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SKINS GAME // TATTOO YOU

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Seven police officers from around the world, all here as Olympic volunteers, out for a bite to eat.

"Wouldn't it be cool if we all got tattoos?" one of them asked.

"Yeah. Maybe the Olympic torch or the five Olympic rings," her friend agreed.

"Naaaaah everybody's got the Olympic rings," said the third.

"Well, how about the Olympic rings with a pair of handcuffs dangling underneath?" the fourth suggested.

Hey, now that's an idea Two hours later, Andrea Humphrys sat on a table at the Sacred Heart Tattoo parlor, her left leg propped up beneath an electric light.

"This is the last time I am going out to eat with you guys," she said as the tattoo artist worked away.

Humphrys, a federal police officer from Melbourne, Australia, had decided on the Olympic flame and rings.

"Something to remember the Games by, eh mate?" she said.

Joey Galiger, the woman behind the electric tattoo needle, had just finished the outline.

"Can I check the color of the rings?" she asked the next person in line, a police officer from Tennessee. The woman held up the postcard they were using as a guide.

"Blue, black, red, yellow and green," Galiger said. "Just making sure."

You wouldn't want to make a mistake on something like that, everybody agreed. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games is very particular about the use of the official Olympic logo.

The women, each a career law enforcement professional, decided they'd proceed as planned since ACOG hadn't exactly gone out of its way to make them feel at home.

"You should see where we are staying," one of them said. "It's the roach motel."

They laughed and began trading ACOG jokes as the tattooist colored the design on Humphrys' ankle.

"What's the difference between ACOG and the Mafia," somebody asked.

"The Mafia's organized," another responded.

The banter took Humphrys' mind off the pain. Another minute, and it was over.

"Have a look," said Galiger, the artist.

Humphrys hopped off the table, walked to the mirror, then smiled. "I like it."

Galiger cleaned up the work station and opened a package containing a fresh needle. "Who's next?"

They looked at each other for a moment. Then Angela Hart, another Australian constable, spoke up.

"How about you, tough guy?" she said, pointing to the reporter. "Put your money where your mouth is."

The reporter politely declined and when pressed, pleaded cowardice.

Fortunately, a trio of athletic trainers from the Olympic Village arrived with tattoos of Olympic rings on their minds.

"I'm ready," said Scott Wolff, a physical therapist from Long Island, N.Y. "We've been talking about it for weeks. All the trainers are getting them."

As Wolff assumed the position on the table, colleague Don Metzger thumbed through a catalog on the counter.

"We had to be selected to come here," he said. "It was quite an honor."

While some cultures used tattooing as a way to identify criminals and slaves, others, such as the Marquesas in the South Pacific, viewed skin art as a sign of status and honor.

The trainers and police officers obviously were proud to be part of such a historic event as the Games.

"Still, I wasn't sure about the tattoo until I cleared it with my wife," he continued. "But now that I've gotten approval from the boss, I'm ready to go."

As 11 p.m. approached, Galiger finished off the last police officer. In the end, only five of the seven went through with it.

"Make sure that you point out in your story that the Canadian contingent had the good sense to abstain," said Koreen Kimakowich, a constable from Ontario.

The women left as Wolff received the final touches on his Olympic torch and rings.

Metzger was next.

"I saw you looking through the book," he told the reporter. "I know you want one."

Wolff, bandage around his ankle, kept up the pressure.

"If you were any kind of journalist, you'd do it," he said. "After all, what better way to research a story than go through the experience yourself?"

Galiger's table was open.

"Let's see what design you are looking at," she said. "Oh, yeah I can do that. It will look great."

The clock was ticking. Just a half-hour until closing.

"I doubt we have time," he said, still looking for an exit with honor.

"We've got time," Galiger said. "It won't take long."

He thought about it for a moment, then agreed.

"Let's do it."

Wolff and Metzger cheered. The reporter laughed. He knew he could always tell people it sounded like a good idea at the time.

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