My friend Pete Avgoustits has been in Greece for the past few weeks visiting his parents and attending the Olympics. Since I’ze got nothing tonight, I thought I’d share some snippets from an email he sent me. A LONG ASS email he sent me. So bear with me and give it a read. There’s some amazing tidbits and Pete was even on TV himself a few times:
“Opening Ceremonies were amazing as I’m sure most of you saw them on TV, and because we were inside the stadium, the only thing we didn’t get to see better than you was the fireworks at the end. The place errupted in a standing ovation frenzy a few times, but most memorable was when the Greek President officially welcomed home the Games (returning to their origin). We sat with a lot of Canadians and met a lot of great folks that night. Despite rumours, half the stadium did not get my business card. However ironically, my cousin George & I met the members of the 2008 Beijing Organizing Committee. (already planning our next summer games….who’s in? :>) All in all that night was simply a once in a lifetime opportunity that everyone there will remember. Oh yeah, watching the countries parade their athlete’s in the Greek alphabet was hilarious, I can just image when everyone back home saw Canada spelt with a “K” enter later on. Hey, it is their games after all.
A lot of you have asked about security, so here is my take on it:
We arrived about 4 hours earlier do to the high security surrounding the event. Dubbed by the left leaning media, the NATOlympics, I’m not sure if you guys could tell or not on TV, but I have never seen such a huge security operation in my life. That stadium was the safest place on the planet that night. Nothing and I mean nothing could have penetrated it. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and had do go through 6 yes 6 diffrent security checkpoints. We couldn’t tell how many, but later confirmed that there where some 4 armed Apache style helicopters hovering above, in addition to the 2 blimps (Zepplins as they call them here) + 2 – F16 Fighter Jets circuling above during the 4 hour event. All venues have been deemed no-fly zones, and on that night, nothing but military aircraft was there. All arterial roads leading into or around the main Olympic complexes, Atheletes Village, or port areas were sealed off and restricted to public transit vehicles (thanks to the bleeding heart environmentalist at the IOC, these games are only accessible by transit or foot and I have a lot to say about that later). Other than the people going to or coming from the event, Athens that night seemed like a ghost town until about 2:00am when security subsided. We started to walk back towards my parents place (we didn’t want to wait for the massive lines using the transit) and I sat down along the road and within 30 seconds or so, a police cruiser showed up and told me to move immediatley, minutes later, a convoy (lead by armed military jeeps) started to escort out the Althetes buses. Despite the massive security, it was very well organized and controlled. All the events we have attended since, have had less security (normal levels) and have been safe.
Yes, from the dozens of emails, cousin George did sing “Take me out to the ball game” in Greek at the Greek Vs. NED baseball game on CBC and yes, I was also on CBC singing it in English and yes, you saw me walking with the school trip kids from Windsor Ontario waving the flag entering the stadium for the Canada Vs. Greece game. And yes again, I gave an opinion on NBC’s Today show regarding the chances of the US Basketball team before there match up against Greece. Yes also to those who saw my clip on CNN concerning the doping scandles of the 2 Greek athletes that too was me while standing in line to buy tickets. (I had a feeling bringing up memories of Ben Johnson and the 88′ Olympics would get air time).
Thank goodness Toronto didn’t win the 2008 Olympics and i’m glad I don’t live in Vancouver. After witnessing first hand here, there is no way Torontonian’s wouldn’t put up with what I dub the “Environmental” Games. Getting around is exhausting, long and in the summer Athens heat very frustrating. The environmentalists have bascially taken over this town and all the locals hate it. This is why the locals haven’t been to enthusiastic to attend the games. Other than the events held at the main Olympic complex which is close to my parents place (there are some 37 different venues in and around Athens) it takes anywhere from 1-3 hrs to go one way to the venues. I gave up on going to the rowing as it would have taken 3+ hrs to get there. (So much for having a car…thats useless here) Not only are they all far apart, but to concerve energy (damn environmentalist again) the subway, buses and trains won’t turn on their AC as it pollutes and uses more energy. The locals have basically all taken holidays, left the city and plan on returning when the games conclude and to some extent, I can’t blame them.
As you can image, everywhere you go to (sites, transit, venues etc) there are massive line ups. I bought post cards to send out, but I gave up when the clerk told me it was 2 hr wait to buy stamps. Massive lines for buses, trains, stores, museums and even grocery stores to buy water at. Add with the security checkpoints, and constant Athens smog and sun baking you its starts to get frustrating after a while.
Expensive to say the least. Not only does our dollar get smashed against the Euro (approx. $1.65 CND for 1 Euro) but with the IOC marketing machine behind it, all prices for the littlest thing, have been inflated. The bottle water prices had to be legistaled before the games, so the stores won’t rip off the tourists. Good thing I had free accomodation. Anything Olympicy was disgustingly expensive and I didn’t buy much to date.
Heiniken house – Yes, the Official Team Holland HQ has a Heiniken beer tent (Heiniken is the offical beer sponsor of the 2004 Olympics) which is what seems like all the Athletes’ (regardless of country) go to party after their competition is over. Its been the most fun of all the places we went, cause everyone is drunk (0.50 cents for 1 can of beer) and you meet nothing but other folks from all over the world. Think Kitchener’s octoberfest times 1000.
Those who are asking Canada House is nice, but restricted to Canadian citizens only. (Some of the people with me are not Canadians). All you do is have a drink, talk and watch the Olymipcs with other canucks…eh! We did meet alot of the Canadian Olympians, and they are truly our best and I honour their efforts and cheer for them, but i’m sick of hearing how they don’t get any support and had to pay their own way. (If I wanted to go to a fundraising event i’d go to the Republic National Convention not the Olympics) After seeing first hand i’d say there are only a dozen or so countries that have full fledged financial resources behind their althetes. Were does team Iraq’s funding come from?
Politics: (and who said the Olympics were about humanity and sport)
What seems like other than me, the whole world hates US President Bush over here, its hard not to have a political argument here and there. All in good taste, i’m actually getting a kick of how strongly opinionated everyone is about him and his policies. Too bad I didn’t get paid for it cause, I can easily make a full time job out of sitting at coffee shops discussing world affairs with strangers. My dad tells me that if there was an olympic event about political debates, i’d be favoured for the gold medal. :>)
Thats my one and only update from Athens. Hope you’re all doing well and look forward to seeing/talking to most of you when i’m back.
Peter C. Avgoustis”