- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Argument: Open Up the Parade

They smile, wave and generally make like Paris Hilton — which is to say, everyone has camcorders. The parade of nations is unquestionably the highlight of the Olympic opening ceremony, a march of giggly, bubbly athletes without compare.

Of course, it could use a little punching up.

Everything else about the Games’ opening night owes a schmaltzy, kitschy debt to Las Vegas: the lights, the dancers, the Children of Light. But the athlete’s parade remains unadorned, unscripted, as if the mere sight of the world’s fastest and strongest is enough to entertain.

Please. More is done for the average NBA half-time show, not to mention the average NBA timeout. Pump up the Jam and all.

At the very least, Olympic organizers could have given the athletes CO2-propelled Athens 2004 T-shirts to fire into the crowd; better yet, they could’ve played that “Kiss Me” song while flashing the image of FHM cover hotties Logan Tom and Amanda Beard on the Olympic Stadium Jumbotron.

But why stop there? Why not go all out? These are the Olympics, after all, where too much of a good thing — or even too much badminton — is never enough.

With that in mind, here’s a few country-by-country suggestions for improving the athletes’ march. Feel free to imagine your own:

Russia

Flag bearer: Maria Sharapova. Who cares if she isn’t actually competing in Athens?

Outfits: For the men, Boris; for the women, Natasha. Cold war stereotypes are a reminder of a kinder, gentler geopolitical era.

Theme music: “Send in the Clowns,” a nod to Russia’s diminished status as an Olympic power. You thought USA Basketball was bad? Team Ivan didn’t even qualify. The inevitable outcome of cheering for Balboa at the end of “Rocky IV.”

Extras: As Russians enter stadium, have crooked French judge hand them gold medals.

Greece

Flag bearer: Balki from “Perfect Strangers.” Irritating what’s-her-face from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” has already gotten more than enough air time.

Outfits: Nude, just like their ancient Olympic predecessors. The following exemptions apply: All of the male athletes, any and all female wrestlers.

Theme music: A once-in-a-lifetime tag team of Yanni and Zamphir, assuming the “master of the pan flute” is still alive.

Extras: Besides leading the Greek delegation, have Balki light the Olympic torch, then tell the world, “Tonight, we are all from Mipos.”

United States

Flag bearer: President Bush. Just so voters back home — oops, we mean the freedom-loving people of the world — know who protects them.

Outfits: Wraparound Oakleys, Navy flight suits, a big overhead banner reading “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.”

Theme music: The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

Extras: Midway through the American march, switch the music to James Brown’s “Living in America”; have Michael Phelps don Stars-and-Stripes boxers and an Uncle Sam top hat while shadowboxing. Also, consider letting John Kerry hold the flag, too. The man’s a patriot — after all, he served in Vietnam. You probably didn’t know that.

The Buzz

Dawn Staley — Up Arrow

USA flag bearer, WNBA star wanted to be here. Unlike some of her male counterparts.

David Munyasia — Down Arrow

Kenyan boxer slapped with doping suspension before Games even start. Talk about getting a jump.

Eros —Up Arrow

Greek god of sensuality makes a cameo in opening ceremony. Hopefully, his next stop is women’s beach volleyball.

POSTCARD FROM ATHENS

• Olympic organizers were courteous enough to include a laundry room in Your Correspondent’s dorm — excuse me, “media village.” Unfortunately, they also installed the world’s most evil washing machine. No lie: Yours truly and an American television producer spent 20 minutes puzzling over the cryptic directions, only to have the machine’s door lock in place, trapping my clothes inside. Desperate, I unplugged the machine. Still locked. Plugged it back in. The machine finally started up, unbidden, seemingly possessed. Oh, and the wash cycle lasted two hours. On second thought, who needs clean socks?

• Our foreign friends like to smoke. A lot. To wit: While switching flights in Rome, Your Correspondent was forced to wait on a runway next to his plane, which presumably was being serviced. So what happens? Two guys light up. Never mind the nearby jet fuel. Fortunately, an Alitalia employee had them stamp out their butts.

• The Rome-to-Athens leg of my flight brought a seemingly pleasant surprise: A seat adjacent to a setter on Brazil’s women’s indoor volleyball team. What delightful postcard material! One problem: Your Correspondent doesn’t speak Portuguese. Hence, five minutes of straining, mangled conversation begat 55 minutes of quiet magazine reading. Let’s hear it for diversity!

• While sweating in the sauna-like media section of Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony, Your Correspondent spied Bob Costas and Katie Couric being made up for the cameras. Happily, they looked hot and miserable; unhappily, they get to go home and count their money when this is all over. Not that we’re envious.

Patrick Hruby


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