MORE Audio Features From Athens  
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Press Conference with Dimitris Papanayou, Artistic Director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. This is a preview of what will be included in the Closing Ceremony and solely presented by Dimitris.

Interview package with world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva

Vox Pop answering the question: "What did you think of the Women's Marathon" to the public that had been watching the finishing at the historical Panathinaiko Stadium, Athens.

Ex strong man and his story of becoming a Christian

Produced by 2Kplus.
 
Feature Story
Athens, Fri. 27, Aug 04
[by Rich Cline]


The very last news report from Athens, Sun 29 Aug 04

The men left Marathon this evening for the final event of the 2004 Olympics, running 26 miles across the countryside to Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens. Following the withdrawals of defending champion Gezahegne Abera of Ethiopia and Kenya's Sammy Korir, the favourite was Kenyan world record holder Paul Tergat, but he had dropped back to 10th by the end of the race. No Kenyan has ever won an Olympic marathon. Lima Vanderlei of Brazil had been setting the pace, despite being pushed off the road by a protester at one point. But it was Italy's Stefano Baldini was who crossed the finish line in historic Panathinaiko stadium first, followed by America's Mebrahtom Keflezighi, who was born in Eritrea. Vanderlei won the bronze.

Hungary won their second successive Olympic water polo gold 8-7 after a close final match against Serbia and Montenegro today. Russia won bronze after beating the hometown boys Greece 6-to-5.

Brazil added the Olympic men's volleyball gold to their world championship title after beating Italy today. Brazil were unbeaten throughout the Athens tournament. Three-times former Olympic champions Russia crushed the US team to win bronze.

And Croatia claimed the gold medal in men's handball, even though they were 10 points down against Germany at halftime. Croatia also won gold atAtlanta 1996 but didn't qualify for the Sydney Games.

In Boxing, it was Cuba's day, as they added three gold medals to their tally here in Athens. Britain's Amir Khan, who at 17 was hoping to be the youngest Olympic boxing champion since 1952, saw his unbeaten streak ended by Cuban lightweight Mario Kindelan in the final.

Freestyle wrestling came to a close in a colourful fashion, as an on-mat brawl spread into the grandstands. Russia's world champion Buvaysa Saytiev and Belarus' Murat Gaidarov have long been strong rivals, but their animosity was pushed over the edge by an unusually close decision in a 74-kilogram qualifying match this morning. Saytiev was declared the winner, and the two wrestlers started fighting off the mat, triggering a fracas that involved spectators, officials and police. Saytiev came back later to win the gold. Russia also won the 96-kilogram category, while Iran won the 60-kilogram gold.

There were a few more positive drug tests in Athens, bringing the total number to a record 20. Hungarian weightlifter Ferenc Gyurkovics was stripped of his silver medal after testing positive for a banned substance, and Puerto Rican wrestler Mabel Fonseca has been expelled for using a steroid. In a related story, it was revealed that America's world 200-metre champion John Capel wasn't allowed to compete in last night's 4-by-100 relay due to pre-Olympic testing that found marijuana in his system.

And Olympics chief Jacques Rogge has been praising Greek organisers today, declaring the Olympics an all-round success. He cited TV ratings that are 15 percent above those for Sydney, and ticket sales higher than Barcelona and Seoul. He also described the security system as "flawless". Rogge's Rogge's predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch hailed the Sydney Games as the greatest Olympiad ever; Rogge is expected to do the same for Athens at tonight's closing ceremony.

PERSONAL NOTE: THE OLYMPIC STADIUM

I first visited this stadium in June 2000, when I was here to collect interviews with athletes competing in an IAAF Grand Prix, as well as make some contacts for our work here four years later. The stadium then was rather bland and dumpy, with a chaotic system of inner stairwells and tunnels I kept getting lost in as I ran back and forth from the stands to the interview areas at the end of the races. Since then, the Olympic organisers have completely refurbished the stadium, transforming it into a state-of-the-art facility with unobstructed seating and a strikingly beautiful roof, designed by Santiago Calatrava (who also designed the cauldron), that arches over the stadium without touching it (it is anchored to the ground outside). They've also completely refurbished the inner catacombs of the stadium, so the press situation was vastly improved - although I kept having deja vu when I'd turn into a strangely familiar curving tunnel! Low-rung press like me do not have access to the opening or closing ceremonies - I was in the stadium three times for athletics competition, and the atmosphere was electric, especially with the Olympic flame towering above the action. Although from the outside it does look a bit like an oil refinery as you go past on the Metro!

For the ceremonies the stadium was dressed up stunningly - with an elaborate network of aerial wires that allow props to be flown around the internal airspace. And then there are the fireworks that so cleverly used the architecture as they swirled, sparked and rocketed into the night sky (I could see them from where I was watching the opening in a park a few miles away). Well the closing ceremony is about to start so I'd better find a seat (and some free food!) here in the Zappeion Press Centre, where I'm watching on a massive screen. I hope you've enjoyed these reports - let me know what you liked and didn't like so I can refine the process for future sporting events. I'm already determined to be in Beijing in 2008 . . . and hoping the Olympics come to me in London in 2012. We'll find out next summer.
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