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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Full marks to Athens
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

Athens may have been a little rough around the edges but, like an uncut diamond, its beauty shone through in the end.

Looking back, it is difficult to fathom why everyone got so worked up. The swimming pool may have been minus its roof, and certain areas of the Olympic complex bore more resemblance to the Arizona Desert than a European capital city. But everything was fully functional.

A sole spectator at the tennis
Some of the sports struggled with poor attendances

The stadiums were fantastic without exception, though barely half full at times, while the transport links left London's antiquated system in the shade.

Security was always going to be an issue given the state of the world in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001 but it was subtle rather than intrusive.

And for that we must give a large chunk of thanks to the 70,000 volunteers who worked morning, noon and night, always willing to please even when faced with many an irate journalist who had lost his cool in the Athens heat.

As for the locals, those that opted to remain rather than flee to the coast proved enthusiastic and hospitable hosts. In short, these were an Olympics to be proud of.

There were setbacks, notably the drugs scandal that erupted on the eve of the Games involving national heroes Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou. But none of that brought shame on the Greek organisers, to whom we owe a big debt of thanks.

There was plenty of talk of the Olympics returning to the origin of their birth before the action got under way.

And while there was no chariot racing scheduled, the drama that unfolded in the many and varied arenas was often enchanting and engrossing.

The Olympic stadium during the closing ceremony
The flagship stadium was up and ready for the Games

If there was one grumble, it would be that sports like tennis and football devalued the Games rather than enhanced them.

They both struggled to attract decent crowds, probably because the competition in Athens was just a watered-down version of the fare that gets served up week in, week out all around the world.

Let's face it, the Olympics is not the be all and end all for such star names as Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But for the likes of modern pentathlete Georgina Harland and canoeist Ian Wynne, the Games still represent the pinnacle of achievement. And long may that continue.

After a few scares, Athens won its race to be ready for the 28th Olympiad. And, having run a marathon at a sprinter's pace, it was able to put its feet up and enjoy the show.

Don't expect such a panic in 2008, as Beijing is already closing in fast on the finishing line.

But after what we've seen over the last fortnight, the Chinese capital has a lot to live up to.





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SEE ALSO
Athens gets Olympics report card
29 Aug 04  |  Europe


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