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ATHENS 2004

A Wild Zeus Chase

Avoiding security nightmares, if not controversial twists, the 28th Olympiad closes with the label 'unforgettable dream Games' from Rogge, and Greece passes torch to China

August 30, 2004|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — The 2004 Summer Games closed Sunday, free from threatening security incidents but marked by a bizarre turn in the men's marathon in the wake of controversies over judging, doping and other issues that shadowed the first-class delivery by Greek organizers of a 17-day sport spectacular.

Under a full moon that hung over the rim of Olympic Stadium, the Olympic caldron was extinguished as athletes from 202 nations mingled in the infield. Mia Hamm, the gold medal-winning soccer star who carried the U.S. flag into the stadium, said she was leaving Athens with "a scrapbook of wonderful memories."

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, called the 2004 Olympics "unforgettable dream Games."

Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the board of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said, "History will record that these were amongst the greatest Games, if not the greatest Games, of all time."

Amid the glow, however, the IOC could not escape incident and controversy.

Sunday, nearing the end of the men's marathon, the final event, an intruder charged onto the course.

Wearing a red kilt, green vest and dark green beret, a sign on his back alluding to biblical prophecy, he pushed Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil, the race leader, into the crowd on the far side of the road. De Lima, freed by the crowd after a few seconds, resumed running but faded and finished third. Still, he blew kisses to the crowd as he entered Panathinaiko Stadium for his final lap.

De Lima's lead over eventual winner Stefano Baldini of Italy and Meb Keflezighi of San Diego, the silver medalist, had been shrinking before the incident. But De Lima said afterward, "Maybe I would have won. It disturbed me a lot."

Police arrested the protester, identifying him as Cornelius Horan, 57, a defrocked Irish priest.

The marathon incident was the second such of these Games. On Aug. 16, a Canadian man wearing tights and a tutu jumped into the Olympic diving pool.

Brazilian sports authorities protested the marathon result but the protest was rejected. Brazilian officials said they would consider seeking a duplicate gold medal for De Lima through an appeal to an international sports tribunal.

Continuing the gymnastics controversy that has shadowed the Games, Yang Tae Young, the South Korean who lost the men's all-around gold medal to Paul Hamm of the U.S. because of a scoring error, filed an appeal with the international tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, asking CAS to help him get the gold medal.

CAS, which traditionally does not intervene in "field of play" decisions, said it would consider any action after returning to its offices in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Rogge had said Sunday, before the South Korean filing, "Paul Hamm was declared the winner and therefore he has received the gold medal. For us that is final."

Rogge said the IOC intended to work with the gymnastics federation, among others, to revise scoring standards in a bid to bolster public confidence.

Doping violations here, two dozen of them, set a record.

Olympic officials announced Sunday that Colombian cyclist Maria Luisa Calle Williams, the bronze medalist in the points race, had tested positive for a banned stimulant and that Hungarian Adrian Annus, the gold medalist in the men's hammer throw, had refused to provide another urine sample after two previous samples "showed evidence of belonging to two different athletes."

Williams and Annus were disqualified.

No U.S. athletes were involved in the 24 doping cases. Rogge said authorities would continue the stepped-up anti-doping effort. Despite the glitches, the Games exceeded expectations. Many had feared that the venues would not be ready on time, that a security breach would mar the Olympics, that Athens' notoriously difficult traffic would prove exasperating.

After an outlay now estimated at $12 billion, the facilities were ready and traffic moved smoothly.

"We accomplished what we promised and erased seven years of doubt by delivering flawless Games, reconnecting the Olympic movement to its ancient heritage and introducing the world to the modern accomplishments of the new Greece," said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens 2004 committee.

The Greek government spent $1.5 billion on the security framework -- five times what was spent on security at the Sydney Games four years ago.

The IOC had -- for the first time -- taken out insurance against terrorism and other disasters.

Thomas J. Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, said: "Not only have the events been great, the administrative arrangements were good and security [was] good. The idea here is that people have been able to focus on the events and on the intangibles behind those events -- courage, competition and fair play."

The 2004 Games did produce some compelling moments.

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won eight medals, six gold. If he were a country, Phelps would have been in a five-way tie for 24th on the medals list.

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