Aphrodite, Apollo, Zeus, Holmes & Pinsent
I'm sure the Olympics used to last longer than 2 weeks? It kind of came and went but I did enjoy my 4 yearly fill of Archery, rowing, judo and beach volleyball (oh, what a wonderful invention that is?). One of my (many) life time ambitions is to attend an Olympic games, I was nowhere near Athens but did manage to watch as much of it as I could in 3 different countries - United States, Bermuda and the UK - on television.
After much concern whether Athens would be ready and able to host a modern Olympics, from what I saw and read it was a raging success - though try telling that to the non capital living Greek taxpayers? There were some empty seats at various competitions, such as the football and tennis and the swimming pool might have been missing it's roof, but overall the Greeks brought together the old and the new extremely well with the shot put contest at the Ancient Olympia being one of the highlights.
Ignoring the Eastern Bloc boycotted 1984 Los Angleles games this was the most succesful Olympic Games for GB since 1924. 30 medals - 9 golds, 9 silver and 12 bronze - was 2 more than we won in Sydney, so it was "mission accomplished"
according to British Olympic Association boss Simon Clegg, but was it?
Outside of Kelly Holmes' supreme achievement, heptathlete Kelly Sotherton's bronze and the surprise if not magnificent gold won by the 4x100m boys (above), the track and field team (58 athletes took part) was hugely disappointing. Too many of our frankly not good enough competitors were eliminated in early heats.
Our Field Hockey team (gold medalist's in 1988) managed their worst finish for 36 years (9th) whilst their women counterparts did not even qualify. The shooting team, traditionally a good bet for medals, had a nightmare with Sydney winner Richard Faulds failing to even reach the final. Our Judo and Taekwondo teams also left without a medal after being heavily fancied.
And always the bridesmaid never the bride Tim Henman was on the plane home as quick as you could say Hercules, beaten in 2 straight sets by a Czech. Even worse for our Timmy was the match was played in front of just a handful of spectators.
However there were some truly great moments. Who will forget Kelly Holmes running the perfect race to win the 1,500m following on from her 800m earlier in that week? She is only the third woman in history to do the double and something that even the 'great' Coe, Ovett and Cram never acheived.
The 100m sprint is the vanilla Olympic event and after the American's won 5 of the 6 medals in the mens individual 100 and 200m, the relay was considered a non event. However we watched in awe as Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis changed baton's faultlessly to sprint home one hundredth of a second in front of the decorated USA team. I enjoyed that I can tell you?
Then there was rower Matthew Pinsent who broke down in tears on the medal podium. I am told that this man has the biggest lung capacity in the UK. He is a legend, just like his mate Steve Redgrave.
Shirley Robertson, Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb won the sailing Yngling class, it was Robertson's second straight gold after winning the single-handed Europe class in Sydney. This was then followed by a gold from my tip
Ben Ainslie. The sailing team won two gold medals, one silver and two bronzes to emulate the five-medal haul from Sydney in 2000. Amazingly we have now won 19 sailing gold medals since the 1900 Olympic Games, one more than the USA.
Professional cyclist Bradley Wiggins won a full coloured set of medals and Chris Hoy smashed the Olympic 1km time trial record to also win a gold. Two other tips
came good too. Diving pair Peter Waterfield and Leon Taylor won a synchronised silver and in the modern pentathlon which was devised by the founder of the modern games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, as the ultimate test for the complete athlete, Georgina Harland run a massive last running leg to claim a superb bronze.
The other lasting memories were from 17 year old Bolton boy Amir Khan. I watched him in the early rounds and was memorised, unfortunately I missed the lightweight division final as I was sat at an airport, but there was no disgrace as he took silver after losing 30-22 to triple Olympic champion Mario Kindelan, who was one of six Cubans to win a boxing gold.
This is a full list of our medal winners.
Among other men and women who grabbed their chance of Olympic notriety were American swimmer Michael Phelps who left Athens with six golds and two bronzes, narrowly failing to emulate Mark Spitz's tally of seven golds in Munich 32 years ago. Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj crowned his glorious career with gold in the 1500 and 5,000m. This man had held every title in middle distance but until last week a gold medal had always eluded him. It took American Justin Gatlin just 9.85 seconds to blast from virtual unknown to immortality, winning the closest Olympic 100 metres final in history by one hundredth of a second.
Greek's Fani Halkia, hailed as a 'Winged Goddess', took the 400 metres hurdles gold, China's Liu Xiang won the men's 110 metres hurdles gold in world record time (equalling Colin Jackson's 1995 mark) while Xing Huina scored one of the biggest upsets by winning the women's 10,000 metres.
Then there was Greek weightlifting hero Pyrros Dimas who had won gold in the last 3 Olympics. This time he had to settle for bronze in the 85kg class, but he got a 5 minute standing ovation from his loving public which brought the medal ceremony to a halt.
The Iraqi football team was not surprisingly adopted by the American public (and politicans) as they captured everyone's heart but eventually lost in the Semi's to Paraguay. Ryu Seung-min became the first South Korean to win an Olympic gold in the Chinese dominated table tennis and Argentina ushered in a new world order in Basketball as the country that invented the game and pay their NBA stars millions of dollars lost 3 times - they had never lost in 68 years previously! "Shooting is a lost art (in the U.S.),"
lamented U.S. coach Larry Brown. Oh dear.
Inevitably doping scarred the Games. Doping doubts permeated these Olympics like never before, with centre stage taken by Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou. The couple missed drugs tests and then sought refuge in hospital after claiming to have been involved in a late-night motorcycle accident. This was then played out like a world TV reality show that overshadowed the first week of the Games.
Russian Irina Korzhanenko won the first gold medal of the Games, finishing first in the women's shot put competition staged at Ancient Olympia to symbolise the return of the Olympics to the country where the ancient and modern Games originated. She then tested positive for the steroid stanozolol.
By the closing day 24 athletes had tested positive for banned substances - twice as many as in 2000.
And then from nowhere China stormed to 63 medals including 32 golds, easily their best ever medal haul as they get set to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Will it be London's
turn 4 years later. I hope so.