I'M VOTING FOR ISTANBUL IT'S TIME TO PUT SOME ROMANCE BACK INTO THE OLYMPICS

August 03, 1996

I know what you are doing. You are slumped outside a closed
Blimpies, sucking on a dead Coke (your 114th of the Games),
wondering how you're going to get back from Stone Mountain now
that your bus driver got fed up and drove home to Missoula, Mont.

What you need is a little Istanbul.

Can't you just see it? Istanbul for the 2004 Olympics! Spies in
trench coats! Sultans and harems and grand viziers! Repelling
the mongrel hordes! Followed by belly dancing!

Don't even start about the other cities bidding for the 2004
Summer Games. San Juan, Puerto Rico? (You think your buses were
late in Atlanta?) Cape Town, South Africa? (So soon after
apartheid?) Seville, Spain? (Not this close to Barcelona.)
Stockholm? (Try the Winter Games.) Rome? (Did that.) Athens?
(Did that, too.) Lille, France? (Please.) St. Petersburg,
Russia? (You want to use cardboard toilet paper for three
weeks?) Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro? (Sure, but who could
concentrate?)

Olympic attache: Mr. Samaranch, you must leave the beach now. We
are already two hours late.

Samaranch: Out of my face, you fool!

No, sir. Think Istanbul, Turkey! Think Suleyman the Magnificent
and Turkish baths and the Hall of Eunuchs. What does Atlanta
have to compare with the Hall of Eunuchs, except maybe ACOG?

The Olympics have become a giant cash machine, and I suppose
that is healthy. But what the Olympics have lost is romance.
There is no romance in Atlanta. There are men on bullhorns,
people painted completely silver and streets with all the charm
of Coney Island, but there is no romance.

There will not be much romance in Australia in 2000, either.
Australia is just America with a thin coating of vegemite.

But if Istanbul gets the 2004 Games, as it most definitely
should, you could be watching the sunset from the balcony of the
Hotel Kempinski, gazing over the iridescent Bosporus to Asia,
smoking tobacco from a hookah and saying, "More mezze, Natasha?"

Terrorism? Istanbul has two words for terrorism: Turkish
prisons. Or didn't you see Midnight Express?

Expensive? You can gorge on exquisite Turkish food and wine at
the finest restaurant in Istanbul--and it ain't no Shoney's--for
maybe $30, tops. Afterward, you can go to an ancient
coffeehouse--these guys introduced coffee to Europe, for crying
out loud--nibble on Turkish delight, raise a glass of raki and
proudly say, "Grshmlet, abida" which means nothing at all
because the raki has made your mouth totally numb.

Charm? Which sounds better, being packed into a MARTA car next
to the Honduran Sweating Team or enjoying the sea breeze and
taking in the view of a magnificent city that is more than 3,000
years old on one of the ferries that would connect many of the
Istanbul venues. What in Atlanta is 3,000 years old besides the
Aramark croissant sandwiches?

True, Istanbul would not have Bud World, Atlanta
Journal-Constitution hawkers springing out of your closet every
morning or hour-long lines to get into a SuperStore. But
Istanbul would have nude beaches, 75[degrees] days and people so
friendly that if you compliment one of them on his tie, he will
very likely take it off and insist you keep it. If you
compliment somebody in Atlanta on his tie, he is likely to take
it off and try to sell it to you, along with a fake gold medal
and a photo of your wife superimposed atop a Clydesdale.

Do you know that on buses traveling across Turkey there are
attendants who splash perfumed water on your palms to refresh
you? Do you know that the Istanbul marathon route begins in Asia
and ends in Europe? Do you know that every visitor to the
Ottoman Empire receives a free ottoman? (Well, they're working
on it.)

There is a rumor that Boston is moving into the picture for
2004. Please, don't give us Boston. Don't make these Olympics so
big and expensive and complicated that only huge American
metropolises can have them. Give the Olympics back to the world.

No?

Would you consider Constantinople?

COLOR PHOTO: TOM LYNNNot only are Turkish fans rabid, but they're also excellent hosts.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
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