15 events, many miles ... 1 subway Day at the Games can be a real trip

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BARCELONA, Spain -- Got the essentials: Media credential, subway map, calendar of events, Olympic subway pass and mounds of Spanish pesetas, enough to survive a hot and sweaty Catalonian day.

It's time to see the Olympics, the real Olympics, the Olympics of subway rides, long walks and grimy competition, not the sanitized "back to the boxing venue" wizardry presented on television.

The goal is to catch 15 of the 21 events on the day's calendar. Rowing, canoeing and shooting are out -- too far away. Cycling and team handball are out -- too many conflicts.

Everything else is in.

It's a big-city Olympics, so hop on the subway.

Welcome to a day at the Games.

8:20 a.m. Board subway, Tarragona.

First Olympic moment: The "Chariots of Fire" theme is playing inside the station. First Olympic delay: The train sits 10 minutes at the first stop.

Off at Vall d'Hebron, the site for archery, Basque pelota and tennis on the northwest side of town. Two blond women from Australia want to know if Andre Agassi is playing.

Ugh.

9:20 a.m. Women's archery.

Bows and arrows!

In English and Spanish, the public-address announcer reports the official venue temperature is 73 degrees.

"It should be quite a pleasant day for shooting," he says, breathlessly.

The morning is peaceful.

Not a cloud in the sky.

The 61 archers nearly outnumber the fans. They shoot 144 arrows from four distances. None is as good as Costner in Robin Hood.

It's so quiet, you can hear fingers twitching bows.

But suddenly, the sparse crowd ignites.

A group from Korea chants and waves purple fans.

A lone Spaniard drowns them out by pounding a drum.

10 a.m. Basque pelota.

Jai-alai? Not quite.

The players use paddles instead of cestas, and they never blow shots for mysterious reasons.

Spirited competition, si.

Gambling, no.

Spain vs. France. Men's doubles. So what if pelota is a demonstration sport? The 200 fans are vocal and enthusiastic.

Imagine if they were betting quinellas.

10:30 a.m. Tennis.

Behind schedule, because security keeps turning five-minute walks into 15. Everyone must pass through metal detectors. Carry enough pocket change, and they summon armed guards.

Back outdoors, it's a battle of Germans, Michael Stich vs. Carl-Uwe Steeb. Nice crowd, but who cares?

The U.S. Open is four weeks away.

Tune in then.

11 a.m. Board subway, Vall d'Hebron.

You never know who you'll meet on the subway, Part I:

Say hello to two representatives from Bausch & Lomb, yet another sponsor of the 25th Olympiad.

One is compiling security information in preparation for the arrival of Bausch & Lomb executives.

The other works in the Olympic Village conducting visual tests on the athletes.

Nice to know you.

How about a pin?

11:50 a.m. Badminton.

Three racket sports before noon.

Talk about being on a roll.

pTC The morning session is concluding. The small arena sits right next to the Mediterranean. To get there, you literally march to the sea.

Some people are still arriving.

But a lot more are heading to the beach.

Three singles matches are in progress, featuring men and women from six different countries -- Thailand, Sweden, Great Britain, China, Korea and Israel.

Hit the birdie!

"Two positions for you," the security guard says, pointing to the nearly empty press area.

12:30 p.m. Board subway, Poble Nou.

12:55 p.m. Table tennis.

Sat down for the last point.

Four racket sports!

1:10 p.m. Board subway, Arc De Triomf.

1:35 p.m. Yachting.

Binoculars are required for this event, for which people gather on piers to debate wind direction. Hundreds of Spaniards on the beach are more interested in their tans.

Fascinating event.

Simulate it in the tub.

1:55 p.m. Board subway, Ciutadella.

Twelve stops to the west side of town, no air conditioning, the odors of all nations.

2:30 p.m. Boxing.

It's the Seychelles' Roland Raform vs. France's Patrice Aoussi in a light-heavyweight bout.

A French fighter?

They're kidding, right?

Aoussi gets knocked out at 2:19 of the second round.

2:45 p.m. Board subway, Pep Ventura.

2:55 p.m. Men's basketball.

Australia is in flourescent yellow, China in faded pink. Australia features a fellow named Leroy Loggins, who was born in Baltimore and now plays for the Bullets -- the Brisbane Bullets.

The Chinese chant "Cheee-na."

The Australians chant, "Oy. Oy. Oy, oy, oy."

Much noise, little talent.

Eight events down, eight to go.

Time for the ceremonial shirt change.

3:15 p.m. Board subway, Gorg.

You never know who you'll meet on the subway, part II:

Celebrating life on an air-conditioned train, a group of 10 friends -- blacks, whites and Asians from Holland and Suriname -- do the wave.

The members of the group speak five languages --: Dutch, German, French, English and Surinamese. They've just come from the boxing venue, where a friend of theirs lost.

"He got screwed," one says, rather fluently.

3:30 p.m. Schedule change.

The baseball venue is 30 stops away. It will be painful missing Japan-Italy, but it's time for a siesta.

6 p.m. Swimming.

After 69 stops, the subway rides are nearly over. Most of tonight's events are on Montjuic, the mountain overlooking the Mediterranean in the heart of Barcelona.

It's 272 steps to the top. The escalators are so crowded, the only option is to walk. After five minutes, it's already time for another ceremonial shirt change.

Too bad there isn't another shirt.

The first idea is to attend track and field, but the gates are mobbed. Swimming is right next door. The women's 200-meter butterfly is in progress. Summer Sanders wins the gold.

"Way to go Summer!" the U.S. swimmers shout in unison. "Way to go Angie!"

Summer Sanders was first.

Angie Wester Krieg, sixth.

6:30 p.m. Weightlifting.

The mile walk was worth it.

It isn't every day you get to see Turkey's Sunay Bulut perform in the snatch.

The massive video screen shows Bulut backstage taking last-minute advice from his coach. Bulut walks to the platform and hoists a 155-kilogram barbell far above his head.

First Summer, now Sunay.

What next?

Back to Montjuic.

7 p.m. Women's volleyball.

Check out the Unified Team's jerseys: Red shirts with yellow sleeves featuring funky, abstract designs. Eighty years of repression, and now the republics are out of control.

Seen enough. Side out. Rotate.

7:15 p.m. Track and field.

Easy access now. The ticket scalpers are gone. The atmosphere is electric. Olympic Stadium is nearly filled with 61,000 fans.

In one corner of the stadium, fans start clapping rhythmically, keeping the beat during a Spanish high jumper's approach.

Two Americans, Michael Stulce and James Doehring, are running 1-2 in the shot put. A fan with a bugle entertains the crowd.

Most of the attention is on the second round of the men's 100-meter --. Dennis Mitchell is in the blocks now. One rival false-starts, then another, then another.

Mitchell claps his hands six times, psyching himself again. He explodes at the start, holds on to win his heat and claps five more times.

Now he's in the semifinals.

8:15 p.m. Men's gymnastics.

Fans only want to see the women.

It's the men's all-around competition.

The arena is half-full.

Pommel horse, high bar, floor exercise, parallel bars -- everything is going at once. The Unified Team is in green. The Germans are in pink.

Love those new world colors.

9 p.m. Men's fencing.

Zorro time!

The individual foil reduces from eight fencers to four to two. The excitement is building. The 3,500-seat arena is jammed.

Only one problem:

The final is at 10.

The men's judo final is at 10:30.

It will be impossible to see both.

10 p.m. Board subway, Espana.

10:15 p.m. Change trains.

10:20 p.m. Board subway, Collblanc.

10:25 p.m. One last sprint.

10:35 p.m. Judo.

The Japanese are chanting.

The 6,500-seat arena is rocking.

Japan's Toshihiko Koga beats Hungary's Bertalan Hajtos. The Japanese wave banners and flags, but another group is even more raucous, pumping fists, blowing whistles in time, shouting, "Hey!"

The medals ceremony is moments away, and a Spaniard named Miriam Blasco is the women's champion. The king and queen are in attendance. The fans are swaying and singing, "Mi-ri-am, Mi-ri-am."

She is on the victory stand now.

The Spanish flag rises.

The national anthem plays.

Miriam Blasco is crying.

A day at the Games.

A day at the Games

Indoor events .. .. 5

Outdoor events .. .10

Subway rides .. .. .9

Subway stops .. .. 80

Athletes seen .. .189

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