• "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.
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.
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
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