Greetings from Athens

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Anonymous's picture

"Greetings from the Athens Olympics to my friends at the NYCC.

I don't know what you've been hearing back home about the cycling here (or the Olympics in general), but here are my observations.

The time trial was one of my all-time great sporting experiencies, ranking right up there with the 6th game of the 86 world series.

It was held in a suburb of Athens at one of the few venues that was difficult to get to. As a result there were only around 500 spectators at the start/finish.

Most of the fans were hardcore Europeans--Dutch and Germans, mostly. They were incredibly knowledgeable about the sport and the riders. I told a Dutchman I was from New York and he immediately said ""like George Hincapie.""

One of the things that I never realized about the Olympics is how easy it is to get very close to the athletes. At the table tennis, the current world champion sat down two seats from me and was posing for photos with fans. It's like that in many sports, including cycling.

Jan Ullrich was signing autographs about 20 feet from me 90 minutes before his start. Vinokorov and Indurain posed for photos with fans. And Deirdre Demet-Barry was so happy with her medal that she waded into the crowd and hugged total strangers. If there are any pampered superstars in cycling, none of them are here.

Personally, I was delighted with Tyler's victory. He has always carried himself with great modesty and he's been so unlucky with crashes. As far as I'm concerned, the gold could not have gone to a better man.

I was at the track cycling yesterday. The velodrome is STUNNING. It is architecturally gorgeous, and every seat has a great view.

The team pursuit is a visually spectacular event. I don't have a ticket for today's final, but I'm going again tomorrow.

Believe it or not, track cycling is the toughest ticket at the Olympics. It's one of very few sports that were sold out weeks before the start. Tickets for the ""major"" sports--track and field/gymnastics/swimming are easy to get--I bought two 120 euro tickets to last night's gymnastics for 50 euros each (or evrohs, as they call them here). But if you want track cycling tickets, you've got to pay a premium to a scalper.

Everyone knows how the Greeks only finished the facilities a few weeks/months before the games. But you'd never know it. The organization is impeccable. The public transportation works exactly to plan. The city is spotless. The locals are very friendly and helpful.

Unlike Lance, I brought my kids here. They're having a blast, as am I.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Nice postcard!


Thanks for the eyewitness account. It sounds exciting to actually be there!

My view of the games has been limited to a brief segment on the French news. TV5 reported that at the start of the games, the number of tourists was vastly lower than expected, to the great dismay of tchotchke vendors and hoteliers. It was suggested that the latter may have partly brought this on by in some cases doubling their rates for the event.

I tried to watch fragments of the first men's road race on TV, interspersed with men's swimming and ""synchronized diving."" Not the most exciting events, in my mind. But what made them unbearable was the idiotic squealing of sportscasters, obsession with minute numeric fractions, and countless commercials. Ca suffit.

So enjoy your trip--especially since it's commercial free!"

Anonymous's picture
Mordecai Silver (not verified)
Track cycling at the Olympics

Unfortunately, NBC doesn't consider track cycling worthy of any prime-time coverage. (If I'm wrong on this, I'd appreciate it if someone can tell me when it's on.) I can understand only showing 5-minute coverage of the TT won by Tyler Hamilton, because time trials are really only interesting to the cycling fan. But track events are short in duration and exciting to watch: sprint, team sprint, team pursuit, madison, keirin, etc.

NBC tends to focus on certain sports they know are popular (swimming, gymnastics, track & field, and of course beach volleyball), and covers them during prime-time, while the other sports are shown on MSNBC or BRAVO at 1:00 a.m. or noon.

Anonymous's picture
MB (not verified)
2012 Coverage


Look for better Olympic coverage in 2012.

Mike (not really)

Anonymous's picture
Hank Schiffman (not verified)
Tyler, Mt Wasington

Rumors prerace were that Tyler was returning to reclaim his crown. It didn't seem likely after a gold in Athens just days before. During the event the word was that Tyler was signing autographs at the base; also untrue. His dad did the race in just over 2 hours, not bad for a man in his sixties. The speaker said that he met Tyler's mother on Tuckerman's Ravine and Tyler might have been conceived on Mt Washington. We all know that Tyler originally wanted to enter the olympics as a skiier.
The race conditions were worse than last year. Although last year the winds were stronger, this year they were out of the west, on the nose. You never got a lift as they began to blow just when the route turned to the west. It rained heavily just before the start and drizzled in fog the whole way up. The hardpack was soupy and very slow. The summit was 25 gusting to 35/45. Luckily it was in the low 50s. You were better served on Mt Olympus.

Anonymous's picture
Carol (not verified)
Road Race Also Fun

Paul's right - the men's and women's time trials were the most exciting events I've ever watched live. I was right at the start house for the start of the men's race and then was able to move around to the other side to watch the elite racers come in to the finish. For the women's race, I was watching with the wife and parents of the women's team coach. Unfortunately, because Diedre caught and passed the previous rider just before the finish line, the electonic sign didn't show her time - it only showed the previous rider's time - so we didn't know Dede had taken the silver.

The road races were also interesting. We watched the racers come up Likavitos Hill in the heart of Athens.

The Greeks did a splendid job of getting everything ready for the games. The new public transportation system (completed just a couple of weeks before the opening ceremonies) is terrific and made it very easy to get around. Athens itself has been cleaned up and is a lovely, welcoming city. Consider Greece as a vacation destination - there's wonderful cycling, especially in the Peloponnese.

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