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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Postcript

Times staff writers take a look back at the Centennial Games

August 05, 1996|ROBYN NORWOOD

"No cheering in the press box" is a sacred commandment of American sports journalism.

But the no-cheering edict isn't always followed at the Olympics, where nationalism sometimes takes precedence. But it was easier to forgive in the case of Tomislav Zidak, a reporter for Sportke Novosti, a sports daily in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

Croatia was playing Yugoslavia in water polo for the first time since the bloody dissolution of the old Yugoslavia--and Croatia was winning. As a steady rain fell in the open press box, Zidak cheered wildly.

"All Croatian people hope to win today," he said in his limited English. "Big problem with Serbian soldiers."

Then he handed me a keepsake, a small emblem of the Croatian flag. I was glad to have it; it's a lot nicer than a Visa pin. But I made sure I put it in my computer case, where no Yugoslav would see it.


At some events, the fans are the spectacle.

Roving bands of Brazilians spread either A) infectious rhythm or B) incredible obnoxiousness, depending on your sympathies and the amount of sleep you had the night before.

"Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey-oh!

"Ole! Ole, ole, ole! Brazil! Brazil!"

The Brazilians were always making either friends or enemies. When India's Leander Paes played Andre Agassi in a tennis semifinal after a Brazilian loss in the previous match, excited supporters of Paes sang, "Ole! Ole, ole, ole! India! India!"

A few feet away from the raucous Brazilians during the Russia-Brazil bronze-medal women's volleyball match, a Russian orthodox priest dressed in flowing black robes with a large crucifix dangling on his chest sat silently waving the Russian flag.

A woman leaned forward amid the din and asked him to stop.

He was bothering her.

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