August 1, 2004
Upon arriving in Greece,
I took to heart the tag line, Welcome
refers, of course, to the founding of the Ancient Games so long ago and
modern Games in 1896. But I also took it as a comfort sign - this
fourth Olympics, and it was nice to be back in the global
200 national delegations will be sending athletes to these Games,
nation of Kiribati.
is comprised of 33 coral atolls in the Pacific - a
series of tiny dots on a map of blue. With a population of
98,549, and an
area of only 324 square miles, Kiribati
will be making its Olympic debut in Athens,
joining athletic powerhouses such as China,
the United States,
It is one of the things that I like best about
the Games - there is no country to small to compete.
is busy getting ready - my arrival at the airport
was seamless, with dozens of Olympic volunteers there to greet me,
Olympic credentials, and escort me to my accommodations.
touches are being put on everything, whether landscaping the area
spectacular main stadium, or securing the colorful Olympic banners
the city's various routes to competition venues.
to look for in Athens from the U.S. Squad...
The United States
team will arrive shortly, bringing with it a group of athletes posed to
some of the stars of these Games.
What could be considered the "big three" of
Olympics sports -- gymnastics, swimming, and track -- are three places
American athletes should excel in Athens. In
the pool, “phenom” Michael Phelps
could very well be the star of these Games. In Sydney
in 2000, he made his Olympic debut
at a mere 15-years of age -- the youngest male swimmer on the U.S.
squad in 68 years. With
everyone comparing him to Mark Spitz, who won 7 golds in 1972, he
solid bet to become the breakout star of the Athens Games.
Likely joining him on the victory
dais are Americans Aaron Peirsol,
Natalie Coughlin, Ian Crocker,
Hansen, Amanda Beard, and Jenny Thompson,
who needs two wins to secure
place in history as the athlete with the most Olympic gold
Standing high above the pool, Laura Wilkinson
will look to defend her
diving gold medal.
In gymnastics, the U.S.
women will arrive in Athens
as a favorite for the team title,
and their male counterparts have a terrific chance of grabbing a team
which would be their first since winning gold in Los
Angeles in 1984.
Look for 2003 champ Paul Hamm to
figure heavily in
competition, with a solid chance of becoming the first American man
ever to win
Olympic gold in the all-around.
On the track, some familiar faces,
such as Marion
Jones, will have to overcome a lot of the doping
that preceded these Games, while two-time 100m champion Gail Devers
for the fifth time to grab gold in the 100m hurdles, her favorite
Decathlete Tom Pappas
will battle to
bring his world championship to the Olympics in search of gold, while
ever-charismatic Maurice Greene
will try to defend his Olympic title,
pole vaulter Stacy
In other sports, women's wrestling
makes it Olympic debut in Athens,
with Americans looking like
contenders in each class. Near the water, the women's beach volleyball
duo of Kerri
Walsh and Misty May
look like gold medal favorites.
The tennis court will feature
American standouts such as Andy Roddick,
Williams, and -- in
American men's and women's eights
look to do well in rowing, while traithletes Barb Lindquist and Sheil
arrive in Athens ranked number 1 and 2 in the world, respectively.
On the whitewater, look for Rebecca
Giddens to contend for a medal, as will the U.S basketball,
women's water polo teams.
Perhaps most excitingly, fencer Sada
Jacobson, who competes in sabre, could become the first U.S.
woman to win a medal in the
And perhaps most touchingly,
Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner
will return to the Olympcis in Athens.
As many likely remember, Gardner
shocked the Olympic world in Sydney
in 2000 by defeating three-time gold
medal winner Aleksandr
Karelin of Russia. Two
years later, his
snowmobile fell into a lake in Wyoming,
leaving him stranded, wet, and cold
for over 17 hours. After recovering (minus his middle toe on his
foot, which was amputated because of frostbite), Gardner fell off his
motorcycle, sans helmet, in 2004 after colliding with another vehicle,
he dislocated his right wrist a few days later playing a friendly game
basketball at the Olympic Training Center. And yet he returns,
someone to cheer for.
. . . .
. . . . . . . .
sure to check back often
for Dr. Amy Bass's updates
to her Online
CNR Olympic Diary.