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Sports Talk: The Redneck Olympics don't look too bad now

The committee that is organizing the Olympic Games to be held in Athens, Greece in August is facing many problems. This group has the International Olympic Committee holding their breaths. The IOC is concerned about security against the threat of terrorism, overall readiness for the crowds and the facilities.

When Atlanta won the bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics the world immediately took one huge gasp. "Those hillbillies will never pull it off," snickered the enlightened from every corner of the earth beyond the American south.

Rather than listening to the naysayers, the Atlanta committee laughed it off and went to work. Our ability to laugh at ourselves helps Georgians overlook skepticism with a determined attitude. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy's take-off on a redneck Olympics led the way. When you don't take yourself too seriously it's tough for the world too look down their nose at you.

My first thoughts about attending the Olympics were negative. The more I thought about it the more I realized that we should attend some events. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My family and I attended gymnastics, track, volleyball, baseball and even a soccer semi-final in Athens, Georgia, that is. We learned to ride MARTA and my kids got an autograph and picture with Gary Hall, Jr. Who?

The upcoming Olympics may make the 96 Redneck/Hillbilly version look like the proverbial "best Olympiad ever." Was that not the catch phrase that the snooty IOC chairman refused to bestow upon Atlanta at the conclusion of the games?

The Greece swimming facility will not have a roof or cover. Imagine that, the city that hosted the first modern Olympiad in 1896, and Atlanta's main competition in 1996, can't get it together. Did the Greeks forget that things have changed in 108 years? Perhaps they should ask Billy Payne and Andrew Young for advice. The Greeks can't do that. Payne and Young are Americans, and from the south no less.

I'm not a world-class swimmer like Gary Hall, Jr., but if I were it would be difficult to get excited about these Olympics. Swimming is a premier Olympic event and the competition will be outdoors. I can already see a Coppertone vendor at every lane of the pool.

Can you imagine the protests if swimming events had been outdoors in the summer heat of Atlanta? Swimmers would have exited the pool like boiled lobsters. The international swimming community would have likely boycotted. For Greece, they'll complain politely, grin, and bear it.

Personally I'm glad the games will end on August 29, just in time not to preempt college football on television. Maybe the IOC consulted Payne and Young on that one. That sounds like a southern decision, probably the 04 committee's best one.

Web posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004

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