Glitches at Summer Games Tarnish Luster of Olympic Gold
ATLANTA — Buses that don't show up, stranding athletes and spectators. Technical snafus that have left journalists fuming. A tight security system that was breached on the first night.
The Centennial Olympics in Atlanta are getting a new nickname - the "Glitch Games."
Since opening ceremonies kicked off the 100-year celebration of the modern Games last Friday, media focus has been as much on the logistical problems as on the accomplishments of athletes.
True, each Olympics experiences snags and kinks, especially during the beginning, but many in the press say Atlanta's problems have caused delays and disruptions on a wider scale than any other recent Games. In response, the International Olympic Committee has ordered the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games to fix the problems, and the IOC held a special board meeting yesterday to deal with the issue.
The criticism comes after several well-publicized incidents:
*On Tuesday, hundreds of spectators waited up to four hours for buses to take them to events. Many missed their sessions entirely. Olympic transportation officials blamed the problem on miscommunication. Buses transporting athletes and journalists have been late as well, prompting some athletes to move out of the Olympic Village. Part of the problem is that many bus drivers, who have been recruited from other states, don't know their way around.
*The European Broadcast Union, the second largest Olympic rights holder behind NBC, filed a formal protest with Atlanta organizers over working conditions. Journalists are irate about the computer information system that delivers scores and results to news organizations. Many say the system has worked so poorly that they've had to go on the air without lists of competing athletes or were forced to fill up white space in newspapers because they didn't have the up-to-date results.
*Organizers have called the Olympics the safest place on earth and have spent $300 million in security. But during Friday night's opening ceremonies, a man with a loaded gun managed to slip into the stadium. Embarrassed officials are having a hard time explaining the breach.
The glitches, though perhaps more defined here than in other Games, are fairly typical during the first several days of an Olympics as journalists and spectators scrutinize the city and get their bearings.
But as Olympic officials try to smooth over the difficulties, they can only hope more attention will be put on the athletes and their dramatic moments - such as the US women's gymnastics team, which won gold Tuesday for the first time ever.
And many spectators seem to be oblivious to the problems. "Atlanta is well organized," says Emilio Cortes, a visitor from Colombia. "Everyone seems to be in a good mood."