Twenty days at the Atlanta Centennial Olympics: a final wrap-up

by Roman Woronowycz

Spending 20 days in Atlanta during the Centennial Olympics would leave anybody with information overload. So as not to forget the vast array of information, impressions and behind-the-scenes looks that were availed The Ukrainian Weekly by reason of the 3x5 card called a press credential which hung around my neck, I kept a journal. Not everything fits into a story. I accumulated many little tidbits and blurbs that I found interesting, but which were of themselves not sufficient to turn into an article. With so many snippets of information, a final wrap-up story on the Olympics could have become a meandering and disjointed piece on various reminiscences. So we decided a list of short anecdotes, stories and impressions of 20 days at the Olympics would be more appropriate. Here they are.

He was especially smug a week later with computer databases not functioning properly and most reporters reverting to the old system of telephoning for information or relying on printed matter issued by the various federations and the organizing committee.
The information that was there was in at least one instance glaringly erroneous. One screen, a general history of Ukraine, showed the blue-yellow flag, named the Ukrainian national anthem and gave other data accurately. However, it identified Pavlo Lazarenko as head of state (should be Leonid Kuchma) and listed the official language as Ukrainian/Russian. ACOG said that each country's National Olympic Committee was responsible for providing such information.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games provided information on the current Games, events and medal results, all of which was accurate, although much of it appeared in the data banks many hours after individual events were completed.
With better information, maybe more would have been printed about Ukraine's exploits.
One noticeable inadequacy was a dearth of escorts for guests, including journalists. Everybody except for authorized individuals who wanted to go from the international area of the Olympic Village, which was accessible to all who had daily passes, to the inner confines where the residents stayed, was required to be escorted by authorized individuals at all times.

NOC Envoy Oksana Foltyn explained that there were not enough volunteers to keep running to the gates to escort the dozens of guests they received every day. That left me on my own as I entered the "forbidden zone" after several NOC members got me past the gates and the guards. No problem, except that my accreditation would have been pulled had I been caught roaming the area unescorted.
One incident in particular was memorable. I was on the MARTA (Atlanta's subway system) and ready to exit at the next stop. A couple was staring at my press accreditation (which was hanging from my neck), as many people did, trying to figure out what it meant. The couple must have noticed "The Ukrainian Weekly" and my obviously foreign name inscribed on it, for as I was disembarking, the lady blurted out, "I don't know if you understand English, but I would just like to welcome you to Atlanta. "I couldn't restrain myself. As the doors were about to close, I turned around and said, "Thank-you, but I'm from the New York area," and walked away, probably leaving her somewhat puzzled.
I asked her at one point if she could tell me the title to the music to which Dominique Dawes danced during her floor routine, music that was interesting to The Weekly because it sounded very much like traditional Ukrainian folk music. Her answer: "I don't know." She did not offer to find out (isn't that part of her job?) until I asked her specifically to do so. I never received a response, although I e-mailed her and paged her several times.

When I saw her again I asked her if she had found out. She said she hadn't "yet," and then pointed me to a gentleman who she said was a gymnastics coach. Well, he wasn't, and when I went back to where I had spoken with her, she was gone.
It felt good to see the Ukrainian flag being raised in the auditoriums, first rising above the U.S. banner and then above Russia's.
A Russian journalist who was sitting between correspondent Pavlo Shilko of Gala News Radio of Ukraine and me, turned to Mr. Shilko and said, "Your people?" To which Mr. Shilko replied rather proudly, "No, that's our diaspora."
The next day Mr. Sharipov, when told when I was to meet Liliya, said that would be impossible. The team was scheduled to leave Atlanta for the airport at 4 p.m. A misunderstanding? Maybe a sly way out of another interview? We'll never know.
It was obvious Ms. Podkopayeva felt burdened by the many interview requests. In her defense it must be mentioned, as Mr. Sharipov explained, that she was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention, and, after all, she is only 17 years old.
She said she was wearing the garish ensemble because, "I like my heritage." I discovered that she is a fourth-generation Ukrainian American whose great-grandparents arrived at Ellis Island just after the turn of the century and settled in Philadelphia.
By the way, she had purchased the shirt and cap at officially sanctioned kiosks, and they were both Hanes products.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 18, 1996, No. 33, Vol. LXIV

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