By Bill Grant
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Web Posted: Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004; 7:10 p.m. EDT
ATHENS -- News flash: It's hot here.
Think stuck on the Beltway for four hours in the middle of August with no air conditioning. Think eggs frying on the sidewalk. Think cats on a tin roof. Think Sue Palka hyperventilating over a huge Bermuda high, with its accompanying big blob of blue threatening to envelop the entire D.C. area, leaving a sweaty, irritable, mildrew-infested mess in its wake.
You're getting the picture. And forget about that dry heat nonsense. Hot is hot. It's not by sheer accident that most sensible Athenians are miles away on some breezy island, lolling in cool ocean currents, sipping on frosty Pink Hibiscuses.
The hottest (I just can't stop myself) thing in Athens? Ice vests. Wear one for 30 minutes before competing, Reuters reports, and the increase in your core body temperature slows by about 20 percent. British marathon runner Paula Radcliffe reportedly will be wearing one up to an hour before the start of her race. Unfortunately for her, she can't wear it for the entire 26.2-mile event. Even swimmers can have a problem with heat, and the Australians are using ice vests and cold baths to cool off after they get out of the pool.
Others looking for an edge, Celsius-wise:
* Reuters reports that Haile Gebrselassie, gold medalist in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Games, will wear shoes with heat-reflecting film inserts.
* Dutch rowers will wear suits that disperse body heat more efficiently and reflect the sun's rays better. Its manufacturers claim it can improve times by 3 percent.
* Australia's field hockey team has been lifting weights in saunas, and British equestrians were training while wearing thick coats.
So, yeah, it's a little warm, especially if you are outside and doing much beyond breathing. But wait until Saturday when things really (you probably saw this one coming) heat up.
Yankees Be Good: The Americans have been told to be on their best behavior this year, and particularly at Friday's Opening Ceremonies. That means the 538 members on the U.S. team will be marching, not straggling, into the Olympic stadium, says Jim Scherr, the chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Who knew his job was pretty much the same as the elementary school p.e. teacher?
Running on Empty: What's the difference between a Marathon in Athens and in the United States? In Athens, you can run 26.2 miles without seeing a Starbucks.
Whoops: Katie Couric on the "Today" show was reporting breathlessly that NBC would have the "exclusive" announcement of who would carry the American flag at the Opening Ceremonies. One small problem: CBS had reported hours earlier that WNBA star Dawn Staley got the honor.
Tough Day at the Office: Still, Katie's gaffe wasn't nearly as bad as what happened in Athens. Two senior directors were canned by the state-run television station after technical problems caused viewers to miss the first 10 minutes of Greece's first Olympic soccer game, a focal point of the station's first day of coverage. They take their soccer a wee bit seriously here. Can't imagine anybody getting fired if, say, the Redskins got replaced by a test pattern for a quarter or so.
Amateurs, What Amateurs? Scores of nations are offering cash prizes to their athletes who win medals. China, for example, will give about $24,000 to each of its athletes who takes a gold, $15,000 for a silver and a smidge under $10,000 for a bronze. The USOC gives similar amounts to its successful Olympians. Then there's India, which is offering up a cool $215,000 for a local gold medalist. Perhaps Michael Phelps ought to consider a quick move to Punjab.
Brush With Greatness: British Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived, the first of several world leaders to drop by Athens for at least part of the Games. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected early Friday, and former President George Bush, leading the U.S. delegation, has been in town for a couple of days. Other political leaders expected include French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. Snippets has seen none of these folks, but we did run into former Orioles manager Davey Johnson, now running the Dutch national team, at the airport Monday.
As always, Snippets would like to thank our friends at the Associated Press and Reuters for their help.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company