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An Olympic Game You Can Compete In

Olympic Stores may be toughest competition venue

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olympic decorations

Olympic decorations

Copyright deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com
It's mid-afternoon at the official Olympic Store on Ermou Avenue in Athens' Monastiraki district.

While some have said that items featuring the Olympian mascots Phesvos and Athina have not been appealing to the masses, that couldn't be proved here.

Stuffed Phesvoses and Athinas are flooding the long checkout line, clutched by both happy-looking children and harried-looking adults. There's a line at the door to get in and once inside, it's pandemonium. Stockers are throwing items through the air to get over the heads of the milling customers. There are lines to get close enough to peer at the Olympic pin displays.

I'm tempted to bolt - this is by far the worst crowding I've encountered in Athens - but I'm here on a mission - the kayak/canoe caps sold out at Hellinkon Sports Center and I want to pick up a couple more. Unfortunately, these are venue-only items and the store, though-well stocked, doesn't carry them. My only chance will be next week when I attended the flat-water racing at Schinias.

So, disappointed but an experienced, practical traveler, I leave the store empty-handed.

Sure.

Having spent more time and many more Euros than I'd like to admit, I finally exit the store. Since all the baskets were in use, at one point I grabbed an empty cardboard box while the stock clerk wasn't looking. Later, a kind employee replaces this with a huge mesh bag for my purchases. I am now in possession of two sleeveless t-shirts with the olive wreath motif, two horribly overpriced polo-type shirts, also with a blue embroidered patch with the Athenian olive leaf and the words "Athens 2004", two packages of stickers featuring Phesvos kayaking, a key chain showing the same, a generic Athens Olympics cap, two olive-wreath adorned sleeveless tops, and an enameled kayaking pin.

Obviously, I have relapsed back to my old souvenir junkie habits.

The rationales ring through my brain: "It's the Olympics! It's a one-time event! I need largesse to throw to my friends who are jealous of me going to the Games or else they'll never forgive me!" All are true. And those pins don't weigh much. Maybe I better go back and pick up just a few more....

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