- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

The Athens Games are expected to be a mess, assuming the festivities come off as scheduled, starting on Aug. 13.

That, too, is debatable, given the amount of construction that needs to be completed before then.

Three bomb blasts in suburban Athens last week gave the world another reason to pause.

The words from a top Greek official were hardly reassuring.

“In Europe, there is a different sense of such kinds of incidents,” the official said. “If it were not for the Olympic Games, it would not be in the newspapers.”

That is mighty considerate of the person to explain the uniquely European view of bomb blasts in the neighborhood.

Excuse America or any other country for thinking that a bomb blast in a neighborhood is an unsettling proposition.

Greece has its own strain of terrorists distinct from the virgin-seeking nut cases who take their orders from Osama bin Laden. At least one of the fringe groups in Greece has stumbled upon the hypocrisy of the Olympics, an admission of prior ignorance that is stunning.

Anyone with a mildly functioning brain came to the same conclusion decades ago.

The best quality of the lords of the games remains a lack of shame. No kickback scandal is too great for them to manage into oblivion. They just add a few more white doves to the affair, and soon all is well again.

The Olympics have come to be the sports equivalent of a family’s crazy uncle that is hidden in the attic most of the time. The less usually said about the Olympics, the better.

The competitions are only as genuine as you imagine them to be. It takes a whole lot of imagination to believe in their purity.

The principal competition in the post-September 11 world is ever-tighter security.

Athens is an appealing target of the nut cases, no doubt, if only because of its public relations value. Killing and maiming the innocent is the No. 1 pastime of the whacked-out brigade, always wrapped in stupefying justifications that resonate with the American-hating aggrieved of the Middle East.

Greece is spending about $1.2 billion to put the Games into what amounts to a hermetically sealed bubble. About 70,000 security personnel will be used to defend the venues.

That counts for something, just not sure if it covers it all. There are soft target spots associated with any massive event, as Atlanta discovered in 1996. No athletes or officials were targeted in that blast, just innocents looking to have a good time in an open park specifically built with the alleged spirit of the Olympics in mind.

The bomb had its intended effect. It killed the mood.

The show must go on, of course, or the terrorists will have won.

That was one of the slow-developing lessons of September 11.

A life spent in the company of plastic sheeting and duct tape is no life at all.

The alternative squeezes the joy out of life as well, as anyone who has undergone a soft strip search at the airport might attest.

The assault on the olfactory sense is the bonus, as the shoeless step through the metal detectors.

Athens, out of necessity, is drafting security measures that promise to reduce the terror threat. The trade-off is the threat of a long line taxing a person’s nerves.

Alas, try as it might, the Athens Games can’t have it both ways: a secure event in a fan-friendly environment.

At least one Greek official also could find a better way to comment on three bomb blasts in suburban Athens.

Suggesting that three bomb blasts are all part of the workday in Europe is, just guessing, probably not the best way to entice dollar-packing visitors to Athens in August.

America already has had to come to terms with the roll-over proclivities of old Europe in the war on terror, with Spain the latest to go belly-up.

America has earned the right to be leery of old Europe’s defense mechanisms.

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