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Famagusta stands on two legs

The walled city of Famagusta in a sepia-toned postcard image. (www.cypnet.com)
Larnaca, Cyprus, 5 August 2005 | It demonstrated how football sides can serve as surrogates for larger animosities. When FC Anorthosis of Cyprus defeated Trabzonspor of Turkey over a two-leg Champions League qualifier, Cyprus Football Association officials said it felt like an island victory over the 1974 Turkish "invaders" (Michele Kambas, "Cyprus 'Big Lady' Celebrates Win Over Turks," Reuters, 4 August). A team from the Republic of Cyprus had never played a Turkish team since the incursion. The Anorthosis club—founded as a reading society in 1911 in Famagusta in the northeast, part of the Ammochostos region (see club history)—was displaced when Turkish forces intervened in July 1974 to protect the Turkish Cypriot community following a coup d'état. They are now based in Larnaca, on the southern coast. That the island's division into

Suitable for imbibing: A Base Ring tankard from Bronze Age Cyprus. (Semitic Museum, Harvard University)
Greek and Turkish sections still stirs emotion became apparent before the tie's second leg in Trabzon on 3 August. Five hundred protesters gathered outside the Anorthosis team hotel, and an advertisement in nationalist newspaper Volkan bore menace: "Forward lads! Those who threw the Greeks into the Aegean in 1922, those who in 1974 hurled back the Greek Cypriots to the south of the Mediterranean, let them by the same token punish the Greek Cypriots at the Avni Aker stadium. Let us squeeze them into the Black Sea. Allah be with us!" (Elias Hazou, "Tense Scenes at Airport for Local Team," Cyprus Mail, 3 August). Anorthosis withstood the distractions for a 3–2 aggregate victory, prompting large airport crowds on the 4:30 a.m. return to Larnaca. "You don't see those scenes often in a life," said player-coach Temuri Ketsbaia of Georgia. "It was four o'clock in the morning and there were about 6,000 people there. That's probably the equivalent of about 100,000 fans in British football" (Mark Wilson, "Ketsbaia Faces Up to the Bald Truth," The Herald [Glasgow]). Scottish newspapers were interested because of Anorthosis's third-round opponent: Rangers FC of Glasgow, with a first-leg match in Nicosia on 9 August. The winner of the tie moves directly into Europe's premier club competition.

Update: Rangers enter the second leg, to be held 24 August in Glasgow, with a 2–1 cushion. Much more significant, though, have been the ramifications on the Famagusta side of the 14 August crash of Helios Airways flight ZU 522 outside Athens. The uncle, aunt and two nieces of team captain Nikos Nikolaou were among the 121 who perished (John Leonidou, "Cypriot Football in Mourning," Cyprus Mail, 17 August). The Cyprus international missed the 17 August World Cup qualifier in the Faroe Islands—a 3–0 Cyprus victory—but is available for the Champions League qualifier against Rangers (Lakis Avraamides, "Bereaved Nikolaou Set to Face Rangers," The Scotsman, 23 August). A Cypriot referee as well as a board member and a medical officer with other Cyprus teams also died in the crash.

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Shifting Sands of Iraq (Our Enemy, Our Friend . . .)
With Iraq's tremendous Olympic run still going—they will play Italy for the bronze medal on Friday—there has been interesting spillover into the U.S. presidential campaign. Quoth the Yale-educated George W. Bush in a recent press conference: "I liked the—let's see—Iraqi soccer.
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I liked seeing the Afghan woman carrying the flag coming in. I loved our gymnasts. I have been watching the swimming. I have seen a lot." The bigger problem is the new Bush-Cheney advertisement, "Victory" (click for link to Bush-Cheney site and a media window with which to see the ad), which implies a cause-and-effect relationship between administration foreign policy and the clear outcome: women and men from Afghanistan and Iraq taking part in Olympic competition. "Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise," states the commercial, in part. "And this Olympics . . . there will be two more free nations. . . . And two fewer terrorist regimes." Mainstream media reaction—not to mention the reaction of Iraqi footballers (see Grant Wahl, "Unwilling Participants," SI.com, 19 August)—has been surprisingly strong. Some have raised the possibility of copyright infringement, as the Olympic name in the United States is a property held by the U.S. Olympic Committee. More significant, though, is the Bush administration's misrepresentation of its own achievements:

What should we think about President Bush trying to squeeze a little juice out of these Olympics by tying them to his wars? On the one hand I guess it's reasonable given that Iraqi athletes used to get tortured by Saddam Hussein's sadistic son Uday. On the other hand, it's one more area in which Bush is running for reelection based on things he himself personally did not actually do. The swift boat guys are knocking John Kerry on the issue of Vietnam (where Bush never set foot) and he has his own ad up wrapping himself in the Olympic spirit, not that he has swum a single stroke or turned a single somersault, or shown much regard for the IOC charter. (Sally Jenkins, "Let the Political Gamesmanship Begin," Washington Post)

More measured is Lawrence Donegan's assessment in The Guardian ("Bush's Games Hijack Leaves a Very Sour Taste"). He points out the role of the Iraq team's public-relations flunky, Mark Clark, who suggests—in infantilizing fashion— that the Iraqi players may have been naive in their answers or possibly mistranslated. For Sports Illustrated writer Wahl's part, he affirms his story and the accuracy of the quotes ("Setting the Record Straight"). "I want the violence and the war to go away from [Najaf]," Iraq midfielder Salih Sadir had told Wahl. "We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go

In Athens, sewing anonymously for fair trade. (www.fairolympics.org)
away." Our marginal note to all this back-and-forth is that "all is mediated": everyone involved, including Bush, speaks through another, so that the reality is ever watered down.

Women footballers, in another constant, have served as background figures to the Iraq team's achievement. Sweden and Brazil contested their semifinal before 1,500 in Patras; the United States and Germany drew 3,500 in Crete. Before the Games started, women's rights had drawn some attention with a "sew-in" on 9 August, featuring masked women at sewing machines. The women represented the laborers working in sweatshop conditions in developing countries, churning out sportswear (see photo, left). On the plus side, more women than ever are competing in Olympic events, with the addition in these Twenty-eighth Games of women's saber and wrestling. Writes Teri Tiso of Stony Brook University, a competitor in women's marathon in the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials, on the ARETE listserv for sports and literature:

[We] hope that the perception of females as athletes in every sense of the word will continue to be described with the words that are always used to depict our male counterparts—that is[,] strength, big, strong, grace, muscular, flexible, beauty, perfection, dominant, aggressive, magnificent, otherworldly, winner, leader, obsessed, hard worker, inspiration, role model. Now . . . we have to continue to support our female athletes in the Muslim and African countries where they are still prevented from competing in public, if at all.

On the football pitch, the team from the United States has drawn attention for the spectacular quintet of Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett. All but the first two players have announced their international retirements following these Games. Yet, we are always saddened that U.S. broadcasters—NBC in this case—regularly ignore the opposition in their coverage. This is a common theme at the Global Game. (An exception should be made for Telemundo, which, although part of the NBC arsenal, has televised women's games not involving the United States.) No question that the five women mentioned should have their own wing of any women's sports Hall of Fame, but what does the world think of them? Does Cristiane of the equally spectacular Brazil (see our report from the 2003 Women's World Cup) have praise for these women's pioneering efforts, given that the mayor of her town, Osasco in São Paulo, will splurge for two big-screen televisions to show the women's gold-medal match on the streets? Does the valiant women's side from Greece, with nine players from the United States, credit Chastain et al. for the fact that their team has come into existence? ("Our goal is for this team to really open the road so that women's soccer in Greece becomes accepted," said Greece coach Xanthi Konstandinidou. "That's the problem, that it is not socially accepted. Soccer in Greece is a man's sport" ["First Greek Women's Soccer Team Prepares for Olympics," Associated Press, 14 July].) We likely will never know the answers to these questions: the doors of much of our media, as with the doors of our leaders in Washington, are closed to the "outside world."

Note on sources: For more on women and the Olympic Games, see the website of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the online exhibit "The Real Story of the Ancient Olympic Games." Also see the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum's "The Sporting Woman: The Female Athlete in American Culture."

It's Surprising, but One Athens Venue Keeps to Schedule
As the deadline fast approaches for mounting Santiago Calatrava's 18,000-ton steel roof atop the Olympic Stadium, reconstruction of the main football venue for the 2004 Olympic GamesKaraiskaki Stadium—seems to be moving apace. The Olympic Stadium will host the men's final, but Karaiskaki, along with Kaftantzoglio Stadium in Thessaloníki, bears the brunt of activity. According to a report in the International Herald Tribune, FIFA and IOC officials visited Karaiskaki in March and were surprised at the progress ("The State of Play of Some Athens Venues"). Completion is anticipated by 1 July.

A webcam view of the Karaiskaki Stadium's progress as of late March. (olympiacos.org)
The stadium is to become the treasure of legendary Athens side Olympiakos, granted a 49-year lease by the Greek legislature as part of the redevelopment scheme. The €40 million contract "is exactly the same as the amount paid for the transfer of David Beckham to Real Madrid," Dakis Ionannou, one of the stadium planners, said last year ("The Stadium: How to Build a Dream," olympiacos.org, 19 June 2003). "I think that the investment made by Olympiacos is much better than this transfer." The club's development director, Dimitris Andriopoulos, was similarly optimistic:

Since March 5 [2003], when the discussion of the law took place in the Parliament things have happened, which normally in Greece would take at least four years to occur. All that we had talked about and foreseen was realized. The demolition began and concluded on time. Thousands of tons of left over material were not dumped in disposal centers but were processed in order to be recycled and become usefull to the reconstruction.

Olympiakos, founded in 1925 in Piraeus, previously had shared the Olympic Stadium, "Spyros Louis," with rivals Panathinaikos after vacating Karaiskaki in 1982. Karaiskaki had served as the velodrome for the first modern Olympics in 1896 and, in its first redevelopment, was converted to a football stadium. But its age showed on 8 February 1981, when 21 died following a 6–0 derby victory over AEK Athens. "The final whistle saw thousands of fans rushing to the exits, trying to get to the stadium's main entrance and celebrate with the players," states stadia.gr, a website on Greek stadia. "The stairs of Gate 7 became a death trap. The doors were almost closed and the turnstiles still in place, making exit almost impossible. People continued to come down from the stands, not being able to see what happened below because of the stair's shape." Twenty-one seats bearing the victims' names will be left empty in the refurbished facility.

Some are still worried about the stadium's location in Piraeus, not far from where bombs exploded at the Athens police station on 5 May. The port, a "jumping-off point for thousands of tourists taking ferries to and from the Aegean islands," is considered vulnerable (Kerin Hope, "Bombs Spark Olympics Security Fears," Financial Times, 6 May). | back to top