Aug. 23, 2004

Greetings from Athens,
My point of view of these games is influenced by having been at seven summer Olympics. You tend to compare them, even when you don’t really want to do that. My wife Nancy and I are here working for NBC. I will be doing the play-by-play coverage for all three styles of wrestling. Nancy is the statistician/researcher. Our color commentator is Jeff Blatnick. This is the fifth Olympics that the three of us have been a team.

Wrestling takes place on the last eight days of the XXVIII Olympiad. There is a heightened sense of importance for me as wrestling roots began in Athens almost 3,000 years ago. The ancient Olympics started here in Greece and included wrestling. This is the first time women will compete for gold medals in the Olympics. They will wrestle the first two days of competition, Sunday and Monday, August 22 and 23.

Our hotel faces the magnificant Acropolis and the ageless Parthenon. Spectacular views night and day. The Greek people are very proud of hosting these Olympics. They are cheerful, friendly and go out of their way to help us. Security is not an issue for us, our hotel is a fortress, with a large armed security force. It is a bit inconvenient, but we understand the necessity of having it in place. The NBC Sports, News and Today Show staffs are staying here as well. It is a little like Camp NBC. We still have not gotten used to having breakfast with Katie Couric and Al Roker in person! Our hotel carries the NBC channel so we get to see what you are able to watch in the states, just at a different time of day.

Athens is filled with OSU connections. We watched Blaine Wilson compete in the team competition and had an opportunity to talk with Blaine and USA/OSU Coach Myles Avery afterwards. They were happy to see faces from home and we were proud to watch their great performances that earned a silver medal. We see Lori Walker almost daily as she is staying at our hotel and is the analyst for women’s soccer coverage in Athens. We narrowlly missed seeing Vladimir Nazlymov at the American College of Greece where the fencing team and wrestling team were sharing a training facility…just like the teams do in Columbus. Nancy ran into Mike Valpredo from NBC-4 and did an interview with him. I wish some of the OSU wrestlers were in Athens to see and feel the special spirit that comes only with this ultimate athletic event. I never get tired of being around or watching elite athletes put it all on the line, no matter what the sport. It just doesn’t get any better than this!

The prognosticators haven’t been very kind to American wrestlers and I think they have underestimated the potential for USA medals in these Games. I think the most I’ve seen is four total in all styles. I personally think we’ll see around 10 or maybe more. The draw is critical and that takes place the day before competition in each of the three styles. Greco-Roman is second, beginning August 24-26, followed by freestyle August 27-29. There should be a lot of coverage of wrestling on the seven NBC outlets. I’m looking forward to some gold medal matches in prime time.

Best Wishes from Athens,
Russ Hellickson