BARCELONA — Adios, amigos. Hasta la vista, Espana. Vaya con dios, Barcelona.
Vamonos, companeros. The party's over. Give us a last chorus of Lady of Spain on the accordion, maestro. Have Placido sing us a lament from Carmen. Put a comb in your hair, a rose in your teeth, lady in red, and hop on a table for one more flamenco before we go.
Barcelona, \o7 si\f7 ! Go with God, indeed. Go with pride, Barcelona. You threw a helluva party. I hope you had as much fun as the world did.
An Olympics is more than two guys standing in a canoe shoveling water, a guy throwing a plate, a guy lifting a freight train. An Olympics is not all world records, Dream Teams, little girls with braces on their teeth teetering on balance beams.
An Olympics is the world in one place, a coming together of 168 nations to compete together and also to play together, often while the outside world, including their homeland, is throwing bombs and killing babies.
An Olympics is where a country gives a party and hopes everybody comes.
The Barcelona party was a dandy. The kingdom of Spain, the autonomous republic of Catalonia, went all out. They shut down the show on Sunday with the closing ceremony. Everyone was there from King Juan Carlos to Placido Domingo to the mayor of Barcelona and Cobi. The king always looked worried, but if I were a king I'd look worried, too.
Not all the events were in Estadi Olimpico. They took place all over Barcelona.
I'm not talking of kayaking, yachting, taekwondo (whatever that is), cycling, diving, fencing or jumping hedges on horseback.
I'm talking about people Olympics. Barcelona went all out. All of Spain showed up every night at the Placa Espanya, Montjuic, the center of almost all Olympic activities. They came in herds, in hordes. They packed the streets and the sides of the mountain. They weren't going anywhere. They just came and stood there. I think they left two people to stand guard over Madrid, but everyone else was at the Olympic site.
Not all the events took place in the stadium.
Feel left out because you didn't get to come to the Barcelona Games?
OK. Art can always duplicate nature. Try this: Go stand in a sauna for an hour. Run up and down stairs in there. Turn the heat up. You are now in the Barcelona subway. You are on the platform, and you want to wipe your brow but you cannot move. You are in a crowd that would make the Rose Bowl look like a card game. It should be an Olympic event to get on the train. A decathlon is child's play. Because the rest of Spain is getting off. Or on. You can't really tell which. If you get aboard, you should get the gold. If the air-conditioning is on (there's no form on this), you could also get pneumonia.
Spain consists entirely of stairs. And, in Spain, stairs go only one way--up. I have never seen anyone come down Spanish stairs. If there are 30 million stairways in Spain, I have climbed 18 million of them. I have never walked down one. In the subway, when you change trains, you get to the other platform by climbing exactly 19 sets of stairs. But, when you come back and go from that platform back to the first, you also climb 19 sets of stairs. If you come to Spain, bring oxygen. Climbing Spanish stairs should be an Olympic event. A marathon is a sprint compared to a Spanish stair climb. I advise distance training.
They do have the occasional escalators. These go mainly up, too. When they go anywhere at all, that is. They call them "\o7 escales mecanicale\f7 " here, but some are not so \o7 mecanicale\f7 .
Getting coffee in the morning is about on a par with running the 10,000. You see, the Spanish do not believe coffee in the morning is good for you. It is particularly not good to have with your meal. They don't believe coffee should be drunk until all your food is gone. It can't be drunk, anyway. It has to be eaten. It has about the consistency of fudge. Cold fudge. When Reggie Jackson said that hitting Nolan Ryan's fastball was like "drinking coffee with a fork," he didn't know about Spanish coffee. If you think Sergei Bubka no-heighted in his vault, you should see a guy who wants coffee with his eggs in the morning.
Getting to your destination by asking the fewest people should be an Olympic sport. The average "ask" per destination is 29. Sometimes you have to ask 35 before you get from English to Spanish and back again. Your medal should say "\o7 Donde est El American Express aqui?\f7 " Even if you're standing in front of the place you're asking about, you qualify if the guy doesn't talk you into taking a train. It's not his fault. You may be asking directions to Seville. Or you may be asking him if he likes your new petticoat.
Olympic games take place all over--Placa Espanya, Maria Cristina, Montbau and the red light district of Las Ramblas, where the pickpockets held an Olympics of their own.
Spaniards never sleep. They eat late, they go out late, they stay up late. They never go home.