05 June 2005

Let the games begin

The Champs Elysses was closed today. I came out of the metro at Charles de Gaulle Etoile and noticed that the Arc du Triomphe was surrounded by police. Every one of the 12 arteries that feed it with traffic were barricaded. I’ve never seen the Arc without six rings of cars and buses circling around it. There wasn’t a single car. So, naturally, I assumed there was a terror alert or a bomb threat. If the Arch had a large staff, a labor strike would have been my next guess.

The closure was actually caused by a festival promoting Paris as a site for the 2012 Olympic games. Along the wide avenue a series of events had been staged to represent the different competitions in the games. A large oblong running track had been designed. It looked authentic, but on closer inspection it was made with rust colored carpeting – and white paint to create the lanes. I hope they will use real clay to build the track should they be selected to host.

Farther down there was tennis, boxing, and weight lifting. The wrestlers were a big hit. Different weight classes battled it out a few minutes at a time in a seemingly rehearsed manner. At the end of the display participants from the crowd were allowed onto the stage to go one-on-one with the wrestlers – ostensibly to get some wrestling tips, though I don’t know when the average person would have the need to wrestle anybody.

I saw my window of opportunity open wide. If ever I was to get my arms around a handsome, fully outfitted, Olympic-caliber French wrestler THIS was the time to step up and live the dream. I realized, though, that I never had this dream and would have to let the moment pass. That said, I greatly admire their courage to wear such revealing singlets in public, especially considering the diminutive physical characteristics of those on the team.

Fortunately the presentation moved on quickly. Next, about ten children were invited onto the stage. The wrestlers leapt, tumbled and landed on the mat with a thud, pretending that the little ones had actually flipped them. Some of the kids seemed astounded by their new found strength.

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