Fishwrapper - Give me a P.""

Before I even got to the luggage carousel in Paris last month, I saw the writing on the wall: Paris 2012. The heart-shaped logo was everywhere. Most buildings in Paris have substantial Olympic signs, from the L'Assamble National down to the smallest croissanterie. Even lights on bridges along the Seine have been changed to green, yellow, red and blue to resemble Olympic rings.

OK, I thought. That's nice. The Parisians want the Olympics. New York, London, Moscow and Madrid are pretty tough competition, though, and the best candidate doesn't always get the nomination from the International Olympic Committee. Maybe the money spent on advertising would be better spent bribing voting committee members. I mean it worked for Salt Lake City, right? My skepticism thawed on the way home from the pretentious Buddha Bar my first night. Perhaps it was the influence of 15 Euro cocktails with slices of mango, or maybe it was that I hadn't slept more than five hours in two-and-half days. But when I saw a cluster of teenage boys chanting "Paris 2012" by the Arc de Triomphe at 2:30 a.m., I saw what Paris had that the other candidates lacked.

It was as if Paris was taunting the other cities, "We have spirit, yes we do! We have spirit how 'bout you?" The response? A couple of muted whimpers from London and Madrid. Silence in New York and Moscow.

My recent travels also took me to London and NYC, but you can't feel the excitement there. In fact, you could spend an entire day in either city and not even know it was campaigning to host the Olympics. Try walking one block in Paris without seeing their Olympic logo.

Remember Atlanta's enthusiasm leading up to the announcement of the 1996 games? Double that and add a French accent.

The Parisian Olympic Planning Committee has transcended bureaucracy, making its bid about more than money. From little things like posters and stickers and colored lights, the campaign has snowballed. A June festival at the Champs-Elysees featured athletic demonstrations, even an Olympic-sized swimming pool. If you wanted to wait on line just to be humiliated, you could compete against past Olympians. The day ended with free concerts at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

So I'm hoping it's time to forget about freedom fries and start working on our French accents. I'm going to start practicing "pour l'amour de jeux" ("for the love of the game"). With any luck, I'll have to learn to say, "Je voudrais deux tickets s'il vous plait," or "I would like two tickets, please."

A Sugg-in-training, Rebecca Ford is filling in for John while he's gallivanting around the Western Hemisphere. ?
More SuggBlog can be found at www.johnsugg.com.??

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