by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

SYDNEY, Australia — And with that, we end these 2000 Olympic Games! They were spectacular, weren’t they? See you in 2004!

Uh, Mitch. Why are you upside down? Funny. I was going to ask you the same thing. Maybe it’s being Down Under, where today is yesterday, yesterday is tomorrow, up is down, and how about that Olivia Newton-John?

She sings in the opening ceremonies.

She sang.

What are you talking about?

She sang in the opening ceremonies. Those were two weeks ago, mate.

Two weeks ago?

Yes. Before the American swimmers set all those records — except that one big upset by the Aussie kid — and before the Dream Team had its first tough game, and before Marion Jones stunned when she–

Wait, wait, wait.

What, what, what?

You’re talking as if the Olympics are over.

Well, they are.

No they’re not. Tonight is the first night.

Ha. Tonight may be the first night the Games are televised. But they’re already over down here. It’s, like, November. We’re packing up. There’s a few guys sweeping up the bleacher seats, and as soon as we get that elephant in its cage, we’re outta here.

I don’t get it.

Chalk it up to technology, pal. Long ago, in the dark ages, the Olympics were only staged in Greece. If you wanted to see them, you had to go there. Otherwise, you waited in darkness, days and days, until the news finally came back to you.

But now?

But now, thanks to the technological revolution, we are at the bold, new cutting edge of TV broadcast capability. Which means you wait in darkness, days and days, until the news finally comes back to you.

But, but–

Hang on a second. The moving company is buzzing. I have to unplug a few machines here …

Time to leave the island

I don’t understand. Today is supposed to be the START of the Olympics. Everyone is talking about it.

On TV?


Well, in TV land, the Games haven’t begun yet. In fact, the Games will not exist in America until Bob Costas or some other NBC talking head tells you they do.

I’m lost.

Economics, my little kangarooski. In an effort to recoup the humongous pile of money paid to broadcast these Games — it was so much loot, some of it actually fell out of the pockets of the bribed officials — NBC is controlling the entire information flow, doling it out the way an oldies band doles out its hits.

So the Sydney Olympics are done.

And I had a great time. You should see trampolining. It’s new this year. Well, it was new. And this synchronized diving! It’s–

But then all these previews about Marion Jones–

Oh, you should have seen what happened to her in the 100 meters. When she–


But don’t you want to know how the world record in–


OK. Suit yourself.

Time to recall the glory

So what you’re saying is, the whole thing’s a wrap. The women’s soccer team’s shot at a gold medal–

Already over.

And Michael Johnson’s run for a second straight 400-meter gold?

Done already.

And Maurice Greene’s attempt to be the world’s fastest man?

Well, he was fast. I’ll give you that.

And the Dream Team? And the American swimmers? And that showdown between Gary Hall of the United States and the Russian sprinter Alexander Popov–

Oh, please, let me tell you about that one. They both hit the water at the same time, and Popov had an early lead and–


You seem troubled.

It’s not right.

Well, it beats NBC’s original plan.

What was that?

To not show the Sydney events until 2004.

I’m getting a headache.

Oh yeah? Try cleaning up after a closing ceremony. Hey! WHO LEFT THIS NORWEGIAN FLAG? Oh, for cripes sakes …

Just tell us, this, Mitch. Were the Games worth watching?

Well, if you could see them in person, yeah. If you could hear the wild cheering from the Australians, watch them swig the Foster’s beer, hear them sneering at you when you say “G’day mate,” then yeah, they were worth it. But the one event that was really overhyped was the–


Fine then. I’ve got to hose down a torch

We appreciate the, uh, preview.

No worries.

Good luck turning yourself right side up.

Thanks. By the way …


You’ve got gum on your shoe.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Listen to “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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