Pack a hardhat this summer

040318_karaiskaki.jpgSteve Woodward of ESPN visits Athens to report on Olympic preperations and decides to annoit the construction "hardhat as the official must-have item for Olympic fans this summer."

This summer, in traffic-snarled, punctuality-challenged Athens -- where the new cinematic box office smash is "Three Men and a Shovel" -- I promise the hardhat will be the accessory that has us all queuing up at the official merchandise kiosks.

Woodward thinks that among other things, Athens' legendary traffic woes, blistering heat and falling stadium roof panels --not terrorists-- will be more likely sources of concern for visitors this summer.

Athens deserves to host the Games. It is a special place with a unique bond to the Olympic ideal. Plus, when one adds up the traffic gridlocks, the erratic driving, the heavy machinery, the tight construction deadlines (and what this implies for quality and safety), the anticipated seasonal (90-plus degree) heat, the billows of second-hand smoke, and the unavoidable fact that, as far as I can tell, there is only one Starbucks in all of Athens ... the only intelligent conclusion is that the terrorists are likely to summer in Afghanistan.

But just in case, I'm packing that hardhat. What style-conscious infidel would be without one?

Posted on March 18, 2004 in Athens, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Athens transformed


In Athens: An Olympian Metamorphosis, New York Times writer Michael Mewshaw visits the capital city and looks at it's transformation in the runup to the 2004 summer Olympics.

In the past, whatever Athens's shortcomings, it remained resolutely Greek. Now, critics claim, it's becoming just another European city, with a McDonald's across from Parliament and designer boutiques surrounding the 11th-century church of Kapnikarea. The celebrated Cafe Zonars, for a century a hangout for writers and intellectuals, recently shut down to make way for a mall; streets are clotted with S.U.V.'s; sushi and feng shui knickknacks have put in implausible appearances; and men have quit letting their pinkie fingernails grow long to prove that they're city folks, not country people who work with their hands.

All wrong! Athens's defenders argue. Such faultfinding is simple-minded Zorba-ism, a mindless misreading of reality. With a boost from the Olympics, Athens is becoming a fusion city, a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. When the Games begin this August in front of tens of thousands of visitors and millions of television viewers, Greece will showcase its entrepreneurial spirit, contemporary arts and surprising culinary sophistication.

When Mewshaw asks about the city's notorious pollution and blistering heat one Athenian offers this piece of irrefutable Greek logic.

When I asked a Greek how people would weather the heat and nefos this summer, he laughed and said the athletes are already polluted with pills and performance-enhancing drugs. ''A few exhaust fumes shouldn't hurt them.''

Posted on March 9, 2004 in Athens, Modern Life | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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