Will there be a roof covering competitors and spectators at the Olympic pool?
The Olympic Aquatic Centre was supposed to be completed by November 2003, but Greek Olympic organizers have met few construction deadlines and there is bound to be wet concrete at some venues come August.
Shade, in the form of a fabric canopy, was promised over the Olympic pool. The president of FINA, swimming's international governing body, said last week that fulfilling that plan remains essential, but one of his press secretaries was caustic two weeks ago when she said, "If they manage to get water in the pool, then we'll be happy."
Olympic swimming has been held in the open before, most recently in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992 and Los Angeles in 1984. Why is the issue relevant? Broadcasters have warned that a roof could diminish the quality of television images coming from the pool, but the young man who could provide the top story there wants all the shade he can get.
Michael Phelps will probably compete in all eight days of swimming in Athens, as he tries to collect as many medals as have ever been won at an Olympics. The Mediterranean heat and humidity could both measure 95. Phelps could race as many as 18 times in those eight days, and the more taxing the elements, the more energy he will expend on the deck, let alone in the pool itself.
The venue issue was considered when USA Swimming selected a temporary, open-air facility in Long Beach, Calif., for July's Olympic trials.
"In the selection process, we felt comfortable going outdoors, because we wanted to mirror Athens as much as possible," said Mike Unger. "In 2001, there was no roof planned for Athens. FINA then came out and said that there may be one. If there is no roof, the backstrokes will be won by the person who crashes the least, because if you look directly up into the sun, you may not see flag lines."
Most of Phelps' landmark meets in 2003 were in controlled indoor environments, but he has been dominant in any setting. He was unshaven on a windy day at the Santa Clara International last June when he notched the first of his three world records in the 200-meter individual medley.
No Olympic boost
Once, it was assumed that Olympic sports would get a boost in Olympic years. That thinking didn't prevail at Towson University, where the men's cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field programs were axed last week.
The usual suspects will be blamed for the demise of some of the oldest teams in the Tigers' athletic department.
On the Title IX front, Towson's student body is predominantly female. As colleges nationwide seek to increase male enrollment, however, disbanding a men's program turns even more males away.
Towson University wants to "enhance its competitive opportunities within the Colonial Athletic Conference." CAA schools like George Mason, James Madison and William and Mary have no men's lacrosse, but a national heritage in the running sports. Towson track has little to show from its underfunded two-plus decades in Division I, but you can't go to a high school meet in the state without bumping into a coach who competed for the Tigers.
The world indoor track and field championships will be held next weekend in Budapest, Hungary. The top two finishers at USA Track and Field's indoor nationals will be eligible to compete, but that meet in Boston doesn't conclude until today, so runners might as well have their passport in hand when they cross the finish line.
Because Hungary doesn't have a laboratory that can conduct doping tests, blood and urine samples will be transported by messenger service to a facility in Vienna, Austria.
On the doping front, Britain's suspension of Dwain Chambers adds to the wide-open nature of the Olympic 100. Maurice Greene is the defending champion and Tim Montgomery is the world record-holder, but neither looked sharp in 2003.
Three former University of Maryland field hockey players are on the U.S. team that will attempt to earn an Olympic berth next month in Auckland, New Zealand.
Katie Kauffman-Beach is the captain of the U.S. team. Keli Smith, another 2000 graduate of Maryland, and Dina Rizzo from the Class of 2002 are also on the Americans' roster. Players headed to the qualifying tournament aren't guaranteed a spot on the team. If the Americans are successful in New Zealand, the final selection for the U.S. team will be later this spring.
Games at a glance
When: Aug. 13-29
Where: Athens, Greece
TV: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo
Web site: www.athens2004.com
Flame lit: March 25