Friday, August 6, 2004
ATHENS, GREECE -- Having already secured tickets for a fantastic men's basketball preliminary match-up of Argentina vs. Spain followed by The Greek-American's "Can't Lose" Special of USA vs. Greece, courtesy of my friend Eleni, her lack of procrastination, and her luck in getting tickets for the highly sought-after Women's Gymnastics Finals and Medal Ceremony on the same night, I set out with my cousin and his wife with hopes of getting Olympic tickets for a number of events that as far as I knew weren't high up on most Greeks' "must see" list. As I walked up to Korai Square next to the Panepistimio (University) Metro stop, I was greeting by two long lines, 30 people deep, of mostly Athenians waiting to purchase tickets. I, too, joined the line at 8:30, thinking that there wouldn't be a problem getting served by 10 PM, the time when the kiosk theoretically closed. Boy, was I wrong. At 9:30 PM, my cousin gave me the obligatory, "Let's go. It's impossible that you'll get to the window by 10, and the guy just said that they're shutting down at 10, 'cause they have to count the money before they come by to pick it up at 11," speech. Having already made plans to meet up with some of my cousin's friends at Syntagma Square, we left. If I wanted tickets, I was going to have to get up early the next morning and get in line again.
Now, you may ask "how long does it take to process 30 ticket orders"? Not very long at all, if you know what you want. The problem with most of the Greeks in line was that not only are they waiting until the last minute to buy their tickets, they really aren't prepared with their orders; they sit there with the 1/2 inch thick Olympic schedule guide open while they're in line, and when they get to the window, they're leafing through it page by page asking if they've got any tickets left for a certain sport on a certain day at a certain time at a certain price, and when they find out they can't get that exact combination of sport, day, time, and price, they ask, "Well, what about the next day? No? How 'bout the day before?" It was taking a good 15 minutes per person, and we're not talking about huge orders here.
Saturday, August 7, 2004
ATHENS, GREECE -- I woke up around 8:30 to catch a bus from the Athenian suburb of Haidari to downtown Athens. The public transportation system in Athens has improved immensely in the four years since I've last been here. Where the A15 bus used to leave you in an alley near Omonia, it now leaves you right outside the Metaxourgio Metro Station. Two quick stops on the Red Line and I was at the Panepistimio station a couple of minutes after 10 AM, with it seems, the rest of Athens. The line had doubled in size from the previous night, but I decided to stick it out. (In retrospect, I should have gone to the Starbucks, yes Starbucks, for something Venti and iced first.)
Anytime Greeks have to wait in line for something, it's national news, and during those two hours I saw at least three or four camera crews there. MEGA was there asking people in line what events they were hoping to purchase ticket for, and when they asked the Harry Potter looking kid in front of me why he wanted to see Judo, I think part of my UVA t-shirt got on TV. In addition to ΕΡΤ, I think there was a crew from a Chinese news station there as well. (Listening to a Chinese-Greek interpreter translating the reporters questions in perfect Greek was mind-blowing.) So around 10 minutes to noon, I finally hit the head of the line, and instead of leafing through the schedule book, I simply handed the guy behind the glass a spreadsheet printout of what I was hoping to buy:
The man thanked me and within 5 or 6 minutes, I had my tickets in hand, and as I walked away, I saw the line that still remained.