“Ma fissika” – the familiar words in the lead-up to the Games

There was widespread anticipation that Athens would host the 1996 Olympic and Paralympic Games to mark the centenary of the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. However, those Games were won by Atlanta and then the ‘millenium Games’ went to Sydney in 2000. So when Athens won the 2004 Games it was something of an anticlimax but the organisers had a point to prove and set out to make the Games special. Australian officials visited Athens on site visits in 2002 (Chef de Mission Paul Bird and Sport Manager Tony Naar) and March 2004 (APC CEO Darren Peters, Director of Operations Jason Hellwig and Team Coordinator Kylie Elliott). In those visits, it seemed that the organising committee would be struggling to be ready in time. However, the standard response to any questions about the organisers’ readiness was “ma fissika” – “but of course”. Even the Greeks admitted that the national approach was that things would work out on the day. While this could be frustrating in advance, during the Games it would mean that there was flexibility to ‘bend the rules’ when necessary to achieve outcomes.