Before the bombing, when the greatest misfortune of these Games
looked to be nothing more sinister than their blinkered lack of
international character, I found myself in a polyglot gathering
of seven postmidnight revelers--two Spaniards, an Australian, a
German, a Serb, a Swiss and me--in that cheesiest of American
places, a sports bar. One of the Spaniards spied Prince Felipe
of Spain at a nearby table. The Aussie in our midst took this
sighting as a dare. Cadging pen and paper from a waitress, he
scrawled out a "Dear Felipe" note, informing the heir to the
Spanish throne that two of his subjects were in the house and
wanted to challenge him to a game of Pop-a-Shot basketball. Then
the Aussie got up, marched over to the prince's table and handed
him the invitation.
Moments later the 28-year-old pride of the House of Borbon,
wearing jeans and a look of world-weary duty, stood before us.
Felipe's athletic ability is highly specialized--he competed in
yachting at Barcelona four years ago and our contestant, Marcos
from Madrid, beat him easily enough to underscore that fact. But
afterward Felipe good-naturedly posed for pictures.
Pop-a-Shot is not likely to be added to the Olympics anytime
soon. But here Atlanta wrenched me for a few minutes from the
unsatisfying Olympics she was staging. In an episode that at
once harkened back to the Old World enchantment of Barcelona and
peeked forward at the fun awaiting in Sydney, I came out from a
dense forest of Peachtrees and into a clearing, from which I
could again see the vistas of a world out there.