Pride as a sport

The overwhelming majority of Greeks did not leap into swimming pools or dance until dawn when Greece was awarded the Olympic Games, yet according to polls at the time, about 95 percent of the population were in favor of Greece holding the Games. To some extent, a need to extract revenge for being denied the 1996 Olympic centenary prevented us from realizing precisely what we had undertaken. Just a year away from the real thing, the test events now under way have been touted as a first-class opportunity to show what we have done so far and to draw valuable conclusions as to where the problems lie. However, if the first impression we give the world is that of a fiasco – and not only because of the salmonella that struck down the German rowers or the high winds that sank some teams’ boats – what are we doing? By turning the Games into a matter of national pride, we thought the road would be strewn with laurel leaves. When the problems began appearing, the complaints began along with a savage ping-pong game between the government and Athens 2004 committee. Of course, we will all be moved when we hear our national anthem and see our athletes receive medals. Of course, we will all be taking up sports in the new stadiums and will benefit from the other major infrastructure projects. But of course, we will also be called upon to pay a very inflated bill for what is being served up to us as a matter of national pride.