In Greece, the still-evolving incident with two of the country's most prominent athletes, sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou, is every bit as big. In case you missed it, Kenteris and Thanou missed a mandatory drug test in the athletes' village Thursday and could be suspended by the International Olympic Committee.
Randy Harvey is reporting from his 13th Olympic Games. He has covered every Summer Olympics since 1976 and every Winter Olympics since 1988. He joined The Sun as the assistant managing editor for sports in April and has previously worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Daily News and Los Angeles Times.
- WBAL-TV's Noel Tucker blogs from Olympics
Kenteris is the most popular athlete in Greece. When he won the gold medal in the 200 meters four years ago in Sydney, a shocking upset, he became the first Greek runner to win a gold medal since 1896. It was assumed he would be the final torch bearer in Friday night's opening ceremony, a rare honor for a current athlete.
Thanou was the silver medalist in the women's 100 in 2000.
Both had been the subject of drug rumors for years, primarily because they chose to compete at so few events where testing was conducted. The rumors reached a crescendo earlier this year, when unnamed Greek athletes were discussed in an e-mail that surfaced in the BALCO steroid scandal. But their fans in Greece are very sensitive to the suspicions and have vigorously defended them.
You can imagine the pain and anger sports fans in Greece are feeling today. If you can't, then imagine how Oriole fans would have felt if Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray had been disqualified from the 1983 World Series.
Greeks already were saddened by another incident last week, when a member of their women's judo team was either pushed or jumped off a balcony. Her boyfriend, who had been questioned by police in the case, later jumped off the balcony. Both are in a hospital, near death. It was a true Greek tragedy.
These two episodes have cast a pall over the Games.
I hope it's not a sign of things to come. I wonder what the oracle of Delphi would say.
Aug. 12, 2004 10:05 AM ET
Looking back, and ahead, at 13th Olympic experience
In "The Naked Olympics," a recent book about the ancient Games in Greece, the author quotes from a letter written by a frequent visitor to Olympia. He says that he has attended 12 Games, which he presumes will earn him a place next to the gods.
This will be my 13th Olympic Games.
I don't believe that will earn me a ticket to heaven, but I have been to some special places on earth.
There have been the grand cities such as Montreal, Barcelona, Sydney and, yes, even Moscow.
There have been the smaller, charming cities such as Albertville and Lillehammer.
The best Olympics for me was Los Angeles in 1984 because, at the time, it was home. Sydney was the best organized. Barcelona was the most joyous. Every night was a festival.
The worst organized was Atlanta. Until 1996, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who became International Olympic Committee president in 1980, had closed every Olympics over which he presided by proclaiming that they were "the best Games ever.'' In Atlanta, he said the Games were merely "exceptional." It sounded complimentary, but there was a double meaning to his declaration. He meant that they were an exception.
I'm not sure what Jacques Rogge, the current IOC president, will say about Athens at the closing ceremony in 16 days. This has been the least organized organizing committee in my experience. To the organizers' credit, I never thought it was possible when I was here in March that they would be as close to ready as they are today.
How ready is that?
The joke here is that one Greek asked another when the venues had to be ready for the Games.
"August 13,'' the second Greek said.
"Morning or evening?'' the first Greek asked.
"Evening," the second Greek said.
"Ah,'' the first Greek said. "Then everything will be fine.''
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