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Olympia Could Stage Men's Shotput at Athens Games

Sources say organizers have proposed moving the event to ancient site for 2004 Olympics.

October 30, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

Organizers of the 2004 Summer Games in Greece have proposed moving the men's shotput from Olympic Stadium in Athens to the site of the ancient Games in Olympia, sources said Wednesday.

The proposal must clear a number of considerable logistical hurdles, including security, transportation and how fans would watch -- there is no modern-day stadium at the Olympia site -- and it remains uncertain whether all such details can be resolved.

"This is the only time in the [modern] history of the Games that a sport [would] take place in Olympia," an Olympic source with knowledge of the negotiations said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A senior official with track and field's governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, expressed cautious optimism. So too did Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, which is paying roughly $5.5 billion for the exclusive right to televise the Games in the United States from 2000 through 2012.

"It would be a wonderful way to tie the ancient and modern Olympics together, it would be wonderful for television and wonderful for track and field -- but only if the interests of the athletes can be protected," he said.

In another attempt to link ancient and modern Greece at next year's Olympics, the marathon is due to be run over the route that is said to be the same one that the legendary Pheidippides traversed -- from Marathon, a seaside village northeast of Athens, to the center of the Greek capital.

The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC. They began as a religious festival and, historians believe, were held thereafter every four years for about 1,000 years.

The modern International Olympic Committee was launched in 1894. The first modern Games were held in 1896 in Athens. The Games return to Greece next year for the first time since then. The 2004 Games are scheduled for Aug. 13-29.

Olympia is a tranquil village as well as tourist haunt and site of the International Olympic Academy, an academic and research arm of the IOC. Olympia is on the Peloponnese peninsula, a three- or four-hour drive from Athens.

"There are discussions in a very mature stage," a source said Wednesday of moving the shotput competition.

It remains uncertain why the men's shotput was the event singled out -- and why only the men's event, not the women's as well.

As currently scheduled, the men's shot is scheduled for Aug. 20 at Olympic Stadium in Athens. Qualifying is scheduled to begin that morning, the finals at 9 local time that night.

Unclear is whether the event would go off on the same day and at the same times. A host of other matters also remain under discussion -- down to, literally, the nature of the surface of the shotput ring. Dirt or synthetic?

Istvan Gyulai, secretary-general of the IAAF, noted that there are "many, many questions," but also said, "There is merit in the idea."

The IOC would ultimately have to ratify any move. Spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Wednesday, "This is an issue that has not been officially decided upon by us."

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