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Greece give Games super send-off
August 30, 2004 01:36 IST
If the welcome home party was grand, the send-off was equally spectacular as Athens bid a fabulous farewell to the world's 10,500-odd sportspersons from a record 202 countries that assembled in Athens for the Olympic Games which concluded on Sunday night.
The curtain was brought down at the jam-packed Olympic Stadium under a full moon with millions others around the globe watching the spectacular ceremony with awe and wondrous delight on their television screens.
It was a riot of colour and the stadium reverberated with the sounds of Greece's traditional and modern music accompanied by dancers wearing eye-catching costumes.
Amidst all these celebrations and revelry there was a tinge of sadness too that the Games had come to an end.
The Greeks, who warmed the cockles of the overseas visitors' hearts with their hospitality, were in party mood for having conducted the Games, about which there was a lot of pre-event negative publicity, in a flawless and fantastic manner.
Greece, and Athens in particular, fully deserve the top marks given by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, at the fag end of the extravaganza, for organizing the mammoth sports spectacle.
The Games might have cost a total of almost 10 billion euros (USD 12.1 billion), more than double the original budget, to host and is expected to push Greece's budget deficit well above European Union limits, but all those things were forgotten by the Greeks who partied as one on Sunday night.
The ceremony was a colourful mosaic of civilization and culture from all regions of the ancient country, which was the birthplace of the biggest sports show on the planet.
The stadium got transformed into a field of golden wheat made up of thousands of stalks of the grain while dancers sporting a variety of traditional Greek costumes of different hues entertained the crowd with superbly choreographed movements.
The podium finishers in the energy-sapping 42-km men's marathon, which started from the village near Athens bearing the same name and was the last event contested, were awarded the medals by IOA President Rogge.
The gold went to Italian Stefano Baldini, silver to American Mebrahtom Keflezighi while Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima took the bronze.
The enthralling Opening Ceremony was a celebration of humanity while the Closing Ceremony was like an invitation to a lavish Greek dinner party.
The participants too had a chance to let their hair down after the intensity of competition over the last fortnight. They came together in a group, some of them carrying their country flags, and were in a merry mood, waving to the crowd and the television cameras.
The formal part of the ceremony followed. The Olympic flag and the flag of Greece were brought into the stadium. Then Athens Games chief organizer Gianna Angelopolous Daskalaki, accompanied by Rogge, climbed the podium and thanked everyone for the successful conduct of the Games.
"You leave here as our friends", she told the athletes in her address, adding, "We have discovered a new Greece. Greece was great for the Games.
"Tonight we put off the Olympic flame. When it returns to Beijing it will burn brighter because of the Athens Olympic Games," she said.
Rogge, describing the Athens Olympics as an "unforgettable dream Games", declared the mega event closed as per tradition and gave the call to the youth of the world to assemble in four years' time at Beijing to celebrate the Games of the 29th Olympiad.