If the masses wandering downtown streets during the Games seem, well, edgy, there may be good reason.
The Atlanta Olympics promises to be the most pedestrian of Games, with hundreds of thousands of spectators and gawkers trudging between events along lovely new tree-lined pedestrian corridors.Along the way, they'll pass hundreds of stands selling their favorite official beverages, which, given the heat, they'll guzzle by the gallons. Soon, there will be much sloshing and glancing for a suitable place.
Sadly, there will be practically nowhere to, uh, go.
Each day, the crowd will harbor a surging spring of tens of thousands of gallons, enough over the course of the Games to fill the Olympic diving pool twice. In just the distance between the stadiums and Centennial Olympic Park, the crowd will build up enough hydraulic force to cause envy at Georgia Power.
It has the markings of the No. 1 problem for Olympic spectators.
Marla Prince, a spokeswoman for Port-O- Let, suggests that the Games will be off the scale, in terms of demand for portable facilities.
It is literally off the scale used by Port-O-Let's sales staff, which can take the number of expected guests and use a nifty little device to extrapolate the portable potty quotient.
Prince could hardly grasp the size of this particular event, which on peak days will have crowds of more than 600,000 people. "Our guidelines only go to 100,000," she reported with mild alarm.
A crowd of just 100,000 needs 500 Port-O-Lets - 550 if beer, soft drinks or coffee are being consumed - for 10 hours. For the Olympics, we're talking at least 2,000 to 3,000 toilets.
Let's compare that with the number contemplated under current official plans: Zero.
OK. Let's not panic. The Olympic folks plan to provide 2,000 toilets - if they can be found - at the venues, which is great if you have a ticket and are the kind of person with the memory or inclination to hit the john before hitting the streets. The Atlanta Committee on the Olympic Games also plans to place another 192 at the park, which using the Port- O-Let guideline, is enough for fewer than 50,000 people for 10 hours. (I don't want to know what happens with 100,000 people after 12 hours.)
In between, it promises to be a no-man's land filled with miserable people in desperate search of relief. Here and there will be portable potties provided by organizers of street festivals and instant pubs.
But that's no way to stage the Olympic Games.
How did this happen? Basically because no one wants to be responsible for the masses wandering between venues. ACOG holds as a fundamental belief that once a spectator leaves Olympic venues he's on his own. The city government thinks ACOG is responsible for the comfort of its guests.
City officials had tried to get 10 pay toilets downtown - as if that would provide much relief - but that deal fell apart. Now they're asking restaurants, hotels and retailers to open their hearts and stalls.