A reporter's view from Athens

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    ATHENS-It's 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28. The U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team is on the QE II, celebrating their third straight gold medal with a party that still may not be over by the time you read this. The men, meanwhile, are at halftime, trying bravely to beat Lithuania so they can go into NBA training camp chanting, "We're number three!" Around me, NBC technicians are dismantling what has been home for nearly three weeks, pulling down wiring, crating monitors, editing machines, computers, printers, copiers, and a lot of other devices whose names and functions are mysteries to me. In two more days, the writers, editors, bookers, producers and talent will all be gone while the technicians and carpenters continue to dismantle shop, pack it in containers, and ship it home to wait in storage for the next big production. MSNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, CNBC, and NBC will return to their regular schedules. And, after a quick stop in Vienna to have a perfect beer and an equally matchless wienerschnitzel in the Goesser Bierklinik (That's at 4 Steindl Gasse, and if you go to Vienna and don't go there, you'll have missed something grand.), I'll be back to my home in Warwick and my real job as managing editor of The Advertiser-News. Covering the Olympics is fun; covering your communities is important. You know by now all about the victories and defeats, the continuing excellence of American women's teams and the embarrassment of the U.S. men's basketball team. And you've heard what a great place Athens is. So let me share a few notebook items with you, beginning with security. When I was preparing to come here, people asked me if I was afraid of terrorists. I wasn't for two reasons: First, more than $1.5 billion went into making the venues safer than your own bedrooms; and, second, Athens never appeared on Osama bin Laden's "Places to Blow Up" lists. It made sense. Why attack an event attended and honored by the entire world? It's one thing having the United States out for your skin. It's another having your former allies joining the hunt. Not everyone who came here felt as I did. A columnist friend from St. Louis said his paper brought in security experts who told the Olympic staff to buy body armor and gas masks and not to wear blue jeans or Nike shoes. My friend bought a lot of new clothes he didn't need and is lugging home a lot of heavy items he never needed. Twenty years ago in Los Angeles, most of us were annoyed by the security checks to get into venues. Today, it's an accepted part of the routine. There's even a new word for the checkpoints at which you run your bag through the X-ray machine and walk through the metal detector: the "magbag." Prices were pretty reasonable here, but our hotel, the President n and judging by the service, I'd say it was President Millard Filmore n decided that a captive building full of NBC people was a potential gold mine. The day I arrived, a shot of ouzo cost about $3.75. Within a week, it had improved to $8. The laundry prices started at $7 for a shirt, and that included t-shirts. I fooled them, though. I found a local laundry around the corner, where I was able to get two pairs of slacks, seven polo shirts, and a week's worth of underwear and socks laundered for a mere $50. Try explaining that on an expense account. I'll also never forget the NBC commissary, where twice each day for three weeks we had our choice of dried chicken or overcooked patties of a meat-like substance. I still don't know what sort of meat n if it was meat at all n it was, but I can't tell you how relieved I was to learn that the 30,000 dogs Athens rounded up off the streets before the Games are alive and will be released next week. I see the U.S. men won the bronze, and there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in Vilnius. And with that, I'm outta here. Tell Danny at the Vernon Inn to save a stool for me.