Athens Olympics, the 28th in modern times, ran from 13 August 2004
to 29 August 2004
. It was the first summer games to be held after 9/11, and thus had more security measures in place than any other Olympic
Athens was given task of hosting the Olympic Games on 5 September 1997, after presenting a more competitive bid than rival candidate cities of Buenos Aires, Rome, Cape Town and Stockholm.
The mascots at the games were Athena and Phevos. With oversized feet and stumpy heads, each doll could unkindly be described as the cross between an aborted foetus and a stuffed toy designed by Joan Miró. Modelled after a traditional Greek doll, Athena's yellow-orange clothes symbolises the Greek sun, and Phevos's blue clothes represent the Aegean Sea and the Greek sky.
Before the games started there was concern that the Greeks would not complete the necessary infrastructure in time. A modest display of Greek girls wrapping a laurel wreath together at the end of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games suggested that their planning was perfunctionary at best, and even in early 2004 Athens still looked like a construction site ensnarled with traffic jams. Yet by the time the games commenced everything appeared to be complete. The charismatic mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyannis, was championed as having the necessary leadership to organise the internecine builders and bureaucrats into working together and pulling off what IOC President Jack Rogge considered was a memorable 'dream' Olympics.
Unfortunately, either the builders exceeded expectations and built too much seating, or the fear of terrorism and general Athenian disinterest led to some athletes competing in almost empty venues.
The opening ceremony was just as technically marvellous, and probably more dignified, than at Sydney and Atlanta. Amongst the choreographed display of ancient Greek personalities and living statues adding a more cerebral element to a show was cube-man paying homage to the ideas of Pythagorus and other ancient Greek thinkers through the use of lasers. Bjork sung.
It was the first games that Kiribati participated in (frequently mispronounced as ki-ri-ba-ti). Like in the 2000 Sydney Olympics North and South Korean atheletes marched together in the opening ceremony. Political tensions at the games were quite mild compared to what the actual state of the world really was; the only notable spoiler involved an Iranian judo player who was overweight for his weight class being misrepresented by his government, claiming that he would boycott sparring with an Israeli competitor. Anarchists demonstrated violently towards the end of the games. And of course, the men's marathon being disrupted by a crazy Irish nutter promoting his brand of apocalyptism.
Women competed in the shot put and freestyle wrestling for the first time. There were no new sports introduced, reflecting a general desire to reduce the number of events.
Australia's Ian Thorpe and the United States's Michael Phelps facing each other off in the pool.
America loosing in basketball to ... Puerto Rico
Britain's Matthew Pinsent wins in rowing for Britain.
Morocco's El Guerrouj win in the 1500 metres
More than a few athletes failing drug tests, including Greek competitors. There was also some lousy refereering in boxing, men's gymnastics and tae kwon do.
Gold Silver Bronze
1 United States 35 39 29
2 China 32 17 14
3 Russia 27 27 38
4 Australia 17 16 16
5 Japan 16 9 12
6 Germany 14 16 18
7 France 11 9 13
8 Italy 10 11 11
9 South Korea 9 12 9
10 Great Britain 9 9 12