The Website of Eric Mirlis
Following are the blogs that started it all. These are the e-mails I sent home from Athens while I was at the Olympics
this past August. If you read them in date order, as they are posted over the three pages, you will get a great idea of
what my experience was like. I have linked a lot of pictures to the blogs, so click on anything that is highlighted for a
August 5 - Ode from a Grecian Mirl
Well, I have arrived in Athens. It is currently 8:20PM here on Thursday (1:20PM on the East Coast back home).We
landed here around 10AM today and got to the hotel around Noon. The President Hotel is a dump, but its apparently
really convenient and since I'm not here to spend my time in the room, it will certainly suffice. Between the time
change and the redeye flight, you can imagine I haven't had much energy to do all that much today. I basically walked
around the area of the hotel, which is in a residential neighborhood. It was pretty hot, around 93 degrees, but no
humidity, so it was probably more bearable than New York City heat......I guess what they say about it being a dry heat
This really is a different city. Narrow streets outside of the main thoroughfares, cigarette kiosks about every block or
two (I read somewhere that 44% of Athenian adults smoke and it looks like that number isn't far off), not much
English language TV (CNN World and BBC News are just about it, although I did catch a dubbed episode of Married
With Children and a couple of News Radio). And yes, there is a Starbucks on the corner just a couple blocks away. Of
course, Keri will be happy to know that there is also a Kosta Boda store across the street from the hotel.
As for tomorrow, I have no idea yet. I haven't been told where, when or who to meet with, so I'm anticipating tomorrow
being one of those days where things just happen. I plan on going to the Acropolis and a couple other sites before the
games start and it gets too crowded there (still 8 days before opening ceremonies).
And now, I must leave the internet cafe I am writing this in and head back to the hotel to get a good night sleep. I'll
send the next installment soon.
August 6 - How do you put out a Greece fire?
Wow, its hot here today. That is all I can say about that. I'm just happy its just a dry heat (this must be what its like
in Phoenix this time of year).
Well, things are underway here. Made my first trip over to the Broadcast Center and met with people from the
research department to learn about field hockey. They didn't make it sound any more interesting that I already
expected it to be, though. At least I have hoops towards the end. I think I'm finally meeting with the field hockey
producer and the rest of that crew tomorrow (I actually sat next to the BA on the plane, so that is one less person to
meet). I would expect work to really start to pick up at that point (I certainly hope so, that is). Wow. Did I just
complain that I want to work?
Woke up this morning at 4:30 (thank you jet lag) and as soon as I got word that I didn't need to do anything
substantive today - the note was waiting for me when I woke up - I decided to beat the heat and the crowds and hit
the Acropolis. All I can say is that its breathtaking. Standing among ruins that are thousands of years old is just
something that should be experienced by everyone. Right there, the trip went from work to forever memorable. Took
lots of pix, which I'll put on ofoto when I get home. Tonight I think I'm hitting a couple more places to see - Lycavittos
Hill for what is supposed to be amazing views, followed by dinner in Plaka.
I'm still looking for more English TV. Not that I'm sitting around in the room, of course, but since I know I'm not
getting my Blind Date fix, I'll take anything in English at this point. First it was the subtitled Married With Children.
Then last night after waking up from the jet lag, I found a subtitled Melrose Place. I think we can see exactly what
direction the TV tastes lean towards here. And that was confirmed when I flipped channels and found softcore porn on
a regular TV channel. On one of the music channels, I heard an American rap song that dropped about 50 f-bombs,
too. Things are definitely a little more lenient here. No problems with me on that. And the folks here love stuffed
pastries. They sell them everywhere, all day, with all kinds of different things inside (the sausage ones rock!!!!).
Well, that is all for today. Until next time..........
August 7 - Untitled
Well, as I predicted yesterday, things really ramped up here today. I was informed yesterday afternoon that a car was
coming to pick me up at 7:30 to meet the crew I'm working on at 8AM. And it is finally slowing down, now (its almost
We made a trip out to the field hockey venue, even though we aren't actually doing any games there, just to get the lay
of the land. There is a large complex of venues called the Helleniko Sports Complex that was built just across the
street from the Aegean Sea on what used to be the big International Airport here. What a gorgeous drive to get
there!!!! The tarmacs and whatever remains from the terminals have been made into the different venues for field
hockey, baseball, softball, fencing and a few other sports. The field hockey pitches are brand spanking new (the dust
actually hasn't even settled in some spots). Did you know that in field hockey, the rules state that the artificial turf
has to be wet? I didn't either until today. And we also got some Greek lessons form some of the venue folks (and
Spero Dedes, of course, who is the play by play guy I'm working with).
From there, we all headed up to the International Broadcast Center (forever called the IBC from now on). We saw our
little room to call the field hockey games from and had a few meetings to go over scheduling, etc. I won't have more
than 2 hockey games on any given day and actually have a day or two off. And most of the games I'm working on are at
8:30 AM, so it looks like there is going to be lots of free time to wander to other events. Unfortunately, I don't think
I'm going to be able to hit the Opening or Closing Ceremonies due to space and ticket restrictions (credentials are not
valid for those two events). If that is the worst thing that happens while I'm here, I'll consider it a great trip. I hit
hoops for the Quarterfinals of both tourneys, so I'll break free from the shackles of the tiny little "studio" and work
the last few days in the arena.
Last night didn't work out the way I had originally planned. I went to jump in the rooftop pool around 5:00 to cool off
and started making friends up there with other NBC folks in the hotel. The next thing I knew, it was midnight and the
bar at the pool was closed. The Ouzo went down smooth (and came back up that way, too). Tonight, maybe I'll do those
sites I was going to do last night. I'll check with some of my new friends to see what the plan is (although I'll be quite
content passing out when I get to the hotel). There is going to plenty of time before the Games start to visit some
more tourist spots.
Tomorrow brings more meetings and the start of the real in-depth field hockey prep work, so my wish for more work
has come true. I imagine my updates are going to start becoming less frequent. But I'm sure the stories, as well as
the old faces I run into, will be piling up, so I'll definitely be talking to you soon.
August 8 - The Chair of Death and Other Life Lessons
Lesson 1: When sitting at a table in the streests of Plaka, make sure there is enough room for the cars that are
driving in said street to pass without hitting you. We were at a restaurant in one of the most beautiful sections of
Athens, where most of the tavernas seat there guests in tables that are literally in the street. The restaurant we
chose was at a corner of the road. Some of the cars were a little too close to our table as the turned around the
corner. And of course, I was in the most vulnerable of the seats at the table. When I realized that one slip of the
wheel and I was done, I changed seats because I no longer wanted to sit in The Chair of Death. No one hit the table,
although someone standing in the street actually did get clipped. And another table got into a fight with a moped rider,
who took a beer bottle from the table and smashed it in the street. Apparently, though, this is just another night in
On the other hand, the views from the taverna were simply stunning. We were sitting almost immediately under the
Acropolis and it was just amazing. It was lit up beautifully and was just impossible to stop staring at. Which leads us
Lesson 2: No matter where you are going or what you are doing, under no circumstances should you leave your camera
in the room. I missed a few awesome pictures last night, although I'll just have to go back another night and take
After dinner we wanted to get a closer view of the Acroplis and took the scenic walk home. This takes us to............
Lesson 3: Find the places the locals go to. While on the scenic route, we got lost and took some wrong turns. The
Acropolis is actually surrounded by residential neighborhoods (read that statement again and think about it - Millenia
old ruins surrounded by homes). We ended up passing this tiny little alley that was lined with tavernas, so we
investigated and ended up having a drink (NO OUZO FOR ME!!!!!!!!) in this one that had live music and a table of old
ladies that took turns dancing (we couldn't figure out what kind of party it was, but felt pretty safe ruling out a
bachelorette party). This was yet another reason for Lesson 2, as this really needed to be seen to be believed.
Its been a quiet day here at the IBC. Not all that much is going on - just lots of prep work. Things will be like this for
a few days now, basically until the games start up. I started to really dive into my field hockey prep and have found
some great sites on the sport, so that has been my day for the most part. I'll be going to practices soon with Spero
and our analyst Siri Lindley (who is actually a World Champion triathlete first and is the analyst for that sport, too).
Our first game is Saturday at 8:30AM. Lots of those 8:30s for me while I'm on hockey (yes, I know, I have to actually
get up early basically every day while I'm here). Hey, that's what I've gotta do. It also means, though, that my days will
end early fairly regularly, freeing me up to go to a bunch events. Definitely no complaints from me on this - it works
out quite well.
Things are wrapping up here for the day. It will definitely be a quiet night for me. I haven't had that real solid night of
sleep yet, so I'm going for that tonight. Enjoy your Sunday, as ours is almost over.
August 10 - And you thought Friendlys were only for ice cream
Well, things are starting to pick up on a number of fronts here. Yesterday, we took in our first field hockey game. It
wasn't part of the Olympics, but actually an unscheduled "friendly" women's match between the Hockeyroos of
Australia (one of the favorites and the defending Olympic Champs) and the Black Sticks of New Zealand at the Field
Hockey Venue. And I have to tell you this was anything but friendly. We saw that first hand from our vantage point
right next to the field and next to the Australian bench. At one point, about ten feet in front of us, one of the
Australian women took what would be the ice hockey version of a slap shot right in the chest. The ball was probably
going about 70 MPH when it hit her. No padding, nothing to block the blow. With a mighty thud, this ball just
slammed into her. And she didn't even go down!!!!!!! She bent over to catch her breath, turned to the trainer who still
hadn't gotten close to her and told him to go back to the bench, and rejoined the action. We couldn't believe it. These
women are tough. From what I learned yesterday, these women are like rock stars in Australia (Keri and I will have to
investigate that first hand in a few weeks). Not bad for a sport that has never been broadcast in the States during the
Olympics. It actually looks like a fun game, too. A lot more action than I would have expected........and the men's game
apparently is even more exciting.
Another thing that has really gotten serious here is security. Hopefully for those with some fears still, this will help
alleviate them. Yesterday, when we went to the match, we first had to stop at the Marriott to pick up Spero and Siri (I
went from here with Tom Huet, our producer). I could not get into the Marriott, even with my NBC ID and with
someone who i staying there. That is now the rule at every hotel. You actually have to have a sticker on your ID that
says you are staying at that hotel. Bags are searched as you enter the hotels, as well as the IBC (the IBC has been
doing that from day one). And, there is a blimp flying over head 24 hours a day to monitor the city for anything
suspicious. As things really start to ramp up in the next couple days, even more stuff is going to be implemented. I'll
keep you up to date with that stuff, since it is some of the more essential information I can pass along.
On the fun side, that stuff is slowing down quite a bit as everyone's work load really gets going. My bigger concern on
the personal side is talking to as many Australians as possible to get some great ideas for our honeymoon. Who
better to get the scoop from than the locals, right? I actually put my name on a list to go to a taping of a very popular
Aussie TV show (I think the name is Roy and HG or something like that). They are broadcasting from here every day
when the Games start and its apparently very, very funny. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to find out.
The pin craze is really starting up, too. We can't go to the venue without being hounded for pins by the people working
there and we just got a bunch to bring over there. Of course, the tradition is to get one in return when you give one to
someone, so I could end up with some very interesting ones (and don't worry, Keri, this is not the start of a new
collection - its just a great way to meet people and have some fun while I'm here. They all fit quite nicely on our
credential holder, so its also self contained).
Today looks pretty quiet. I might head over to a couple practices. Or I might go sightseeing. I really don't have tons of
responsibility here at the IBC - just doing some research above and beyond what our research department is working
on. At the venue, its really a shmooze thing. And once the games start, it really diminishes here and gives me a lot of
time to take in other events. Aquatics, gymnastics, track and field and some others are all within walking distance of
the IBC, so I'll certainly be hitting a few of those.
Until tomorrow (hopefully)...................
August 11 - The Accidental Tourist and His Blasts from the Past
Ya soo from Athens (that means hello, of course). Or should I say kali mera (good morning).
Well, yesterday turned into a bizarre day. I guess I knew it was headed that way early on, as I ran into about a half
dozen people I hadn't seen here yet, including a couple I had been meaning to see and a couple I didn't know were
going to be here. Fortunately, none are in the "I don't want to see them" that I'm dreading - that group arrives
tomorrow, but I can't imagine I'll see them until I switch over to hoops.
My old buddy Jay Young from IDS in Jacksonville is working out of the office right next to ours, so I've got someone to
meet up for dinner on occasion that is relatively easy to find. Speaking of old friends, I ran into Barry Landers in the
hallway - he is here for NBC Radio covering swimming. We are going to get together one of these days and catch up on
our old Islander times. Al Trautwig was in the research room and startled to see me. His producer, Billy Matthews,
was just starting at NBC when I was interning there with Ack and Dara Torres (the Olympic medalist swimmer, who
not only is staying in my hotel but is also best friends with our producer, Tom Huet). I saw Al and Billy about two
minutes apart and both have invited me out to the gymnastics venue to take in the action one day. There have also
been a couple various tech people from past football crews (Kenny - finally got a chance to talk to Shawn Gerchicoff
and then ran into Jeff Morello about ten minutes later). So yesterday certainly got interesting.
Last night, I headed off on a solo trek to Plaka and basically just got lost. I wanted to see as much as I possibly could,
and there is a ton to see there. Lots of shops (most touristy, of course) and tavernas. The views of the Acropolis are
wonderful and, this time, I had my camera with me for the nighttime pictures. Hopefully, they come out really nice and
everyone will be able to see just how beautiful it is. I also did my first shopping of the trip (smile, Keri!!!!!). After
wandering for around two hours, I was ready to head back home and ended up, unknowingly but happily, in Syntagma
Square, which is the main Square in downtown Athens. This is where the Changing of the Guards is, although I just
missed a showing last night. Syntagma is a bright, open area that looks like it is going to be one of the major hubs
over the next three weeks. It borders Plaka and is walking distance from the Acropolis, so I would imagine there will
be huge crowds there. Plaka almost certainly will be packed every night once the bulk of the tourists get here.
Marketing alert: The first company owned Hard Rock in Greece opens right near Syntagma on Friday night. Brilliant
move by those folks - a gold star for whoever decided to open it that day (no, this isn't sarcasm, either).
Today is a light day. This morning, I was out at the venue and took in another friendly, this one between Australia and
Japan (1-0 win for the Aussies). Remember my story from the other day about the player from Australia who got hit in
the chest? Well, the same girl again got hit today in the same spot. She did go down for a minute this time, though,
and actually left the game. But we saw her after the game heading to the bus and she was fine. Amazing!!!!! I also
found out that Siri lives three months a year on the Gold Coast of Australia, so, Keri, we have someone to give us lots
of places to go while we are there. She is working on a list for us as we speak. I'm in the IBC now and have a little
work to do, but don't plan on being here too long tonight (the commissary is free now, so I might stay just long enough
to take advantage of a free dinner, but then I'm outta here). I'm going to do a little more sightseeing..........maybe back
to Syntagma, this time during daylight so I can get some great pictures of the Changing of the Guard. Either that or I
finally hit Lycavittos Hill.
T minus two days..................
August 12 - Mirl's World
Not a whole lot to report today, so its random thought time........................
--Everyone here seems to have hit the wall. I was looking around last night and there were a lot of long, tired faces.
And yes, I was one of them - I went back to the hotel and crashed. I guess its because we have all been here for a
week and the Games STILL haven't started yet. Our first field hockey game is less than 48 hours away, though, and
that promises to be exactly the adrenaline boost we need.
--The Games officially got underway last night with a few soccer games. No US Men's team, the women beat the
hometown Greeks 2-0 (of course, the game was actually played in Crete, but who's counting).
--Here is what working the Olympics is really all about. Yesterday, I watched a field hockey friendly, then talked with
some of the Australian women afterwards. Then, while we were back here, I learned a little about fencing from the
fencing analyst, watched a little soccer with Marcelo Balboa, who played on the US team in 3 World Cups (and was
invited to kick the ball around one day if they get a little fun game going) and learned a little about photography from
Tom Huet's brother John, who is the official photographer of the IOC. Those are the kinds of things that are supposed
to be taken away from an experience like this.
--Of course, this would all be a million times better if Keri was here. I will admit it - I'm a bit homesick. I can't wait
for our honeymoon!!!!!
--I'm trying to learn the Greek alphabet, on top of some important phrases ("Thank you" is now in my vocabulary). I try
to read the subtitles on American TV shows and look for American words and their Greek transliteration. Some of the
words are easy and some are impossible to figure out. I'm trying to read street signs and store signs in Greek, too. I
don't know what the words mean when I read them, of course.
That is really all from here. Like I said, its a bit quiet today (and VERY hot). We have a mock game today as a
rehearsal in the early afternoon - the rest of the day is wide open. Have a great day.
August 13 - FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It only took nine days following my departure, but things are actually starting tonight. Opening Ceremonies are at 8:00
and after that, the schedule changes dramatically. Nothing to do? Go to a venue. Simple as that. Within walking
distance of the IBC are a multitude of events..........swimming, diving, track and field, tennis and a bunch of others.
So, with that said, here is just a small list of things I MUST see.
--Michael Phelps swim. And maybe even Ian Thorpe. We'll see. Phelps is one of the biggest stories of the games as he
makes a run at 8 gold medals.
--Jennie Finch pitch. OK, I know. Its a looks thing. But this girl can actually pitch. Of course, if she stinks that game,
it certainly won't be difficult to watch anyway.
--Weightlifting. Yes, weightlifting. Just to see the intensity of someone trying to pick up 600 pounds.
--Cuba versus Japan in baseball. With the US team not here, this is the marquee matchup of the baseball
tournament and one of the best single events of the entire Games. These are All-Star teams from the two countries,
so there will be a ton of talent on the field, some of which just might end up in the majors. (Aug. 17, 7:30)
--The men's 100 meter dash. It might be the most overhyped event in all of sports, but it still is a spectacle. Blink and
its over - it truly is the fastest ten seconds in sports. (Aug. 22)
--Archery. More for the location than the sport. The archery tournament is taking place at Panathinaiko Stadium - the
original Olympic Stadium. I've passed it a few times and it is gorgeous. I can't wait for this one.
--The Greek men's soccer team. If they play a game in Athens (the soccer games are played all over the country), I
want to see this. We all know "football" is king in Europe, so to watch a game of the home country will be truly
special. And the fact that they are pretty good and just won the European Championship doesn't hurt, either.
--If not the Greek men's team, then the US women. Mia Hamm and company are one of the tournament favorites. And
I need a dose of patriotism.
--Slalom Canoe and Kayak. The man made course is right near the field hockey pitch. I passed by it yesterday and it is
a sight. It sort of looks like one of those rapids rides at an amusement park (and I'm probably not that far off with the
--Then there are gymnastics and diving and other sports that are on my list (I'm kind of intrigued by badminton and
--And don't forget the Today Show, which all NBC employees have been invited to come and watch. Yes, I want to be
an idiot waving in the background so everyone back home can see me.
As for the Opening Ceremonies tonight, it sounds like a plan to head up to the rooftop pool/bar at the hotel and
watch the fireworks from up there. The IBC is not the place to be after around 4 today, since its right next to the
Stadium. So its an early day here. Maybe a little sightseeing to finish that up in between (still need to go to Lycavittos
Hill and to see the Changing of the Guard and there is no excuse not to do that before the heading to the roof).
Enjoy the Ceremonies tonight. By the time I get a chance to right again, I will have worked my first field hockey game.