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2004 Athens Olympics Nostalgia

Athens 2004 OlympicsNo politics today. Just sports, weather and entertainment. The Olympics are on TV and it fills me with a nostalgia for Athens during the 2004 Olympic games. After being a part of the Olympics it just does not feel right to watch them on a little tiny screen. During the 2004 games every restaurant and cafe had a giant TV screen outside with hundreds of people watching. Its early yet but I don't sense the same kind of excitement. Greece played and lost to Spain in basketball yesterday in their first game. There is a lot of hope riding on the Greek basketball team. They beat the USA last summer in the world games and now they believe they can beat anyone. But this US team does not look like the one that Greece beat last year or the team that was upset by Argentina in the 2004 Olympics. They look confident and good without the hubris that had everyone rooting against them in Athens, except for the handful of Americans who wrapped themselves in the flag and entertained themselves by chanting USA-USA and taunting the fans from other teams. In an early game against Greece I saw a bunch of cops leading a guy out of the stadium dressed in red-white and blue and wearing the US flag as a cape. You have to behave pretty badly to get yourself kicked out of a sporting event in Greece, unless they were doing it for his own protection. The most surprising thing to me was the number of Greek-Americans rooting against the USA team during the game against Greece. Well, I was one of them but it is my nature to root for the underdog and I was doing it quietly. But these guys were jumping up and yelling at individual members of the team by name with a kind of venom. It was like Duke fans watching Carolina in Cameron. I kind of wondered if these were Greek-Americans who had moved back to Greece forever or were they here for the summer and would in other situations be rooting for the USA, say if they were playing Spain or Russia. They didn't seem like it. Amarandi was about 11 years old and she began the afternoon rooting for Greece but switched to the USA because she felt sorry for them because people were being mean to them.

So after watching the first half of the USA-China game we went to the beach. It was about 6pm which is when I like to go because then we can come back at sunset and the climb to the village is not as painful. We saw dark clouds on the horizon over Athens and slowly approaching us. Could it be rain? It sure looked like it. We got back to the village to shower and go out for dinner and while waiting for the water to heat up I watched the Mets play the Marlins on my laptop. I got engrossed in the game and Andrea left for Rolando's. She called me a few minutes later to tell me there was a circus in the platia. I joined the family and our friends Tom and Kelly from Vermont who live in the village on the small balcony at Rolando's where there were about twenty of us squeezed in. Down below us in the square was a juggler on a unicycle, juggling flaming batons and entertaining the whole square while behind him lighning was flashing, lighting up the sky. Two minutes after he finished his act and came to the tavernas to pass the hat it began to rain as if it were October. Everyone at Yannis taverna across the street squeezed into his restaurant or stood beneath the eaves of Grekas grocery store. Rolando ran around dragging a giant umbrellas from its hiding place somewhere abvove the square, and then lowered the plastic to protect those of us on the balcony who were getting wet from the rain and wind. Summer rains are such a rare event on the islands it is like snow in Florida. Everyone was excited and chattering about it like children and we hardly noticed when it stopped and the storm moved on.

Today is one of those clear sunny days you get after a rainstorm. There are still some scattered clouds on the horizon but the sea is more blue and the Marmari Express ferry leaving the port looks more white than ever. The wind is blowing like mad and there are whitecaps and there is a chill in the air that makes it feel like mid-September. I went to bed last night feeling like I had the flu but I feel OK today. Not great but OK. But Amarandi has the flu and is still in bed and probably won't be up until she makes a remarkable recovery in time to go down to Vourkari this evening to hang out with her friends at the cafe-bars.

There is a small village band of children who practice in the music school across the valley from the back of our house. They start at about 11am and from what I can tell there are a couple trumpets and drums and they practice the Greek National Anthem over and over. It would probably be maddening if the music school was still downstairs from our house. I suppose some of the villagers complained. Imagine coming to a quiet island for your summer holiday and every day there is a brass band rehearsing next door. I like hearing them. It makes me feel good and I love the Greek National Anthem. The American National Anthem is OK. Its a little over dramatic though and in terms of tune or melody its kind of weird with that change of key ("and the rockets red glare") that is a little bit extreme. You practically have to be a trained opera singer to get it right. The Greek National Anthem is a beautiful melody, simple and sweet the way good poetry is. It is pleasing to the soul. Mine anyway.

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