Carrying a Torch

Posted: Aug 13, 2004 12:00 AM

It?s time again for everyone?s favorite quadrennial event. No, not the presidential race. Nobody pays attention to that until after Labor Day, political professionals tell us. And not the leap day. All that does is mess up calendars. How the heck did Christmas end up on a Saturday again?

The summer Olympics are back, in all their glory. And this year, they?re returning to their roots, in Greece.

Many people, of course, expected Athens would get the centennial games back in 1996. That honor went to Atlanta, though. And we (I was a proud Atlanta resident from 1993-1999) did them up in all-American style.

Those games were great, but some thought the commercialism was a bit overdone. Subsequent games have tended to be smaller and quieter. This year?s Athens edition will follow that model, which is probably a good thing. After all, construction of some venues is so far behind schedule, they might not be finished until after the games.

In retrospect, it?s probably good that the International Olympic Committee gave the Greeks an extra eight years -- that gave them time to at least come close to being ready to host an Olympics.

Meanwhile, since I?m so keyed up for the games this year, I?ve decided to make a documentary about the history of the Olympics. There are plenty of good things to highlight.

Did you know, for instance, that all wars supposedly stopped during the games in ancient Athens? Let?s hope that tradition continues this year. Also, everyone used to compete naked. That, we can probably do without.

Interestingly, the idea to hold an Olympic competition was first conceived by a close advisor to Alexander the Great named Dick Cheneyopolus. Apparently he saw it as a great way to advertise his new company.

 That company (Halliburton, maybe you?ve heard of it?) was also the first corporation in history. Cheneyopolus claimed he?d sold off all his interests in it when he went to war alongside Alexander. But we know better. Since Halliburton was the only company that manufactured the spears and shields used in battle, he stood to profit handsomely from the fighting.

Alexander, of course, was the son of a war-making king. But it?s little known that he wasn?t the wonderful leader we all think of. Karl Rovenasis, the world?s first spinmeister, added the nickname ?The Great? when Alexander was considering an invasion of India.

Everyone in Greece understood that Cheneyopolus was the real power behind the throne. Alexander had few original thoughts, but was certainly bloodthirsty.
In fact, after replacing his father on the throne, he invaded the Middle East, to complete the conquest his old man had failed to achieve.

That invasion was wildly unpopular at the time. After all, any sane observer could see that the Persians were no direct, immediate threat to Greece. Still, under pressure from his advisors, Alexander pressed ahead.

It?s no coincidence that the country he conquered, Persia, sits atop most of the world?s known oil. Even back then, Cheneyopolus apparently knew the future value of a barrel of oil.

Also, when he finally ran out of lands to conquer, it?s said that Alexander sat down to cry. Apparently the very idea of giving up his crusades and facing the voters back home turned him from warrior into girlie man.

Oh, you might be wondering about the sources for all the above information. Well, I actually don?t have any. But I?m hoping some big political donors will line up to back my film. Once it?s in theaters, who?s going to quibble with a few historical errors? Or as one well-known documentarian put it, ?interpretations of facts.?

After all, as Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said about a different movie, ?there are a lot of interesting facts that he brought out today that none of us knew about.? Well, if that?s the criteria, I think my ?facts? are as interesting as any I?ve heard about the Olympic movement. Not true, but certainly ?interesting.?

Let?s just hope I can dig up some film of Alexander looking dumb. Maybe a picture of him combing his hair before an interview? That ought to be good for a laugh.

Watch for what?s sure to be an award-winning picture at a theater near you. In the meantime, enjoy the games -- the ones on the field, that is; not the ones in the theaters, or the quadrennial political games we?re already so sick of.