Beating the second person into submission

This is what happens on the eight millionth night of the Olympics:

You try to go to the women's figure skating short program, just because it seems like a big deal, but you need to have a ticket and your company only gets two, one for the brilliant columnist and one for the figure skating wizard (and none for the blogger, in case you've lost count). You go anyhow, figuring that if that one weirdo dude can always sneak into the Super Bowl, you can probably sneak into some figure skating event in Turin. The first official person you see asks for your ticket and turns you around, and you go, meekly.

You can tell it's a big event because there are a lot of ladies with fur coats and American guys with video cameras following them as they walk toward the long lines and the metal detectors, which are calmly speaking to people in several different languages, making the whole experience feel exactly like going to the airport, if the airport were filled with ladies in fur coats.

"To be brutally honest, the seats are not very comfortable," one of the ladies tells one of the guys with a video camera, "but you get so excited you can forget about that."

You see "unused ticket recirculators" and figure that's always good for a laugh, and so you ask a guy how much tickets are going for.

"They shoot spies in Russia, don't they," he says, without a smile.

Instead of going to the figure skating, you pick up some mediocre take-out Chinese food on the way back to the office. You figure it would be pure hilarity to watch the Olympics in a Chinese restaurant in Italy, but really, bobsled is just bobsled, no matter where you watch it. You eat your mediocre take-out Chinese food while reading the comments on your blog, one of which says "Least entertaining blog ever," which you immediately delete. Hah!

You head over toward the athletes' village, figuring you can find some hilarious Russian women's ice hockey player ironing her clothes with the look of cold Siberian death, but the security guards don't speak English and won't let you in.

Instead, you go to the mall, Gallery 8, figuring you'll find vitality and life and yes, hilarity. But most of the stores are closing, and the only sign of the Olympics are all the McDonald's signs and Visa signs and Official Torino 2006 Merchandise signs. So instead you wind up in the "New Park Centro di Divertimento Familiare," the Family Entertainment Center, the arcade. But here it's also closing time, and most of the video games are already turned off, and the kid working the counter is mopping the floor and it smells like bleach.

Still, the Black Jack/Slot Machine combination looks promising: "Gioco Proibito ai minori di anni 18," it says, conjuring up the allure of the dramatically seedy, or the seedily dramatic, but you don't understand the rules and you spend your Euro and never even get dealt a single playing card. So instead of going for coin, you spend two Euros trying to win a stuffed "Madagascar" ball from those crates full of toys with the little crane on top. (Let's be honest, no one in the history of the world has ever successfully gotten the crane to grab a toy. Have you? Really?)

You hear classical music and think, "Somebody in this mall is watching the figure skating, this oughta be good," but really it's just some restaurant's sound system, and when you duck into the restaurant to see what's going on, everyone's watching A.C. Milan play Bayern Munich, and you've already done the "let's watch soccer at the Olympics" schtick, so instead you walk next door to the boutique, where the employee is cleaning the floor with a Swiffer, and you have yet another touching Olympic moment.

"All over the world," you think, "we clean our floors with the same household products."

You get back to the office and open up a bottle of wine and ask people if they'd like a drink. Mike Wise--MIKE WISE!--says "yeah, I'd love some water."

You get an e-mail about a wild game cook-off, but it's a NASCAR e-mail, not an Olympics e-mail, and so you can't even joke about the fact that the winning team, which made Mahi Mahi with Crawfish Sauce, includes a guy named Richard Nixon. (If you were going to joke about it, you would have said something like "Never knew Nixon could make a good Mahi Mahi, but heard he could make a good Pope."

And, in summary, at the end of the day, you realize that this was the highlight: Some Slovakian guy came into the office and gave you an invitation to the Slovak House party on Thursday night. "Slovak music, Slovak drink, Slovak food, general Slovak hospitality," he promised. You asked him twice about Slovak cheese, and neither time did he answer, but still, you're excited.

Seriously, I've got to get to some sporting events. Tomorrow there are all kinds of cross-country sprints up in the mountains, and I've always been fascinated with the way the cross-country skiers cross the finish line and just collapse. Do they do it after the sprints, too? That's worth a two-hour bus ride, right?

This is a great Olympics blog on all the last place finishers, by the way. I know someone sent me the link ages ago, but I don't think I ever posted it.

By Dan Steinberg |  February 21, 2006; 5:35 PM ET
Previous: More Video: Jumping Crazy Chanting Kids | Next: Shani vs. the Surly Hottie Hedrick

Blogs That Reference This Entry

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Sally Jenkins couldn't twist/break a few arms to get you in?!?

Posted by: John | February 21, 2006 06:08 PM

Achenbach has been writing flattering comments on Marc Fisher's output as a blogger (i.e., Fisher is said to write faster than the speed of light). I think you should point out to JA that you have exceeded Fisher's output for several days running, while living in an environment where the oxygen level is low and the number of distractions is high.

But, seriously, I've been having fun w/ reading your blog. Sounds like you've been having fun writing it too.

Posted by: THS | February 21, 2006 07:23 PM

Least entertaining blog ever.

Posted by: Joe | February 22, 2006 09:40 AM

I don't know what planet Joe is from, but we in our apartment have enriched our lives greatly from your dispatches from Turin. I also can tell you that getting toys from the crane machine is not just possible, it is also a highly fun and entertaining sport, and should be entered as an event in the 2008 games in Beijing. Of course, since the Chinese are unlikely to allow a sport whose main venue seems to be the rest stops on Interstate 95, we shall have to suffer in silence until Havre de Grace, MD wins the 2016 Olympic bid.

Posted by: Kate | February 22, 2006 10:40 AM

I don't want to spoil what seems now almost a clichče, but Dan's (and most of US press) impression that Italian prefer to watch TV soccer even during the Olympics is (luckily) not being confirmed by rating - apprently in the last five days broadcasts of Olympics event on Rai Due have basically beaten the hell out of every other program (including soccer!).

Here's Monday night just as an example:

Skating share 14.48%
Curling share 16.25%

Soccer: Bruges-Rome share 9.72%

In other words, ice skating and curling outclassing and outgunning an important international soccer event (and apparently the match wasn't even a boring one!).

Same happened yesterday night, Milan-Bayern got again outperformed by the figure skating.

There's a lot of frenzy on the Italian press about this, and personally I'm totally happy to get evidence we're not the country of soccer-obsessed morons someone seem to think we are!

Posted by: Luca Signorelli | February 22, 2006 02:15 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company