Report #1 - All About Athens, No. 1

Believe it or not, I write this on my fourth full day in Athens, Greece. The time is going by so fast already, yet I know it will go faster once the Games begin.

I left Colorado Springs at 10:40 on Sunday morning. I flew to Denver where I had a 2-hour layover, then joined a bunch of Bronco fans (on their way to Canton for Elway’s induction ceremony) on a flight to Chicago. In Chicago, I had time to grab some lunch before the 8-hour flight to Amsterdam.

The flight to Amsterdam was made a little uncomfortable when they had trouble with the electrical systems on the flight somewhere over the Atlantic. The choices were, return to Chicago or turn off the electricity and head on to Amsterdam. The flight attendants chose the latter so the video, air conditioning and overhead lights were turned off. I tried to sleep on this flight, but never quite got there, considering it was still daytime in Colorado Springs.

Although Amsterdam is famous for its canals and legalized drugs, I saw none of that in the airport, although there was a shopping mall, museum and casino. It was pretty busy there for a Sunday morning though.

While up to this point we had flown United Airlines, we took Greek Olympic airlines from Amsterdam to Greece. It was a four-hour flight and they actually served us a hot meal with silverware. I didn’t eat much of it because by that point my stomach didn’t know what time it was.

We landed in Athens and, after some indecision about where I would be staying, I was taken to the athlete village to get my Olympic credential. At the Olympics, you are not a person unless you have a credential. This is a giant card in plastic with your picture on it that lets you in to the various venues. The best credential is the coveted “infinity” credential, which basically gets you in everywhere. I did not get one of those, but I did get really great access.

In Sydney, I could not get into the athlete village without a guest pass. But in Athens, I am credentialed to go right into the village and I can even eat in the dining hall. Dinner that night was a lot of fun. Although a lot of athletes hadn’t arrived yet, the hall was still jumping with activity. There are various food stations with salad, pizza, Greek food, Chinese food… etc. There are drinks and fruit and ice cream. And, of course, there is a McDonalds, which was not hurting for customers.

We left the village and headed for the cruise ship where I would be staying. Before you get excited, forget all the cruise ads you’ve seen where people are ice skating and wall climbing and taking aerobics. The Royal Olympic Cruise ship is obviously a holdover from another era… maybe the mid-70s? It’s not bad… it just has obviously seen better days. Our rooms are small. There are two single beds, a small closet, a small dresser and a really tiny bathroom. But it’s not like we have roommates and it’s not like I’ll be spending much time there anyway.

The worst part about the ship is that it is at least a two-bus trip to get anywhere else. So far, the transportation has been good. The buses basically run on time (so far) and many are large and comfy. The Greeks have set up special Olympic Lanes for accredited vehicles all over time. That doesn’t mean that driving here isn’t an adventure, because it is. Sudden lane changes and darting pedestrians are of particular concern.

Security is tight but not overbearing. We have to go through medal detectors and have our bags screened pretty much anywhere we go. There are blimps overhead that supposedly have listening devices and cameras. There are Greek guards in camouflage holding large automatic weapons. There are other American security people who are much lower key. No obvious weapons… but you get the feeling that if something happened, they would be more than ready.

More to come…