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3:39 AM Tue, Dec. 18th

It is time<BR>to light up the torch

The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, start on Friday and the world's best athletes then compete for the following two weeks.

And no one in the U.S.

seems to care, except for the good folks at NBC.

There might be a few, but it seems like a majority of people simply don't care about the Olympics this year.

I'm excited, and a couple of my friends are excited.

Generally I don't get that same kind of feeling from the public.

"I'm definitely interested.

I have a lot of American pride when it comes to the Olympics.

I think a lot of people will watch for reasons other than who is winning, though," said Shane Tempest, a regular contributor and friend.

Is it because the games are in Athens and not the U.S.? During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, it seemed like everybody was excited for the Olympics and it was quite a success.

Also, the whole almost-a-day-ahead thing is really a pain, since we never get to see any of the events live.

Is it because of all these performance enhancer drug scandals? The BALCO trial has put question marks by big names in football, baseball and track and field events.

Perhaps we're ashamed that a few of our countrymen have allowed themselves to be tainted and bringing down a bad name on the rest of the athletes, who have worked hard without cheating to make it to the Olympics.

Maybe we just have so many sports and leagues here in the U.S.

that the Olympics no longer carry that awe-inspiring image.

The Olympics have to compete with preseason NFL, the start of the college football season, the pennant races in baseball and the PGA Championship.

With 36 channels of ESPN, Fox Sports networks for every team and city in the Western Hemisphere, and numerous satellite channels, sports have become a 24-7 lifestyle.

I don't know exactly the reason we're not so interested, but we should be interested.

The Olympics are unique.

This time won't be any different.

Sure, people are going to watch the so-called "Dream Team," simply because it's their favorite NBA players.

Unfortunately this team is so pathetic it could be the first U.S.

Olympic basketball team composed of NBA players that doesn't win gold.

And it may sound unpatriotic, but I hope they really blow it.

That will teach the Olympic committee that you just can't get the recognizable names so you can sell merchandise.

The players around the world have gotten better, since the first "Dream Team" in 1992 and no one on the committee, which put together this team, knows that.

Michael Phelps is going for a record eight gold medals in swimming, something he very well could achieve.

Phelps has just been dominating his competition, but a lot of competitors, including teammates will try and stop him.

Gymnastics are always popular with the female viewers, and despite the heavy cloud of performance-enhancing drugs, the track and field events are sure to see some historic moments.

Such as the first live, post-race drug tests.

The Olympics are going to be spectacular and nothing less.

Let the Games begin.

Brent Hinckley is the Miner's sports writer.

He can be reached at