Commentator turns pool race into a ‘sea battle’

* Last Wednesday afternoon outside the Hilton, Costas Kenteris, surrounded by dozens of TV crews and journalists, calmly announced his withdrawal from the Athens Olympics and end of his collaboration with his coach. Among the pushing and shoving in what was an electric atmosphere, a loud voice screamed out, drowning out all other sounds, the vital question: «Costas, Costas! How do you feel, Costas?» No wonder the humorous commentaries in the foreign press go on about Greeks’ penchant for tragedy and view of coach Christos Tzekos as a Medea who slaughters her children. – It is all very well to talk about «ancient, immortal spirit» but that does not mean the Olympian gods are still among us or that «Poseidon is preparing to crown our two sailors with the gold medal.» Athletes who mark successive victories are «drinking the nectar of happiness gulp by gulp.» It is true we still haven’t heard about athletes drinking the «black broth» or «hemlock» of defeat. – «The country was immersed in moral self-satisfaction,» observed a NET commentator when Greece won its first gold medals (a gem drawn to our attention by Maria Petroutsou in her column in the daily Eleftherotypia). At last the sport of self-satisfaction has been decriminalized! – Several viewers have noted the names of foreign athletes are being pronounced according to the phonetics of the English language, irrespective of whether the athletes are German, French or African, and that frequently the Greek journalists’ standard of English is at «junior» level. These observations might indicate a degree of snobbery on the part of those who know better. After all, a sports commentator might be very good at his or her job without being proficient in English or other languages. However, sport broadcasts require a degree of preparation, not so as to be able to pronounce athletes’ names with a perfect accent, but at least so as not to massacre them, out of respect for the athletes themselves as well as their countries’ cultures. – Other viewers disagree with the Greek translations of technical terms, maintaining that «crosse» and «direct» are more expressive than their Greek equivalents. They also note that in boxing, the participants do not «beat each other up,» as one presenter claimed, but are competing according to very strict rules. The purpose of the sport is not to «thrash» one’s opponent, but defeat him. There is a difference. Meanwhile, the dramatic 200-meter freestyle swimming race was characterised as a «sea battle.» Until then, swimmers had been compared to dolphins or torpedoes. The reference to ancient Greek ships might be one to avoid, since in the report of the Olympic Flame relay, the phrase «Piraeus will receive the flame from the ancient trireme» was heard. – Outraged, an Alter channel cameraman found the parents of Katerina Thanou chasing Costas Kenteris’s father in Mytilene. The latter did not want to comment, but this minor obstacle was overcome when the reporter, obviously with the assistance of a clairvoyant, remarked, «’He will always be my hero,’ the embittered father must have wanted to shout!» All of the above incidents are minor misdemeanors, often due to fatigue or anxiety rather than ignorance or arrogance. However, besieging parents shows an abject lack of professionalism.

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