Made wrong turn somewhere. Landed in Georgia World Congress
Center. Walked and walked, funneled along with crowd. Landed
inside Hall G. Where was I? Men in strange uniforms were playing
strange game with strange ball that looked like little brother
of a soccer ball.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Team handball," was told. "Kuwait is playing Sweden. Sweden is
putting a big hurt on Kuwait."
Started to leave. Put official USA flag into official USA
backpack. Zipped zipper. Clasped clasps. Put arms through straps
of official USA backpack, careful not to wrinkle official USA
T-shirt or knock off official USA baseball cap from head.
July 29, 1996
"Sorry," I said. "Made a mistake. I was looking for the Olympics."
"Is Olympics," was told.
"No way," I replied.
Is Olympics? Could not be. Not one official USA flag being
waved. Not one organized cheer of Yew Ess Eh. No representative
of NBC, official USA television network, walking sidelines. No
Cris Collinsworth. No Summer Sanders. No one from Gumbel family.
Could not be Olympics. No one from USA involved.
"Is not Olympics," I said.
"Is Olympics," was told. "Competition often involves teams and
people from countries outside the USA. They play against each
other, trying to win gold, silver and bronze medals, same as USA
"No way," I said.
How could I not have heard about this? Have followed Olympics
for 11 days. Have read every word in The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. Have seen every moment of NBC and local
television coverage. Have read this magazine, SI Olympic Daily.
Never have read or heard about people and teams from other
countries playing against each other.
Olympics is supposed to be USA versus World. Isn't that the
set-up? Best people and teams from other countries come here to
compete against best people and teams from USA. Teams and people
from USA have interesting, wonderful stories. Fathers and
mothers often are dying of dread diseases back home. Collection
of house pets is lonely. Life is put on hold! To pursue Olympic
Dream! (Often at great personal expense.)
Opponents from other countries are faceless, nameless threats.
Sometimes faceless, nameless people win. Tragedy! Sometimes
people from USA win. Triumph! This is only Olympics I know.
Opponents sometimes play other opponents? USA not involved? No
"Is true," was told. "Even the Dream Team does not play in every
basketball game. Do you know those teams the Dream Team destroys
every other night? Those teams also play games against each
other, before and after the Dream Team games. An entire
basketball tournament is taking place. A lot of tournaments, in
fact. This is the team handball tournament."
Sat and watched game. Kuwait (0-3) versus Sweden (3-0). Very
suspicious. Fans from Kuwait beat drum to accompany cheers. Fans
from Sweden had faces painted blue and yellow and made more
noise because team much better, winning 33-18. Television
monitor showed picture of head of state, King of Sweden, in
stands. Not Bill Clinton. Not Chelsea Clinton. Very suspicious.
"Where are you going?" was asked as hurried from game, official
USA notebook and pen in hand....
"Must report exclusive news!" I said. "Have learned that teams
from other countries are playing teams from other countries
every day in Olympic Games! No one from USA involved!"
You read it here first.