This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Mike Korologos' liking for all things Olympic began in Greek class when he was a boy.
And although Korologos readily admits he did not study as much as he should have, his pidgin Greek was not a hindrance to the latest Olympic episode in his life - helping the American College of Greece prepare for its role as the home away from home for the U.S. Olympic Team at this month's Athens Summer Games.
Ever the colorful storyteller, the one-time Salt Lake Organizing Committee spokesman relishes one self-effacing tale in which his limited language ability left him red-faced and wondering whether he may have single-handedly squandered Salt Lake City's chances of winning the right to stage the 2002 Winter Games.
But more on that later. For now, Korologos is eagerly anticipating his trip next week to the land of his ancestors and the ancient Games.
"This sort of closes the circle for me, takes me back to third grade at Greek school," he said. "The Opening Ceremony probably will choke me all up, being there with the pomp and pageantry and nearly 3,000 years of history. Look how beautiful they made the Salt Lake Games - and we don't have the history they do. Who says you can't go home again?"
Korologos' father, Chris, grew up in a tiny town 150 miles southwest of Athens before emigrating to the United States in 1916 as a 16-year-old boy "with a tag on his shirt that said take him to Bingham Canyon," where numerous Greeks found work mining copper.
Mining was not his calling, so Chris Korologos opened a pool hall/bar on the Salt Lake City block now occupied by the Matheson courthouse. He was 34 when Irene Kolendrianos, a flirtatious 17-year-old, caught his eye. They married and had two sons, Mike and his brother, Tom, now U.S. ambassador to Belgium.
Like all good Greek kids, the Korologos boys took classes in Greek daily after their public school sessions. "A lot of the Greek grammar books had stories and drawings of the Olympics. That's where we learned about how they gave wreaths to the winners and how they were heroes when they went home," he said. "I got the Olympics into my blood."
Fast forward to the early 1990s and Mike Korologos is working for Evans Advertising, looking to pick up a few extra bucks writing a free-lance story about Salt Lake City's 1998 Olympic bid for Delta Air Lines' magazine. That was when he first met Olympic bid leader Tom Welch, who later persuaded Evans to lend Korologos to the bid committee to help with public relations.
Korologos stayed on as official spokesman after Salt Lake City won the 2002 bid, a two-year gig that lasted until Welch was forced out after a fight with his wife and new SLOC boss Frank Joklik brought in Shelley Thomas to oversee public relations.
It was a disheartening time for Korologos, but he landed a job with Harris & Love Communications (now Riester-Robb) and put his Olympic connections to good use, helping the University of Utah and sponsors such as Coca-Cola and JetSet Sports develop their plans for the Games. He also was on the charter jet that brought the Olympic flame from Greece to the United States in December 2001 for the start of the torch relay. He actually carried the torch in St. George and was appointed the Greek Olympic Committee's attache to SLOC.
"I was their local guide about where to go, where to eat," answering whatever questions they had. "Their fascination was with polygamy," he noted.
The American College of Greece became acquainted with Korologos during this period and retained his services when the USOC picked the college as its Athens headquarters because of its Olympic-sized pool and track, gym, hospitality facilities and administrative buildings.
"It would have happened without me," Korologos said. "I just showed [college officials] some shortcuts through the complexities of the Olympic movement."
He advised the college about the differences between various Olympic organizations, types of food U.S. team officials would want, prospects for students to serve as volunteers, when the Olympic rings could and could not be used, the importance of making overtures to corporate sponsors of individual U.S. teams, maintaining a photo archive of all activities and, most of all, "to enjoy the ride."
His counsel was much appreciated.
Said Vassilios Protopsaltis, the college's senior vice president for public affairs: "His enthusiasm for the Games and everything surrounding them motivated us to get involved. In addition, Mike's genuine love for Greece and his thrill that the Games were returning to their birthplace was more than obvious."
The fact that most college officials spoke English helped. For, as Korologos readily recalled, his Greek is suspect.
When Greek IOC member Lambis Nikolaou made his official site visit before the 1995 vote that awarded the 2002 Games to Salt Lake City, he asked Korologos to find a hairdresser for his wife before she met with the governor and mayor. Korologos succeeded, but in trying to show off his Greek language skills, he mixed up two similar but far different words and told Mrs. Nikolaou he had found a place where she could get her brains fixed.
"The ice came over [Nikolaou's] eyes and daggers started flying," Korologos said. "For 30 seconds, what seemed like 30 years, I fell over myself apologizing."
Only when Nikolaou broke into laughter did Korologos know he had been forgiven.
But the incident was not forgotten. As Nikolaou later told Korologos: "Mike, you're the first Greek whose Greek is Greek to me."