2004 OLYMPICS

washingtonpost's Bill Grant has been to a few events at the Games. Unfortunately, he is a freeloading member of the media.
Cat Osterman allows just one hit and strikes out 11 as the U.S. softball team remains unbeaten in three Olympics.
Brenda Villa scores four goals and Kelly Rulon adds a pair as the world champion U.S. women's water polo team opens with a 7-6 win over Hungary.
Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis win Greece's first gold medal, in synchronized 3-meter springboard diving.
A member of Denmark's sailing team, Niklas Holm, is charged with manslaughter after he strikes and kills a British pedestrian while driving to see his country's handball team play Sunday. He'll be allowed to compete.
"I hanged up on anybody that asked what happened. What kind of question is that? What happened? We lost."
-- Allen Iverson, one day after the United States men's basketball team lost for only the third time in Olympic history.

"Oh my gosh, I'm going to have gray hairs, and I'm 23."
-- U.S. softball player Jessica Mendoza after a 3-0 victory over Japan, another heart-pounding Olympic matchup between the nations.


A Defining Image of Empty Seats

By Bill Grant
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Web Posted: Monday, Aug. 16, 2004; 7:36 p.m. EDT

ATHENS -- Yawn.

The hope here is that Monday night's Super Bowl of Swimming will somehow jumpstart an Olympics that so far has lacked any kind of buzz and drawn precious few paying customers.

God knows the Games need a shot of pizzazz. Tens of thousands of seats continue to go empty; even high-profile events such as gymnastics fail to sell out -- unheard of since Olga Korbut vaulted the sport onto the map in 1972. The Olympic pool was packed for the widely anticipated and very dramatic men's 200-meter freestyle final between Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe, but earlier in the day, a volleyball match between Greece -- that would be the home team -- and Korea failed to even halfway fill the 8,823-seat Peace and Friendship Stadium. The announced crowd at Monday's U.S.-Czech Republic women's basketball game was 954. That's bad even by WNBA standards.

The Athens organizing committee is getting pressure from nervous suits at the networks to start handing out freebies to volunteers, to the elderly, to schoolchildren, even a stray dog or two. All those empty seats make for bad TV, which make for bad ratings. The committee's Michalis Zacharatos denies that and maintains that attendance will pick up as the Games build toward the medal rounds and as Athenians finally return from vacation.

After all, these Games did sort of sneak up on everyone.

___ The Crystal Ball ___
Here's how economists Andrew Bernard of Dartmouth and Meghan Busse of UC-Berkeley see the top 10.

CountyTotalGold
United States9337
Russia 83 29
China 57 27
Germany 55 13
Australia 54 14
France 37 12
Italy 33 12
Britain 27 10
Greece 27 10
South Korea 27 7
Party Pooper
Not everybody is buying into the USOC's rosy projection that the United States will take home 100 medals. The AP reports that Andrew Bernard, a professor of international economics at Dartmouth, is predicting that Americans will win 93 medals, including 37 golds. Why should we care? Because he's been right before. In 2000, Bernard and research partner Meghan Busse had forecast the United States would win 97 medals, including 39 golds -- right on the nose. "It's just a little bit of common sense and some statistics," Bernard told the AP from his office in Hanover, N.H. "We'll have to wait and see if we have another gold medal performance or if we'll be knocked out of contention." Through Monday, the third day of competition, the United States has 13 medals, with three golds.

From the Dog Bites Man Department
The Redskins were positively gleeful to report Monday that Saturday's game with the Panthers on Channel 9 outdrew the Olympics on Channel 4.

Everybody Should Have This Problem
Andy Roddick has a bounty on his head. It seems the Australian women's water polo team has offered up $500 to the first among them who lands a kiss on Roddick while he's in Athens. "I'm thinking it's going to be a hit-and-run attack while I am standing in line for food or something," Roddick tells Reuters. "I find it pretty funny, but I'm gonna be like the basketball men, you know. I'm holding out for more money!" No word on how Mandy Moore feels about all this. Hold on a second, our celebrity desk tells us that that  is no longer a worry.

Nice Team, Bad Hair
No doubt the Japanese gymnasts were outstanding in Monday's competition and richly earned their gold medal. But the question that kept coming to our mind: What exactly has happened to the team barber?

What Would Miss Manners Say?
Germany's Judith Arndt is about to cross the finish line and win a silver medal in the road cycling race. This should be a happy moment, yes? A lifetime of hard work culminates in one shining moment, yes? Instead, Arndt turns and flips the bird to German cycling officials. Arndt was upset that her pal Petra Rossner was left off the Olympic team. She was fined $162 by the International Cycling Union but will be allowed to race in Wednesday's time trial.

As always, Snippets would like to thank our friends at the Associated Press and Reuters for their help.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Can somebody please get Christophe on the phone for the gold-medal winners? (Sue Ogrocki -- AP)

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