As the U.S. women's soccer team makes its Olympic trek -- from training camp in California to warmup matches in the United States to Athens, Crete and now the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki -- defender Kate Markgraf has lugged around a copy of Thucydides's "History of the Peloponnesian War." It is Markgraf's effort to bring some culture to the competition. It hasn't quite worked.

"I'm like, 'Tell me who won, who lost, and was it necessary for the war or not,' " midfielder Shannon Boxx said.

Captain Julie Foudy initially suggested that each U.S. team member research a different era of Greek history -- and report back to the team. The response? Rolled eyes. "I haven't done homework in like 10 years," midfielder Kristine Lilly said.

With the final not until Aug. 26, there's still time for Markgraf, Foudy and a few others, such as midfielder Aly Wagner, to overcome the skepticism. Winning the gold, however, might be easier.

"I think you should ask [Foudy] what, really, she has discovered, because I haven't seen her really reading," Lilly said. "She's pushing it, but she's not doing any of it."

-- Barry Svrluga

A Good Trade

After four days of living in the athletes' village, U.S. tennis player Andy Roddick has gotten the hang of trading pins and amassed quite a collection by running up to anyone wearing a jacket with the name of an obscure country on it and asking if they want to swap. "It's a good way to meet girls," Roddick cracked yesterday.

Among the athletes in the stands for Roddick's first-round match against Brazil's Flavio Saretta yesterday was Rulon Gardner, the massive Greco-Roman wrestler from Wyoming who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the Sydney Games in toppling Russian champion Aleksandr Karelin to win super heavyweight gold. After Roddick's 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory, Gardner wrapped his fellow American in a giant bear hug and hoisted him in the air.

Greece Is Smokin' . . .

It should be no surprise the Greeks have an Olympic cauldron in the shape of a cigarette.

Studies suggest 40 to 45 percent of Greeks smoke, and among Greeks age 25 to 34, that numbers rises to 60 percent. A 2003 European Commission study noted that Greece is "by far the country with the heaviest" consumption, with an average of 23.38 cigarettes per day. The No. 2 spot was Belgium, at an average of 18.41 cigarettes a day.

And among heavy smoking European countries, Greece is the only one in which the percentage of smokers has increased since 1995.

There is, however, no truth to the rumor that the cauldron will be stubbed out in a giant ashtray during Closing Ceremonies.

-- Tracee Hamilton

. . . And So Unsafe!

Even amid incomparable beauty, journalists can always find fault with something. Take the American reporter griping about the slippery steps leading up to the Parthenon. "They're all marble!" she ranted.

-- Liz Clarke

Foudy's idea of studying history didn't go over well with the team.