Athens 2004

Athens Olympics 2004

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At the 28th summer olympic games in Athens 2004 the olympics finally returned to Greece. This could truly be called a return home as Greece is both the original site where the ancient olympics were held more than 3000 years ago and also the site for the reinvention of the olympic games in 1896.

The Greeks were actively focusing on the value of tying the modern games to the ancient heritage and there were many references to the past during the staging in Athens. This was especially clear during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on the 13th of August but also in relation to several sporting events. The cycling road races were held on a stretch around the Acropolis. The Marathons started near Marathon where Pheidippides in the year 490 BC ran the first marathon distance in order to announce the Greek victory against the Persian invasion forces. In addition the marathons finished on the olympic stadium that was used in the Athens 1896 games. On this more than 100 year old venue the Archery competitions took place. The Shot Put events on the other hand were held at the ancient but still preserved stadium in the ancient city of Olympia in the midst of the ruins where the ancient games took place.

The choice of Athens as an Olympic host was taken on the 5th of September 1997 on IOC's 106th session in Lausanne. Four other cities had presented their bid to host the games: Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Rome and Stockholm. It took five rounds of voting before Athens finally were chosen in front of Rome as hosts. The result was celebrated in Greece where the disappointment in 1990 of loosing out on hosting the 100 year anniversary of the modern games in 1996 to Atlanta was still remembered - an anniversary that many Greeks felt entitled to host because of the historical roots of the games.

The preparations for the Athens olympics were not without troubles. The organisers were unusually slow in preparing the olympics and in particular in building the many new venues. Many projects were delayed, they were more expensive than anticipated, the leadership was substituted and in addition there were many fears of terror attacks. This gave the IOC occasion to raise critical remarks but in the end the Greek hosts pulled through. At the opening on the 13th of August everything was ready and Athens presented an excellent, well organised 2004 olympics in many new and top-modern sport arenas.

Almost 11.000 athletes participated in the Athens olympics. For the first time athletes from every single one of the 201 nations associated with the olympic movement participated. Kiribata and East Timor were new nations at the 2004 olympics.

The most succesful athlete was American swimmer Michael Phelps winning six gold medals and a total of 8 medals and thereby became one of the most successful athletes in a single olympic games. With a gold medal in women's Kayak K4 500 m and a silver medal in the K2-event Germany's 42 year old Birgit Fischer elevated her total number of medals during seven olympic games since Moscow 1980 to eight gold medals and four silver medals. With these results she moved in to fifth position in the overall ranking of athletes winning most olympic medals only superseeded by the Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina (9-5-4), Finish runner Paavo Nurmi (9-3-0), American swimmer Mark Spitz (9-1-1) and American track and field athlete Carl Lewis (9-1-0). From the track and field competitions an interesting result was the double victory by Hicham El Guerrouj from Marocco who won both the 1500 m and the 5000 m. With these wins he copied Paavo Nurmis double victory from the games in Paris 1924.

Unfortunately the Athens olympics were tainted by a number of doping scandals. Both before and during the 2004 olympics there were several disqualifications because of doping. In the track and field competitions no less than three gold medalists were later disqualified and removed from the official standings on the account of using illegal substances.

In total 301 sets of medals were distributed during the Athens olympics which was one more than in Sydney 2000. 75 of the participating 201 nations won olympic medals and among them 57 won medals of gold. For the third time in a row USA became the most winning nation with 35 gold medals and 101 medals in total. China was second best with 32 gold medals followed by Russia's 27, Australia's 17, Japan's 16 and Germany's 14. Three countries won their first medals ever at the 2004 olympics. Paraguay won the silver medals in football for men, Eritrea claimed silver in the men's 10.000 m track race, and the United Arab Emirates took gold in the Shooting Double trap event for men.

Follow this link for a detailed and interactive medal standing for Athens 2004.
This story about the Athens Olympics 2004 is based on the official Olympic reports and the Olympian Database
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