The Athens extravaganza – Frontline

Excessive-voltage competitors on the Athens Olympics retains sports activities lovers the world over enthralled for sixteen days.

lately in Athens

THE 28th Olympiad held in Athens, Greece, has now develop into historical past. To say it was memorable is a basic understatement. Each element that goes to make the Olympics a summit of human endeavour and achievement was there this time too. Pleasure, stress, drama, medication, controversies, and recent conquests gave the 2004 Olympics its share of spice and substance.

The opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Video games in Athens on August 13.-AFP/JULIE JACOBSON

Sifting by means of the maze of info and figures within the 28 disciplines might be daunting, even Herculean. On the finish of it dawns the truth that america, with a haul of 103 medals, 35 of them gold, continues to be the powerhouse of sport, method forward of its archrival Russia. Nonetheless, this time the Asian large China inched nearer to the U.S. within the medal hunt, with a gold medal tally of 32. Curiously, the Athens Olympics displays the heartening development of sport changing into extra common and a medium for projecting nationwide id. It explains the presence of a rustic like Eritrea on the medal board.

India’s sole medal winner Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore with the silver medal he gained within the double-trap taking pictures occasion.-VINO JOHN

What set the tenor for 16 days of sporting extravaganza was the grand opening ceremony, clouded although by the drug probe involving Greek sprinters Kostas Kenderis and Katerina Thanou. And as soon as the present unfolded, the hunt for glory was relentless.

Roman Sebrie of the Czech Republic, the gold medallist within the decathion occasion, throwing the javelin.-AP/DAVID J.PHILLIP

It’s futile to establish a hero from the 10,000-plus rivals. Each self-discipline displayed one and even two. However the one projected as a would-be hero was the U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. Aquatics enjoys particular consideration on the Olympic Video games. And positive sufficient it did in Athens. As many as three world and 17 Olympic information have been made within the self-discipline, mirroring the uncommon depth that characterised aquatic occasions at Athens.

Kelly Holmes of Britain who struck gold in 800m and 1500m.-REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE

It was not statistics alone that stored the zeal up. The duels have been absorbing, even sensational. Phelps got here to win eight golds and overhaul fellow American Mark Spitz’s document of seven golds made on the 1972 Olympics. However that didn’t occur. As an alternative the 19-year-old gained six gold and two bronze medals. Whereas his basic battle in opposition to the Australian Ian Thorpe in 200 metres freestyle introduced him solely a bronze, he established his authority in particular person medley (IM), particularly along with his world document of 4:08.26s within the 400m IM.

Morocco’s Hichan EI Guerrouj celebrates after successful the lads’s 5,000m remaining. He additionally took the gold within the 1500m occasion.-REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ

However greater than Phelps, it was the achievement of American Jenny Thompson that must be recommended. Her 10-medal haul within the Olympics was historic, and surpassed these of compatriots Spitz and Matt Biondi. The U.S. dominance within the pool was absolute with 28 medals, 19 of them gold, adopted by Australia with 15 (together with 12 golds). China’s 11th place in aquatics was considerably surprising.

Michael Phelps of the U.S. setting a world document within the males’s 400 metres particular person medley remaining.-REUTERS/DAVID GRAY

However when it got here to diving, the Chinese language have been excellent – they claimed 9 medals, six of them gold, three silver and one bronze. Bo Peng gained the gold within the three-metre springboard and Hu Jia within the 10 metres platform.

YELENA ISINBAYEVA of Russia symbolised the brand new face of athletics in a tough occasion like pole-vaulting. She set a world document of 4.91m. in ladies’s pole vault. Equally enchanting was Xiang Liu’s efficiency within the 110m hurdles to degree the world document of Briton Colin Jackson at 12.91 seconds; he set an Olympic document too within the course of.

Romania’s Catalina Ponor, who three gold medals, on the steadiness beam within the creative gymnastics remaining.-REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ

The U.S. sweep within the 200 m race was led by Shawn Crawford and in 400m by Jeremy Wariner. Kenya maintained its dominance in steeplechase by making a clear sweep of the three medals with Eziekel Kemboi claiming the gold. Russian ladies, with Tatayana Lebdeva on the vanguard, did the identical in lengthy bounce.

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia gained the 10,000 metres gold from compatriot and double Olympic champion Haile Gabreselassie, who completed fifth this time.

Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva, the winner of the gold medal, within the ladies’s lengthy bounce remaining.-AP/RUSTY KENNEDY

El Guerrouj, the Moroccan sensation, etched a brand new web page in historical past when he took a uncommon golden double in 1500m and 5000m. The four-time 1500m world champion claimed the metric mile from Kenyan Bernard Legat, whereas within the latter occasion he beat Bekele, the world document holder, in a decent end.

There have been nice moments such because the Czech athlete Roman Sebrle realising his dream of an Olympic gold in decathlon and the wonderful double of Kelly Holmes of Britain within the 800m and 1500m. But it surely was disappointment for the Czech champion Jan Zelezny, who got here with the hope of bagging his fourth javelin gold in 5 Olympic appearances and light away to the ninth place. The defeat of the U.S. within the males’s Four x 100 m relay by Nice Britain for the second time in Olympic historical past was surprising; the U.S.’ final defeat within the occasion was in 1996 on the Atlanta Olympics. The resilience of the 44-year-old Jamaican athelete Merlene Ottey, competing for Slovenia in her seventh Olympics and making it to the semi-finals, was commendable.

South Korea’s ladies’s archery group, (from left) Yun Mi Jin, Park Sung Hyun, and Lee Sung Jin, the gold medallists.-AFP/ROMEO GACAD

Stefano Baldini of Italy gained the lads’s marathon, hours earlier than the closing ceremony, in a weird race that positioned Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil within the third place. De Lima’s substantial lead within the race was compromised when a spectator entered the highway six kilometres from the end and pushed him into the gang. It took greater than a minute for the Brazilian to tear himself away, be a part of the race and strike rhythm. However he may ultimately handle solely a bronze. The IOC, nevertheless, honoured him with the Baron Pierre Coubertin medal for truthful play.

Other than producing just a few shock outcomes right here and there, the Athens Olympics witnessed the normal powers holding fort, though alive to new and rising challenges. Archery is one space the place South Koreans discovered the hole narrowing. For six Olympics in a row, Korea’s domination has been unchallenged. At Athens, it gained three of the 4 gold medals in males’s archery. The Korean picture suffered when Marco Galiazzo of Italy slotted gold within the males’s particular person competitors, changing into Italy’s first Olympic champion within the sport. As for the Korean ladies, they’ve gained all of the 11 gold medals on supply since 1984 when the self-discipline was launched. Curiously, 11 of the 43 nations that took half in archery had Korean coaches.

Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia who set a world document in pole vault.-VINO JOHN

The Chinese language discovered their dominance challenged in desk tennis, badminton and gymnastics, however managed to increase their authority in weight-lifting, taking pictures and volleyball (by which they scored a nerve-tingling victory over the Russians to seize gold). In desk tennis, China misplaced the lads’s singles to Korea’s Seung Min Ryu, however took the remainder of the 4 golds. Singapore’s Li Jia Wei brought on a fantastic upset within the ladies’s singles when she outplayed the Olympic and World Champion, Nan Wang of China, within the quarterfinal. The ladies’s singles gold went to Zhang Yining of China.

Liu Chunhong of China units a brand new world document within the ladies’s 69 kg weightlifting occasion, hoisting 122.5kg.-AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE

In badminton, too, Chinese language ladies took the three obtainable golds. The distinguished males’s singles title went to Indonesia’s Taufiq Hidayat, whereas South Koreans gained each the doubles gold and silver; Ha Tae Kwon and Kim Dong Moon gained the doubles title.

Cuba’s Mario Cesar Kindelan Mesa(proper) throughout his light-weight bout with Britain’s Amir Khan. The Cubon gained the gold.-REUTERS/STEVE MARCUS

China excelled in taking pictures, bagging 4 out of the 9 golds. Even on day one, China asserted its supremacy with the 22-year-old Li Du successful the gold within the ladies’s air rifle competitors. The contests have been shut and exhilarating. The opposite medals have been shared by Russia, Germany, the U.S. and South Korea. For India, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver in males’s double entice taking pictures was memorable.

China’s Bo Peng, who gained the gold medal within the males’s 3m springboard.-AFP/GERARD JULEIN

In gymnastics, Romanian women held the stage with outstanding performances. The star was Catalina Ponor with three gold medals within the group, beam and ground workouts. The media hype surrounding the U.S. sensation Paul Hamm considerably overshadowed the Romanian symphony. In the long run, he may present just one gold (males’s particular person all spherical) and two silvers (group and horizontal bar). The opposite U.S. star was Carly Patterson with three medals, one gold (group), and two silvers (all spherical and beam). Hiroyoki Tomita and Takehiro Kashima of Japan have been two different glorious performers.

The recognition ranking of seashore volleyball was placing. The matches stretched to the wee hours, however the crowds didn’t thoughts and loved each little bit of the motion. The sport, launched on the Atlanta Olympics, was a U.S. protect however this time Brazilians Ricardo Santos and Emmanuel Rego, the reigning world champions, anchored the gold shutting out the shock Spanish finalists, Javier Bosma and Pablo Herrera. Kerri Walsh and Misty Could of the U.S. gained the gold within the ladies’s seashore volleyball.

Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi (proper) and compatriot Brimin Kipruto compete within the males’s 3000m steeplechase remaining adopted by compatriot Paul Kipsiele Koech (background, proper) and Qatar’s Musa Obaid Amer. Kemboi gained the gold medal, Kipruto the silver and Koech the bronze.-FRANK FIFE/AFP

The ultimate rankings in each males’s and girls’s hockey pleasantly shocked many. Australia realised its golden dream, beating the defending champion, the Netherlands, with a golden purpose by Jaime Dwyer. The Aussies thereby prevented a Dutch hat-trick within the Olympics. The Dutch, striving to take each the lads’s and girls’s titles, needed to be content material with two silvers. Stunning was the maiden victory for Germany within the ladies’s hockey remaining. Australia, looking for the third successive gold, tumbled to the fifth slot, failing even to make the grade. A matter of misery, nevertheless, was the failure of the three Asian groups – Pakistan, India and Korea – to make it into the semi-finals.

One self-discipline that attracted monumental consideration each for the great and the ugly was weightlifting. Statistically, 47 world and Olympic information have been rewritten at Athens 2004. Turkey’s Halil Mutlu turned the fourth man to win three successive gold medals in three consecutive Olympics. China gathered 5 golds and three silvers. Nineteen-year-old Younger Liu Chonghong of China created information in every of her 5 lifts and ended the occasion holding six world information within the 69 kg division. However the suspension of 5 rivals – two from India – for testing optimistic clouded the occasion. The President of the Worldwide Weightlifting Federation (IWF), Dr. Tamas Ajan, summed up the state of affairs with a contact of poignancy when he mentioned: “Considered one of my eyes is smiling on the good competitors, the presence of 261 athletes from 79 nations, the wonderful services on the Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Corridor, and the Olympic spirit is right here. The opposite eye is crying due to drug-taking by rivals.”

The tennis singles gold went to Chile’s Nicolas Massu. Massu together with compatriot Fernando Gonzalez, took the doubles gold, bringing Chile its first two Olympic golds. The perfect within the discipline in each males’s and girls’s tennis didn’t survive the rigours – they included, aside from reigning Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, the Indian duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, who misplaced 14-16 within the remaining set of the match for the bronze medal. World No 1. Justine Henin-Hardenne gained the primary gold for Belgium on this Olympics, beating Amelie Mauresmo of France in straight units (6-3, 6-3).

There have been surprises in basketball, too, with the U.S. dropping to Puerto Rico within the pool stage and to Argentina (81-89) within the semi-final. Argentina beat Italy 84-69 to clinch the gold.

Mark Lewis Francis, proper, of the gold-medal-winning British Four X 100m relay group on the end line. Maurice Greene, left, of the U.S. completed second and Aliu Deji, centre, of Nigeria completed third.-ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/AP

If excellence is measured in golds, rower Matthew Pinsent of Nice Britain is a positive candidate. When his squad beat Canada within the males’s coxless fours, it gave Pinsent his fourth consecutive gold. As many as 22 nations gained medals in rowing. The Aussies carried out properly total, successful 9 gold medals in swimming and 5 in biking. Australian bicycle owner Ryan Bayley was the excellent performer each in dash and keirin occasions.

The U.S. ladies gained the soccer gold beating Brazil 2-1, whereas Argentina beat Paraguay within the males’s remaining to reaffirm the supremacy of South America within the sport. Equally, Brazil gained the volleyball gold in a tense contest in opposition to Italy in 4 units (25-15, 24-26, 25-20, 25-22) whereas Russia picked up the bronze beating the U.S. (25-22, 27-25, 25-16).

Not surprisingly, Cuba, the nation that produced such excellent pugilists as Teofelo Stevenson and Felix Savon, dominated the boxing ring, cornering 5 gold medals, two silvers and one bronze within the 11 weight classes. Mario Cesar Kindelan Mesa,the triple world champion, gained his second Olympic gold beating 17-year-old Amir Khan of Britain. One other Cuban who held centre stage was Rogondeax Ortiz, the double Olympic gold medallist.

Hungary’s Adrian Annus who was stripped of his hammer throw gold after falling the dope check.-AFP/ERIC FEFERBERG

THE Athens Video games can even be remembered for the struggle declared by the Worldwide Olympic Affiliation (IOC) in opposition to those that cheated on medication. As many as 3,000 samples have been examined. Anybody refusing or attempting to keep away from offering samples have been stripped of their medals. Hungary’s Robert Fazekas was disqualified after he gained the gold in discus throw for making an attempt to tamper with the samples. Shotputter Natalya Khoroneko examined optimistic. On the ultimate day of the Video games, IOC disqualified Hungary’s Adrian Annus, per week after he gained the hammer throw gold. Annus was disadvantaged of his gold for avoiding an IOC directive to look for a second check. And the struggle continues. “Maintain the game clear,” declared IOC President Jacques Rogge on the closing ceremony.

The 75-member Indian contingent introduced a depressing present, save for Rathore’s silver. Not one of the Indian rivals can complain that they didn’t have sufficient alternatives to coach. Nearly in each self-discipline they’d sufficient, in all probability greater than they wanted, publicity to worldwide tournaments and coaching. The athletes have been educated in Ukraine, the weightlifters in Belarus, the hockey group within the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands, and the shooters in each world-level occasion.

Brazil’s Vanderiei de Lima being pushed by a spectator within the final stage of the marathon. De Lima completed third.-AFP/JIRO MOCHZUKI

Whereas Anju Bobby George’s failure in lengthy bounce was an enormous let-down for sports activities lovers in India, a be aware of appreciation is properly deserved for Ok.M. Binu who set a brand new nationwide document in 400 metres (45.48s) and J.J. Shoba who got here11th (6,172 factors) in heptathlon. The Four x 400m relay group made it to the ultimate (3:26.89, nationwide document) however completed seventh.

The Athens Video games was outstanding for the large strides made in each side of sports activities planning and programming. It stays to be seen when India can match these organisational expertise to host an Olympics.

The Olympic flame is extinguished on the closing ceremony on August 29.-AP/PAUL CHIASSON

The Video games, which had returned to Greece, the land of its origin, got here to an in depth on August 29. The following Olympics will probably be held in Beijing in 2008.

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