer, Bon Jovi, late '80s
Yes, I have reached the halfway point of my stay in Athens. I can't say I'm heartbroken about it. This is a really long time to be away - especially so soon after our wedding. I've been here just about half of our marriage now, so the effects of being away are a little different than I would have anticipated. I'm anxious to get home and get lonely at night, but I'm here to do a job and don't let it affect me. Its when I'm away from working that it really gets to me. Everyone has their own schedule, so its tough to find people to do things with and I end up doing most things alone. But two weeks from now, I'll be home. I know Keri can't wait, either. Or the boys.
OK. Put the violins away. Time to move on. I'll be honest and say I've seen enough field hockey already. I can't get to hoops fast enough. I'm going to actually go and see a game live later today, since everything so far has been what they are calling "off-tube". We are sitting in a booth in the IBC and calling the game off the monitor. It makes things a little tedious, but that's the way it is. I would like to see a game live and in color, though, so I'm going to head to the 6:00 clash between South Africa and India. Of course, the real reason I'm going is because field hockey is in the same complex as baseball and tonight at 7:30 is the big game between Cuba and Japan, which I can't wait to see. And if I get bored here earlier, I might head down here a little early and grab some fencing first, since that is there, too. There really isn't a lot to see during the day at OAKA, so this also could be a day to hit a second outside venue, too. Maybe some beach volleyball, which isn't far from the venue I'm headed towards (there is even a shuttle between those two venues). I might also grab a little tennis here, depending on what the schedule is there and how hot it is outside.
Last night, the plans to see the big swim race hit a snag. Apparently, certain events require a ticket regardless of your credential (I have an all-access pass). Last night was one of them and they wouldn't let me in (I know at least three other people that also couldn't get in, too). I have to get the list of these events, so I know not to bother going. I've heard the 100m dash is one of them, unfortunately. Of course, I also have to find out how to get in to the basketball games I'm actually working that this applies to.
Not a whole lot else going on here. The weather has cooled down a bit, but the wind has also picked up. Its called the Meltemia winds and they are very strong. I went up to the pool last night when I got back to the hotel, but there was no one there since it was too windy to sit outside. And since I don't drink alone, it was back to the street for a stroll around the neighborhood. I did hit an event, though, yesterday afternoon and took in a little archery at Panathinaiko Stadium, which is the Olympic Stadium from 1896. This place is awesome, but really unusable for most events these days. The best part about the place, besides the architecture and shape of the stadium, is the view. You can see the Acropolis from it. I have a great picture of me standing in the stadium with the Acropolis over my shoulder. Its probably my favorite picture so far from here, since it really sums up this city in one shot.I'll definitely have that one posted on ofoto when I get home. I've taken around 250 pictures so far, but will probably cut a bunch before posting them, since some didn't come out right or are repetitive. And there are still two weeks left for more pix.
The docket over the next couple days is up in the air right now. I haven't been to the Temple of Zeus or the Hadrian Arch yet, so I might throw some sightseeing back into the mix. And I still want to see a few smaller sports - table tennis, weightlifting and water polo among them. The only thing set in stone right now is a trip to the TODAY show tomorrow (Wednesday morning). I've never watched it from the window before, so look for me in all my dorkiness waving at the camera.
PS - I just re-read this e-mail before sending it and it sounds like I'm really bummed out and down. That really is not the case. I'm having a once in a lifetime experience and am extremely happy I did this. I promise lots of fun and happiness tomorrow.
August 18 - What a difference a day makes After going back and reading my e-mail from yesterday and realizing how down I sounded (and having Keri tell me the same thing), I realized the only person that can do anything to change things is me. And while I don't have anyone new to hang out with, I certainly can find things to do to keep myself busy. So, that is what I did when I left here yesterday.
First, I headed out to grab a little sightseeing and jumped on the Metro to go to Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus. The only words for the Temple are awe inspiring. It is an amazing sight to see parts of buildings that are nearly 2000 years old still standing. The majestic columns that are still there are an incredible sight. And you can still see some of the details and inscriptions in the Arch, which is right on a main street. In fact, I was actually standing across from the Arch hailing a cab very early on in my stay here, but didn't even realize that was where I was.
After seeing some relics, I headed down south to the Helleniko Sports Complex for some events. I wanted to see a field hockey match in person since we've only seen them on TV and grabbed the first half of the Pakistan vs. Egypt contest. And while that may not sound thrilling to everyone, it actually was the most fun I'd had at an event to that point. The Pakistani fans are rabid about their team and the pitch was crazy. There were around three thousand Pakistani fans there going nuts every time their team threatened to score and when they did put the ball in the net, it was a giant party. A 5-0 Pakistani first half lead made it tons of fun to be there.
At halftime, it was time for my main event and I walked across the complex to the baseball stadium and the Cuba vs. Japan clash. Unfortunately, though, the game didn't live up to the hype, as Japan jumped out to a 5-0. Their pitcher was dominant and hadn't given up a hit into the fourth before taking a line drive right on the pitching elbow. He left the field for a few minutes, then came back out, gave up a second hit to the next batter, then didn't give up another one until the 7th inning. While I was there, I took the opportunity to wander around the stadium and sat for a couple innings with a group of raucous Japanese fans. All Japanese baseball fans are passionate, but this group was a blast - a different chant on every pitch, yelling, screaming and having a great time. Its experiences like that when I snap out of any funk and get reminded that I'm at the Olympics and this is what its really all about. That was enough for one day (maybe even two). When I got back to the hotel around 11:30, I caught the second half of the US vs. Greece hoops game and crashed.
We've had 7AM starts here every morning since Saturday, and those early mornings - which we all know I really excel at - are really wearing on me, so I know tonight won't be a late night, even though tomorrow is a little later and I don't have to be here until 9. I'm headed to the TODAY show around 2:30 local time (7:30AM in NYC) and after that, who knows. Something local, although there aren't many events going on around this area tonight. I haven't walked around the Kolonaki shopping area yet, so I might head over there for a walk and some dinner. I would love to go to Plaka again, so that is an option, too. Either way, I'm not sitting around. The only chance of that happening is if I decide to hang out at the pool (which is an option every day). Today looks like one of the nicest days we have had here in the two weeks. There is never any humidity, but today, the temperature seems reasonable and the wind has subsided. Hopefully it is bearable outside.
I hope you all had a chance to see me on the TODAY show, waving like a dork, assuming I get on camera (I'm writing this before I go, but you'll see it after its been on). I'll give you the full report tomorrow.
August 19 - An hour in the sun So I hope you got a chance to watch the Today show yesterday. Keri did and was pleasantly surprised to see me holding up sign for her behind Matt and Katie. Of course, it helped that there was a dearth of people there, so I was able to get a prime spot to stand.
It was an interesting experience. I would never think of doing something like that just for the hell of it, so a special occasion like our one month anniversary was one of the rare reasons for me to stand there like a dork. And, on top of all that, Katie yelled at me during a commercial because I wasn't wearing a hat (she then went on the air and made a general comment to everyone to do that, but got me by myself during the break first). I had forgotten it in the office and by the time I realized, was too far away to head back and get to the set in time to assure I would be there before Keri left for work. I ended up standing there for an hour, but really am not burned at all - just a bit on my forehead and on my (ever-growing) bald spot. Too bad Al wasn't there talking to people, though. That might have been fun.
Its been pretty quiet here outside of that. My extra two hours of sleep this morning disappeared last night at 9:30 when I got a call that we had a game added this morning at 8:30, so it was back to the IBC at 7AM again. Oh well. That is part of being here and being able to adapt, so it was no big deal. I didn't do much after I left here yesterday, so I was in my room and just went to sleep a little earlier than I might otherwise have. It got really hot again yesterday, so I'm not into going to any outdoor events in the afternoon. Tonight looks the same way, but these early mornings are taking their toll, so an early night isn't so bad. There is a big party at my hotel tomorrow (Friday night), so I'll definitely be going to that. And fortunately, as of now, Saturday looks like a 9AM start, which is good timing. That can all change on a moment's notice, of course. I've got to stay on my toes and not miss anything.
We did two games this morning and, as we close in on 2PM here, I'm done working for the day. I actually can't wait for the hoops schedule to kick in so I can be busy all day without having to find things to do. We are less than a week away from that.
This morning, I was approached by our research department to give a few quotes to NBC News regarding why the US hoops team is not that good (they were looking for either one of the analysts or one of the statisticians, which is why they came to me). I actually did the smart thing and took the high road on this one and declined. We all know I have very strong opinions on the topic, but could you imagine the NBA folks seeing quotes like that with my name on them? While it might have been fun, it probably wouldn't be the smartest move professionally. I wasn't even tempted to do it, which was the smart move.
Wish I had more to report from here. Things are status quo all over the place, though. Security is still tight - you have to pass through it at every hotel (if you are staying there, if not, you better be on the list to get in or you will be kept outside) and at every venue. At multiple venue locations, like OAKA, you only have to go through when you enter the complex. But there are people at the doors to the individual venues watching anyway. You don't have to go through another metal detector. Someone brought a cat onto the bus from the hotel this morning and kept it in his bag. I wonder how that showed up on the metal detector. The cat was crying the whole ride here and really made me miss the boys. It was torture. I hope they remember me when I get home and aren't mad at me for being away so long.
I'm gone. Talk to you tomorrow.
August 20 - Net sports day Subtitle: The bus to the bus to the bus to the bus.
The phone rang in my room last night at 9:30 and, once again, it was Tom with a change in our itinerary. This time, the game we were scheduled to broadcast was bumped. What did that mean for me? A day off!!!!! I immediately turned off the alarm clock and broke out the schedules for today's events. I was planning on doing an event or two today, but now, it was time to spend an entire day going to events. I woke up, with no alarm, just after 8 and hopped right on the bus to the IBC.
Every bus from the President Hotel goes right to the IBC, but you can go to any venue or venue complex from there, too. To get from the President to a venue, its a two bus ride (outside of OAKA, which is right next to the IBC). So the day was going to be spent on lots of buses. The transportation has actually been pretty good here. There are special lanes for Olympic vehicles, so traffic hasn't been a real issue. Buses are plentiful and, for the most part, stick to the printed schedules. Occasionally, there will be a delay (without any notice, of course), but, for the most part, it has been more than acceptable.
I looked at the start times for some events and opted to go to non-OAKA events today, since I'm right here and can always go to OAKA at any time. My first stop was at Goudi (not to be confused with the cheese Gouda or the German woman's field hockey player Gude) for a little badminton. And when I say a little, I mean it. It was a 30 minute stay there. The fun was in the crowd, not on the court. There was an Indonesian player who had an enormous cheering section. there was a guy with a dragon mask, a belly dancer and lots of loud, fun fans (picture of me with the dragon guy and belly dancer to be available when I get home). I watched as much as I could before running to a bus back to the IBC, followed by a sprint through the parking lot to another bus that was leaving for Galatsi and table tennis. Now, I know in some parts of the world, this is a huge thing. But as I sat there, I really had a very hard time taking this seriously. I did enjoy the fans of the Hong Kong team, but that was really it. I couldn't watch it after about 10 minutes and I caught the first bus outta there. I tried. I really did. But I had could sit and watch a table the whole time. And I couldn't take seriously any "sport" that I played in the basement. Forrest Gump be damned. I just couldn't do it. So it was back to the IBC.
From here, I'm off to complete the Net Sports tripleheader. Its another bus ride - this one to the Faliro Complex (where I'll have to take another shuttle around the complex) for some beach volleyball. This is supposed to be one of the best sports to go see, although I can't stop thinking that, just 20 years ago, this sport was nothing more than a scene from "Top Gun". Now, its in the Olympics.
There is a toga party at my hotel tonight, so its going to be a fun evening. I'm even going to make Keri proud and take a nap between beach volleyball and the party. We don't start until 9 tomorrow, so I'll be nice and rested either way. Its been great to knock a few sports off my to do list. Outside of OAKA, its just weightlifting and maybe some wrestling (the real kind). And here, it will be track and field (no 100m dash, though - tickets are needed for that one), diving, water polo and track cycling. Pretty doable for the next few days until hoops kicks in.
Have a great Friday and a great weekend. By Monday, I'll be just a week away from coming home. The smile on my face grows every day.
August 21 - Is this the Olympics or a party? I have found the venue that is undeniably the most fun to attend here at the Olympics - beach volleyball. Once you get past the whole idea of this being an Olympic sport, you can't help but sit back and just have a geat time at the venue. Rock music between points, a PA announcer making jokes, wild fans, a dance team between games, amazing views, bikinis and shirtless men (although some of the men should know better than to be shirtless) and some other gratuitous skin make this a wall to wall party. And I'm not the only one to think this. Everyone I've talked to that has gone has said the same thing. In fact, check out this story from Friday on ESPN.com............
So that was the third of the three events I hit yesterday. I also took in the toga party on the roof of the hotel, but bailed early. Marriage has changed me very quickly - I felt very old sitting up there (of course, the fact that I was easily in the top quarter age-wise might have had something to do with that, too). It wasn't really a lot of fun watching dozens of 25 year olds hitting on each other, so I had a couple beers and went to sleep. We've already done our game for the day, so its time to go hit more events. I've got a full day planned............diving when I'm done here at the IBC, cycling in the indoor velodrome at 4:30, water polo at 5:45 and weightlifting at 8:00. The first three events are all here at OAKA and are actually bunched together in the complex, so I'll hop from venue to venue and grab all the events easily.
Tomorrow is up in the air. We are supposed to do the two morning women's games, but both matchups stink at this point, while the two evening games are great, so that might get switched. We won't know until later tonight, though. I won't exactly be heartbroken if they get switched, though, because tomorrow, as of now, is my last early morning of the trip. Monday we do the evening games, and Tuesday I get switched over to hoops, which has a start time of 2:00 every day.
Today also marks the midway point of the actual Games, so the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to become visible. We all got a not today from Dick Ebersol patting us on the back to this point for doing a great job. Something like that is foreign to me after all my years at the NBA, where instead of propping up the staff during a big event, they would instead decide not to have a staff party. It really is amazing how much little things like this, regardless of whether it is mass produced for everyone or is a personal shoutout, impact the morale of a staff.
With that, I take my leave for the day. 'til tomorrow, when I'll have a full review of a bunch of events.........