Story   Photographer   Editor   Student/Intern   Assistant   Job/Item

 Front Page
 Member Index
 Latest Headlines
 Special Features
 'Fun Pix'
 Message Board
 Educate Yourself
 Equipment Profiles
 Classified Ads
 Monthly Clip Contest
 Annual Contest
 Current Issue
 Back Issues
 Members Area
 "The Guide"
About Us:
 About SportsShooter
 Contact Us
 Terms & Conditions

Sign in:
Members log in here with your user name and password to access the your admin page and other special features.



|| News Item: Posted 2004-03-30

Athens 2005
By Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

The view from Peter's hotel in Athens.
No, that's not a typo-it's a local joke in Athens. The thought being that given just one more year, Athens might just be really ready for the Olympics-or maybe not…

My impression-based on my attendance at the Media Briefing in Greece earlier this month is that, no-Athens will not be ready for the Olympics on August 13, 2004. Not in the manner promised to the IOC or NBC or the International Media or presented in all the glossy bound brochures and books that every local Olympic committee seems to produce by the ton.

I do think, however, that as we stand in the three hour lines at the Athens airport on Monday August 30 waiting for our flights home (Athens has a very nice New airport, but not a Big airport)-most of us will look back on the 2004 Summer Olympics as a great experience. For sure we'll be sunburned, heat stroked and od'ed on mousaka, but we will have seen some great competition, made some great pictures and have spent the last three weeks in a wonderful country full of friendly and charming people

The good news is that most all of the venues are completed. The ones we saw looked great. Baseball, softball, field hockey, canoeing/kayaking, ping pong, basketball, gymnastics, diving, judo/taekwondo and beach volleyball all looked good. The outdoor venues were particularly well done.

The indoor venues will be OK. Although the indoor venues all claim the TV mandated 125 foot/candles, I think in many cases that's a stretch. Angle and color balance will also be problematical. While all indoor venues are supposedly air-conditioned, judging from the uninsulated roofs and small number of AC vents they may get quite warm in the 100 degree plus Greek sun.

Of course the biggest questions were and still are two of the most important venues: Swimming and Track and Field (Athletics in Olympic parlance). What everyone on last month's tour knew is now official-there will be no roof over the swimming venue. This is great news for those of us who like to shoot swimming with a 1200mm lens (although most of the finals are at night), but bad news for anyone who hasn't completed Ron Tanawaki's 30 day desert survival course. Hats, sunscreen and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…

This will pretty much be the drill for any outside venue. Weather dot com shows the average August high in Athens as 88 degrees-everyone there said to expect more like 100's plus, especially on the pool deck or beach volleyball court. Athens' air won't be great either. With an inversion layer similar to LA or Denver and millions of cars, old Southern Californians will recognize that feeling in your lungs that you can't get a full breath because they're already half full with something-and it's not air…

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Beach volleyball venue.
The Track remains the biggest question. It (along with the pool) was not a part of last month's tour. After much heated discussion, selected media were taken through a few days later. What they saw was not pretty. I think everyone assumed that since the track had been a functioning venue for many years (host to the 1997 World Track and Field championships); it would just be a matter of fixing some things up. Instead, the Greeks appear to have undertaken a major renovation-whether they need it or not. Hopefully they'll be able to finish in time.

The roof is again a question. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it was intended to be one of the architectural signatures of the Athens games. Aside from its beauty the stadium roof was intended to provide much needed shade on the fans (and hopefully, the photographers) while allowing sun on the field of play-what a concept!

During the venue tours we were struck by the lack of urgency about the work being done. Apparently this was due to the upcoming national election as the government controls construction of all the Olympic venues. With the Conservative party victory work is reportedly proceeding at a much faster pace. Certainly there will be a completed Track stadium (also site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies), but what it's going to look like is anybodies guess.

Photo Positions:
To paraphrase von Clausewitz "no good photo position plan survives contact with television".

In every Olympics I have covered we started out with some great photo positions, some lousy ones and some spots that were simply unobtainable. Athens will be the same way. Often the great positions were taken away or blocked by TV cameras. Occasionally an unobtainable position suddenly became available sometime during the Games; and of course, you could fill a book with the great Olympic photos shot from the "lousy" photo positions.

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Softball venue.
Photography director Constantinos Nikiforos and his talented staff have done a very good job of trying to get us the best possible spots. They have been responsive to suggestions from the photographic media and worked hard to coordinate with TV and the individual sport federations. The venue photo managers I met were all intelligent capable people who seem genuinely interested in helping to make the best pictures possible in their venues. Let's all hope for the best.

Athens is a city of 8 million people-all of who seem to own and drive cars. Traffic can be a major problem. There are almost no limited access highways, and the ones that exist don't seem to go anywhere. During my visit most of the major streets seemed to be under construction. Much of the traffic moves on narrow 2 or even 1 lane roads. Often we would be walking down what appeared to be a pedestrian walkway between walled buildings-only to find ourselves flattened against the wall as a car raced through. Motorcycles and scooters ride anywhere.

There are plans for traffic restrictions and special Olympic lanes on major roads- however anyone covering multiple events per day is going to need to factor in some major travel time between venues in different locales.

Best Bet: Although the light rail line to the southern venues may not be completed, the existent subway and train system seem to offer reliable, timely transport to many venues

Interesting fact: Greece leads the world in per capita traffic fatalities. Many Greeks seem proud of this fact.

It was very hard to judge during our visit what kind of security will be in place this summer. Certainly it terms of manpower and money spent it will be formidable. On the other hand, one needs only to look at a map to see that Greece's extensive coastline and proximity to some of the world' prime hotspots could make the Games an easy target for terrorism.

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Field hockey venue.
I flew to Athens through Paris. In Paris my passport was given a cursory check and my bags were transferred without any check. Upon landing in Athens (now I'm in the European Union), I picked up my bag and walked out of the airports without any official scrutiny whatsoever. I might as well have been landing in Denver.

My bottom line thought is that the multi-national, multi-cultural nature of the Olympic Games makes it an unappealing target for most terrorists. I hope I'm right …

The Greeks are a proud, friendly and welcoming people. During my six nights in Athens, I twice dined as the guest of local people I'd met only days before. Most everyone in Athens is excited about the Olympics and they see the Games as an opportunity to show the world all the best of Greece.

Athens is a fun city. Restaurants are on almost every corner-and they stay open late! Most offer outdoor dining and the food is generally excellent. I never had a bad meal in my week in Athens. In addition to the traditional Greek fare, most every place seemed to have several pastas on the menu. Seafood is fresh and good. Prices seemed high during our visit-due in part to the dollar's low standing to the Euro. For those who have the time, there's plenty of nightlife.

As I said to start off with, I think Athens will put on a great Olympic games. Not everything will be as expected or as promised, but it will all work out somehow. That seems to be the Greek way. As our driver said when asked when he thought things would be finished, "the day before the games start".

The keys to surviving the 2004 Olympics will be to stay relaxed and flexible, have no expectations and try to have fun.

(Peter Read Miller will be leading a panel on coverage of the Athens Summer Olympic Games at the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau 2004.)

Contents copyright 2020, Do not republish without permission.
The official multicolored food preparation device ::..