He was an average-looking guy with thick legs, sunglasses, khaki shorts and a white polo shirt.

He looked tense and lost in the bleachers of the main Olympic pool, and last night before the competition began he got caught in a dispute with the security-conscious ushers.

They wanted to see his event credential. "I'm Mark Spitz," he told them.

Whatever, the ushers said, his credential didn't clear him to sit where he was trying to sit.

The man said they didn't understand. "I'm Mark Spitz. I won seven gold medals. . . . I'm an honored guest." He said he had been told he could sit right here.

It was hard for the young Greek ushers in their colorful blue, white and orange outfits. One said later he had never heard of Mark Spitz.

Besides, this man didn't look like the swashbuckling, mustachioed swimmer who won seven gold medals in 1972. He seemed more like a pushy American tourist.

But he was, in fact, Mark Spitz. And once this was established, he was shown his seat, and posed, smiling, for pictures with the ushers.

One, Manolis Psaroudakis, recognized Spitz's name on his credential, and got a quick snapshot. "He's a little older," Psaroudakis said.

-- Michael E. Ruane

Third, Preserved

The rings have never been the best event for U.S. gymnast Brett McClure. So after McClure moved up to third in the all-around competition Wednesday night after scoring a 9.712 on his pommel horse routine, the feeling was bittersweet. McClure had one event to go in the six-event competition -- rings -- and he knew he didn't have the skills to preserve his place in the medal hunt. So he slipped his digital camera out of his gym bag and snapped a picture of the scoreboard with his name, Brett McClure, in bronze-medal position.

"I had a ton of fun out there!" said McClure, 23, after finishing ninth overall. "I had a great time, and I knew going into rings what was going to happen, so I tried to enjoy myself as much as possible."

-- Liz Clarke

I'm Not Lovin' It

It's small wonder that the McDonald's in the Olympic Media Center is doing a brisk business among international journalists covering the Athens Games. The alternative is a cafeteria that serves three hot entrees daily, specializing in Greek cuisine. The name of each dish is printed in Greek, and underneath the Greek name is an English translation that doesn't necessarily clarify matters. Yesterday's featured specials: giaprakia with egg-lemon sauce; giant beans with tomato in the oven; and veal al Texas.

-- Liz Clarke