Marathon caps Olympic events
The men's marathon will bring the curtain down on the Olympic athletics programme on Sunday before Stadium Australia transforms itself into a theatre for the closing ceremony.
But the athletes taking part in the most gruelling event of the Games will care little for the impending parades and fireworks as they grind their way along the 26.2 miles (42.195 km) from north Sydney to the stadium.
Instead of the usual early morning start, the race begins at 4 p.m. local time and the finishers will be guaranteed a packed house of 112,000.
As ever, it is a difficult race to predict but it's likely that Spanish duo Abel Anton and Martin Fiz will be among the frontrunners, as will their Portuguese neighbour Antonio Pinto.
Pinto has the fastest time of the season, a European record 2 hours 6.36 minutes to take the London Marathon in April.
Although previous times are not a great indicator of current form in the marathon, Pinto's incredible consistency means he is almost certain to be near the front at the end.
Anton and Fiz, with three world championship golds between them, have said they will try to work together to secure a first Spanish Olympic marathon victory to add to their world championship dominance.
Anton is the 1997 and 1999 world champion, both runs in hot conditions, and despite being one of the oldest competitors at a month short of 38 he is a strong medal hope.
Fiz finished fourth in Atlanta but has an impressive record of eight wins from his 16 international races, including the 1995 world.
The course is a tough, hilly one and Japanese duo Takayuki Inubushi and Shinji Kawashima ran it in April and remained in Australia to train for a month.
After Naoko Takahashi's victory in the women's event last Sunday they would dearly love to make it a double but gold might be a little too much to expect.
Atlanta champion Josia Thugwane is bidding to become the first man since East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinksi in 1980 to successfully defend the title but it looks a tall order for the South African.
Korean Lee Bong-Ju, runner-up to Thugwane four years ago in a thrilling finish, will be hoping to go one better.
The local favourite will be veteran Steve Moneghetti, racing in his fourth Olympics at the age of 38. However, the cheers the Australian will hear when he enters the stadium is extremely unlikely to be those welcoming the winner.
Besides the men's marathon, there will be 23 other medal events on the last day of the Sydney Games.
The United States and France will clash in the final of the men's basketball.
The day will start with six medal events in canoeing -- the men's canoe singles, women's kayak singles, men's kayak doubles, men's canoe doubles and women's kayak doubles.
There will be six medal events in boxing -- in the 51kg, 57kg, 63.5kg, 71kg, and 81kg and over 91kg categories.
Four freestyle wrestling finals will be contested in the 58kg, 69kg, 85kg and 130kg divisions.
The other medal events will be in equestrian individual jumping, men's volleyball, rhythmic gymnastics individual all-round, women's modern pentathlon, men's water polo and women's handball.
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