Olympic Games: HISTORY

The Olympic Games, an international festival of sport which originated in ancient Greece, were revived in the 19th century by a French aristocrat worried by young Frenchmen not getting enough physical education at school.

The ancient Olympics were mainly about the ruling classes preparing for war and barred women. Successive presidents of the International Olympic Committee, which Baron Pierre de Coubertin set up in 1894, were just as eager to keep the working classes and women in their place.

De Coubertin, also troubled by the growing commercialisation of sport 100 years ago, visualised an amateur championship for the world’s sportsmen.

He took as his model the British and American upper class educational system of enlightened paternalism.

Oxford and Cambridge university graduates had, after all, started France’s first sports club at Le Havre in 1872, while lawn tennis became all the rage after being imported from Britain in 1878.

The Greeks had twice tried to revive the Games, in 1859 and 1870, so the first Olympic Games, since the Roman emperor Theodosius had banned them in AD 393, were held in Athens.

1896 ATHENS

Of the 13 nations who had responded to de Coubertin’s invitation to Paris, and the 21 who had given written support, only 12 were represented in Athens.

The nine sports on the Olympic programme were athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, lawn tennis, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling.

A Greek architect Georgios Averoff picked up most of the bill and many of the competitors were simply tourists visiting Athens at the time.

James Conolly of Boston, who dropped out from Harvard to go to Athens, became the first Olympic champion in 1,527 years when he won what was then known as the hop, step and jump.

Athens crowds were fascinated by the “crouch” start of Americans Thomas Burke, who went on to get gold, and Thomas Curtis.

A Greek shepherd, Spiridon Louis, won the first marathon over the same course covered by Greek hero Pheidippides after the battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

1900 PARIS

The Games, overshadowed by the Eiffel Tower, were very much a sideshow to the Paris Exposition and the organisation was an embarrassment.

Charlotte Cooper of Britain had already won three of her five Wimbledon titles when she became the first women’s Olympic champion.

American college students Alvin Kraenzlein, Irving Baxter, John Tewksbury and Ray Ewry won 11 of 23 track and field events, five seconds and a third. Kraenzlein is still the only athlete to win four individual athletic golds at one Olympics – 110m hurdles, long jump and the discontinued 60m hurdles and 200m hurdles.

1904 ST LOUIS

The distance to Missouri meant that only eight overseas nations took part. The Games, part of the World Fair, lasted five months. There was even a sack race.

There were some respected runners for the marathon. There was also Felix Carvajal, a Cuban postman who had hitch-hiked from New Orleans after losing his money in a card game, and Lentauw and Yamasani, two Zulus who were part of the Boer War exhibit at the fair.

The start was delayed so Carvajal’s long trousers could be cut off at the knees. He eventually finished fourth. Lentauw was chased through a field by two dogs but still finished ninth.

The race, run on dusty roads in the middle of the afternoon, was won by English-born Thomas Hicks from Massachusetts, second in that year’s Boston marathon, who was revived with strychnine and brandy.

Fred Lorz from New York caused a stir when he appeared in the stadium. He was about to be presented with the gold medal when it was discovered he had stopped running after nine miles and got a lift. The practical joke backfired when he was banned for life but he was later reinstated and won the 1905 Boston marathon.

1906 ATHENS

Greece staged an attempt to revive interest in the Olympics, which was flagging after after Paris and St Louis. It was quite successful and helped ensure the modern games continued but medals were not recognised by the IOC.

1908 LONDON

London was host for the first time when Rome withdrew. With 1,500 competitors from 19 nations the Games were by now established.

However, there were constant rows between British and American officials and South African Reggie Walker, whose 100m win put an end to four American victories, was greeted like a hero.

Walker, a 19-year-old clerk from Durban, benefitted from training from Sam Mussabini, who was later to coach Harold Abrahams to victory in Paris in 1924.

Lieutenant Wyndham Halswelle, who had fought in the Boer War, became the only man in Olympic history to win by a walk-over when an American was disqualified for obstructing him in the 400m and the other two Americans refused to take part in the re-run. Halswelle was so disgusted he gave up sport. He was killed in World War One fighting in France in 1915.

Political disputes made their entry into the Games when the English tried to prevent the Irish from displaying their flag and the Russians did the same to the Finns.

The most dramatic episode was in the marathon, extended 385 yards to finish in front of Queen Alexandra’s royal box. The distance of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195km) later became the norm.

Italian sweetmaker Dorando Pietri was disqualified after being helped over the line by British officials but he was presented with a gold cup by the queen.

1912 STOCKHOLM

American Indian Jim Thorpe, aged 24, proved himself one of the greatest athletes of all time when he won both the pentathlon and decathlon. His score for the decathlon would have won the next two Olympic competitions and even have given him a silver medal in 1948.

But in 1913 it was revealed he had been paid 25 dollars a week playing minor league baseball, something which other college students did under different names. He was stripped of his medals and records for being a professional.

Avery Brundage, who as IOC president from 1952 to 1972 refused to listen to calls for Thorpe to be reinstated, was sixth in the pentathlon and did not finish the decathlon in 1912.

At the instigation of de Coubertin, the modern pentathlon, an event acting out the ordeal of a messenger fighting his way through enemy lines, was introduced. Two years later war broke out.

Hannes Kolehmainen of Finland won the 5,000m, 10,000m and cross-country and returned in 1920 to win the marathon.

1920 ANTWERP

Germany and its allies were barred but there were still a record 29 countries. The five-ring Olympic flag and oath-taking were introduced. Finland’s Paavo Nurmi won the 10,000m and cross-country individual and team titles as well as a silver in the 5,000m. He was to win 9 golds and 12 medals and set 22 world records in three Games but in 1932 he was suspended for claiming too much on expenses.

Jack Kelly, a Philadelphia bricklayer-turned millionaire who had been refused entry to the Royal Henley rowing regatta, got his revenge by beating Britain’s Diamond Sculls winner Jack Beresford. Kelly’s daughter was the later Princess Grace of Monaco.

Defending Wimbledon champion Suzanne Lenglen dropped only four games in 10 sets to win the tennis gold medal.

The only break in Hungary’s 56-year domination of individual sabre fencing occured as Hungary was not invited.

1924 PARIS

Citius, Altius, Fortius — faster, higher, stronger. A new Games motto from the Paris Olympic Games taken to heart by Nurmi who ran seven races in six days to win five gold medals.

Harold Abrahams, whose triumph was glorified in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, won the 100m.

Johnny Weismuller, later to find fame as Tarzan, swam to three gold medals.

There was another dramatic increase in the number of athletes with 5,533 from 44 countries.

1928 AMSTERDAM

First time the Olympic flame was used. Germany allowed to compete again.

Women were allowed to compete in athletics for the first time and 16-year-old American Betty Robinson’s 100m win made her the first women’s Olympic champion at track and field.

The 800m race sparked off a controversy when several women collapsed. IOC president Count Henri de Baillet-Latour said all women’s sports should be excluded from the Olympics and the IAAF banned women from running more than 200m for another 32 years. The anti-feminists overlooked the fact that men often collapse after races.

Lina Radke of Germany beat Japan’s Kinue Hitomi, who had been unable to compete in her world record events — the 200m and long jump — since they were not on the programme.

1932 LOS ANGELES

The distance and the depression led to the smallest numbers since 1906 although excellent conditions led to every Olympic athletic record except the long jump being broken. Babe Didrikson showed her versatility by winning gold medals in the 80m hurdles, javelin and a silver in the high jump. Officials prevented her from competing in another two events.

Japan won five gold medals in men’s swimming.

Just before the Games, the IOC said Nurmi would not be allowed to run in his fourth Games because he had received too much expenses on trip to Germany in 1929.

1936 BERLIN

Adolf Hitler, who had risen to power since the Los Angeles Games, seized on the idea of using the Olympics as a platform for demonstrating the supposed supremacy of the Aryan races.

The torch relay, exploited in Leni Riefenstahl’s film Olympia, made its first appearance.

Germany won only five gold medals in men’s track and field but thorough preparation in gymnastics, rowing and equestrian helped them to 89 overall, compared to 56 for the USA.

Jesse Owens and the other black American athletes were described by the Nazi press as “black auxilliaries” but his four gold medals and tremendous personality won over ordinary Germans.

The IOC said it had been alarmed at the ill-treatment of Jews but would not be drawn into political and other controversies.

A Workers’ Games, which were proving more popular, came to an end when Franco started the Spanish Civil War. There had been 150,000 at Paris in 1925 and 100,000 at Vienna in 1931.

1948 LONDON

The Games had been scheduled for Tokyo in 1940.

Germany and Japan were not invited, the Soviet Union decided to stay away, but other Communist countries took part.

Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands became the first woman athlete ever to win four medals at a single Games, winning the 100m and 200m, 80m hurdles and anchoring the 4x100m relay. It could have been six — the mother of two did not compete in the high or long jumps, two of the five events for which she held the world record.

Alice Coachman won the women’s high jump to become the first black Olympic women’s champion. When she returned home to Albany, Georgia, she was not allowed to speak at a town hall reception where the audience was segregated.

Bob Mathias won his first Olympic decathlon title at the age of 17.

1952 HELSINKI

The Cold War games. The Soviet Union participated for the first time after a 40 year absence, in a country they had invaded twice during World War II, and Germany and Japan were allowed back. Nine of their 22 gold medals came in gymnastics. The Soviets and their eastern block allies stayed in a seperate village.

Emil Zatopek won three gold medals, the 5,000m, 10,000m (which he had won in London) and the marathon. He had never run the marathon before. His wife Dana also won the women’s javelin.

There was a revolution in equestrian sports when civilians and women were allowed to compete in dressage. Previously only officers had been allowed to take part.

Lis Hartel of Denmark, struck down by polio eight years earlier when she was 24, won the silver medal. She forced herself to walk again although she remained paralysed below the knees and had to be helped on and off the horse.

Two future professional world heavyweight champions took part in the boxing. Floyd Patterson of the United States won the middleweight gold medal while Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson was disqualified in the heavyweight final for “not trying.”

Barbara Jones, a 15-year-old from Chicago, one of four black women in America’s 4x100m relay team, became the youngest ever Olympic athletics champion — man or woman.

Ferenc Puskas helped Hungary win the soccer gold medal. The Hungarians were third in the medals table.

1956 MELBOURNE

The isolation of the first southern hemisphere Games kept entries down and the Games were hit by two boycotts.

Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon withdrew to protest the Israeli-led take-over of the Suez Canal while Holland, Spain and Switzerland boycotted to protest the Soviet Union invasion of Hungary.

The equestrian events were held in Stockholm because of Australia’s quarantine laws.

Soviet strongman Vladimir Kuts won the 5,000m and 10,000m and Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser won two gold medals and a silver. She went on to win a total of four gold medals and four silvers in three Games and was world record holder for the 100m for the next 15 years.

Betty Cuthbert followed Marjorie Jackson’s 1952 sprint double with one of her own for Australia while Murray Rose, a vegeterian, made a lot of Australians think twice about their diet with three gold swimming medals.

Pat McCormick repeated her diving double gold medal performance of 1952. Her daughter Kelly won silver and bronze in 1984 and 1988.

1960 ROME

In the resplendent setting of Rome, Cassius Clay won the light heavyweight boxing gold medal and, in both that name and as Muhammad Ali, became the world’s most famous sportsman as professional heavyweight champion.

Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the marathon, running barefoot and won again four years later, in shoes. Wilma Rudolph, the 20th of a family of 22 children from Tennessee, won three gold medals. She had suffered from polio, double pneumonia and scarlet fever as a girl.

Herb Eliott of Australia won the 1,500 in a world record — he was never beaten over the 1,500 or mile.

For the first time since 1928, women’s track events did not consist entirely of sprinting with the return of the 800m won by the Soviet Union’s Lyudmila Shevtsova.

India’s run of 30 Olympic hockey wins without defeat was ended by Nasir Ahmad’s 12th minute goal for Pakistan in the final.

These were South Africa’s last Games for 32 years because of its apartheid policies.

1964 TOKYO

The first Games to be staged in Asia were a masterpiece of organisation.

Don Schollander, 18, became the first swimmer to win four gold medals at one Olympics while Dawn Fraser won her third successive 100m freestyle.

Peter Snell of New Zealand retained his 800m title and added the 1,500m while Bob Hayes won the 100m in a world record of 10.0sec. This performance was verified on the photo-finish device used for the first time.

Judo was introduced but the Japanese lost the fourth title and most important, the open category, to Holland’s Anton Geesink.

Joe Frazier, another future world professional champion, won the heavyweight boxing title and India won their seventh hockey title, turning the tables on Pakistan who has broken the sequence in 1960.

Larysa Latynina of the Soviet Union lost the All-round gymnastics title to Vera Caslavska of Czechoslovakia but collected six more medals to bring her total to 18: nine gold, five silver and four bronze.

1968 MEXICO CITY

This was the year when student-led strikes in France almost toppled General de Gaulle and Soviet tanks wiped out Prague’s attempts to throw out Communism. Students in Mexico disagreed about state money being spent on the Olympics and staged a series of protests, all broken up violently by the police.

IOC president Avery Brundage warned the president, Diaz Ordez, that if there were demonstrations at the Olympic sites the Games would be cancelled. Ten days before the Games were to begin the army opened fire on a peaceful rally and killed nearly 300.

The IOC refused to take a stand and described it as a local affair.

Two weeks later Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a Black Power salute during the American anthem.

“A nasty demonstration against the United States flag by Negroes,” was Brundage’s response and the two men were thrown out.

Significantly, the civil rights protest was supported by Australia’s Peter Norman, the silver medal winner.

Mexico City’s rareified air helped athletes set records in the sprint events.

Bob Beamon jumped 29ft 5in (8.90m) for a world record that would remain unbeaten for 23 years.

But the distance runners suffered — unless they were from the east African plateau.

Kip Keino won the 1,500m and a silver in 5,000m when a tactical error let in Tunisian Mohammed Gammoudi as Kenya won their first ever gold medals. Naftali Temu won the 10,000m and Amos Biwot the steeplechase. Ethiopia’s Mamo Wolde won the marathon.

Dick Fosbury, whose jump was nicknamed the flip but later became the flop, won the high jump and dicus thrower Al Oerter became the first man to win four athletic golds.

But the hero of Mexico was Vera Caslavska, the defending All-round gymnastic champion from Czechoslovakia who had publicly come out against Soviet involvement in her country before Leonid Brezhnev sent the tanks in.

She was eventually allowed to go to Mexico where she captivated the crowds, adding four gold medals and two silvers to the three gold and two silver she had won in Tokyo.

1972 MUNICH

Everything was right for a great Games but the murder of 11 Israeli competitors and officials by Palestinian terrorists who infiltrated the athletes’ village ensured that Munich will be forever remembered as the Black September Games.

Mark Spitz won an unequalled seven swimming gold medals — four in individual events and three relays.

Valery Borzov achieved a sprint double, helped by an 18-month-old timetable that misled US coach Stan Wright and led to only Robert Taylor arriving in time for the 100m quarter-finals. Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson missed their races.

Finland’s Lasse Viren did the long-distance double, after falling in the 10,000m but getting up to win.

Lyudmila Turischeva, the 19-year-old world champion, won the All-round title but it was little Olga Korbut who captured world attention and made gymnastics into one of the biggest television sports.

After falling off the uneven bars in the All-round competition she recovered her poise the next day to win a silver on the same apparatus and the beam and floor exercises gold medals.

1976 MONTREAL

Tanzania refused to go when the IOC ignored demands for New Zealand to be expelled because their rugby team was touring South Africa. On the eve of the opening ceremony, the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa’s secretary general Jean-Claude Ganga of the Congo, since expelled as an IOC member over the 2002 Winter Games cash-for-votes scandal, called a boycott of 21 other African countries, joined by Iraq and Guyana.

Poor planning and uncontrolled building costs meant Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau left local taxpayers with a 1.5 billion dollar bill and Queen Elizabeth opened the Games in an unfinished stadium.

The Munich tragedy meant that Montreal was the first Games where security was so intrusive.

Lasse Viren repeated his double while Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena became the first man to win both 400m and 800m since Paul Pilgrim from New York, in the unofficial Games of 1906.

His main challenger at two-laps, Kenya’s Mike Boit, was missing while Tanzania’s absence meant Filbert Bayi missed a rerun of the 1974 Commonwealth Games 1,500m final against New Zealand’s John Walker.

Nadia Comaneci could never match Olga Korbut’s charm but the 14-year-old Romanian became the first Olympic gymnast to score perfect marks of 10. She added the uneven bars and balance beam gold medals to her All-round title.

Boris Onischenko, a Red Army major, outranked British sergeant Jim Fox but he was court-martialed from Modern Pentathlon when Fox pointed out to the judges that his Soviet opponent was scoring in the fencing without actually hitting anybody.

Onischenko had wired his sword to register a hit whenever he wanted.

Twelve of the 13 men’s swimming events were won by Americans. The exception was Britain’s David Wilkie in the 200m breaststroke.

The East Germans won 11 of the 13 women’s events. Kornelia Ender, who had won three silver medals as a 13-year-old in Munich, won two gold medals, breaking her 100m freestyle world record for the 10th time in the final.

She revealed in 1990 she had been given frequent injections during her sporting career without being told what they were for.

Vassily Alekseyev of the Soviet Union, unbeaten from 1970 to 1978 when he set 79 world records, retained his superheavyweight title at weightlifting.

Women’s basketball was introduced and the Soviet team, unbeaten in international tournaments since 1958, duly took the title, with 6ft 10-1/2in (2.10m) Uljana Semjonova topscoring, just as she did in Moscow four years later.

1980 MOSCOW

Jimmy Carter called a US-led boycott following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that particularly hit swimming, equestrian, yachting and hockey. Security was overwhelming but the Games were well-organised. The rest of the Soviet Union might not have had a bus to ride but Moscow visitors only had to click their fingers to pull down a bus.

Newly-independent Zimbabwe won their first, and so far only, Olympic gold medal when their all-white women’s team triumphed in the hockey tournament.

Seb Coe lost the first round of his long-awaited middle-distance battle to Steve Ovett at his best distance of 800m but he ended Ovett’s run of 42 consecutive victories over 1500 metres.

Soviet fans were at their worst during the pole vault final but Poland’s Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz silenced them with a world record triumph.

Teofilo Stevenson equalled Hungarian Laszlo Papp’s record of three gold medals when he won the the super heavyweight boxing title. His 1986 world title at the age of 36 proved that the Soviet-led boycott of Los Angeles deprived him of a fourth Olympic gold medal.

Vladimir Salnikov won three swimming gold medals and achieved the poolside equivalent of Roger Bannister’s sub-four minute mile when he broke the 15 minute barrier in the 1,500 metres.

1984 LOS ANGELES

The Soviet Union, as expected, organised a boycott which deprived Los Angeles of countries who had accounted for two-thirds of all medals four years earlier.

Peter Ueberroth, the president of the organising committee, helped the Olympics make money for the first time since they were last held in California.

Carl Lewis, denied a place in Moscow by President Carter, won four gold medals in athletics while Daley Thompson, whose zany sense of humour offended some, retained his decathlon title.

Seb Coe became the first man to retain his 1500m title while Valerie Brisco-Hooks took advantage of East German Marita Koch’s absence to become the first person to win both the 200m and 400m.

Joan Benoit of the United States, who had overcome seemingly insurmountable health problems, won the inaugural women’s marathon which came too late for Norway’s Grete Waitz.

The race was memorable for Gabriele Andersen-Scheiss’ six-minute stagger around the final lap. The 39-year-old Idaho ski instructor, who had taken advantage of her dual nationality to run for Switzerland, brought back memories of Dorando Pietri who had been half-carried to the finish by officials in London in 1908.

Xu Haifeng celebrated China’s debut by beating 50-year-old Ragnar Skanaker of Sweden, a gold medallist 12 years earlier, by one point for the free pistol shooting title.

In all, China won 15 gold, eight silver and nine bronze medals

Finland’s Pertti Karpinnen equalled Vyacheslav Ivanov’s record three sculling gold medals.

1988 SEOUL

Ben Johnson smashed his way to a crushing win in the 100 metres and was then exposed as sport’s biggest cheat.

The Jamaican-born Canadian, who had broken the world record 12 months earlier at the world championships in Rome, later admitted he panicked after struggling to find form after returning from injury.

So he took one pill too many and helped make Stanolozol the most famous drug in the world.

Carl Lewis, who had been chastised for sour grapes when he queried the credentials of Johnson’s power in 1987, was proved right and awarded a second successive sprint gold medal.

Florence Griffith-Joyner, better known for her claw-like painted finger nails and revealing running gear, suddenly blossomed by winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m golds and taking a silver in the 4×400 relay.

Her smile as she raced away to win the 100m was only just shorter than the winning distance and she smashed the 200m world record.

But there were always doubts about drugs and in 1998, aged 38, she died after suffering an epileptic seizure that led to her suffocation.

The Soviet Union (56 gold medals) and East Germany (37) demonstrated their superiority over the Western nations although later drugs trials in Germany revealed the systematic doping that shored up that success.

East German swimmer Kristin Otto just missed Mark Spitz’s 1972 seven-gold record with six gold medals while US swimmer Matt Biondi won five gold, one silver and one bronze medals.

Greg Louganis repeated his diving double achieved in Los Angeles, despite cracking his head on the board in the preliminaries.

In 1995 he revealed he had tested HIV-positive six months before Seoul and was taking an AIDS drug by the time he got to South Korea.

Tennis returned after a 64-year absence and Steffi Graf completed a golden Grand Slam.

Chinese and Korean players dominated the newly-introduced sport of table tennis.

Lennox Lewis won the super-heavyweight gold medal for Canada and later became world heavyweight boxing champion for Britain.

1992 BARCELONA

The Spanish put on a fiesta in a marvellous setting and in Linford Christie they had a fearless matador.

A run that will be remembered as much for his eye-ball boggling ferocious concentration as his sheer power made him the oldest Olympic 100m champion.

Gail Devers overcame serious illness to win the women’s 100m while Paraskevi Patoulidou became the first Greek woman to claim an Olympic gold in the 100m hurdles.

A mighty political shift saw South Africa return for the first time since 1960 while a pan-German side competed for the first time since 1964.

The Soviet empire, on the verge of collapse, was represented by a Unified Team while the Balkan upheaval saw Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Croatia send their own teams and the Serbs compete as individuals.

Lithuania, not represented since 1928, won their first Olympic title when Romas Ubartas, a European and Olympic champion for the Soviet Union, won the men’s discus throw.

Khalid Skah won a controversial 10,000m after his Moroccan team-mate Hammou Boutaib obstructed Kenya’s Richard Chelimo.

Vitali Scherbo was the most successful competitor with six gold medals in gymnastics but it was Spain who were the real winners of a magnificent Games.

They had won only four gold medals in previous Olympics but in front of a joyous home crowd they grabbed 13.

1996 ATLANTA

A stunning spectacle of sport overshadowed a terrorist bomb that killed a woman and a monumental technological stuff-up.

Michael Johnson beame the first man to win the 200m and 400m, breaking a 17-year-old world record over half a lap.

Guadeloupe-born Marie-Jose Perec matched his achievement with some sublime running for France.

Donovan Bailey restored Canada’s international sporting reputation that Ben Johnson had wrecked in 1988 by winning the 100 metres in a world rcord 9.84sec.

Carl Lewis won a record-equalling ninth Olympic gold medal in his swansong when he again beat world record holder Mike Powell in the long jump, as he had done at Barcelona four years earlier.

And Gail Devers beat arch-rival Merlene Ottey of Jamaica in a photo-finish to the women’s 100m, just as she had in the 1995 world championships in Stuttgart.

Alex Popov of Russia became the first man since Johnny Weismuller in 1928 to retain his 100m freestyle swimming title.

But Michelle Smith’s three gold medals and one bronze made the Irish woman the most successful individual swimmer at the Games.

However, two years later she was drummed out of the sport after being found guilty of tampering with a urine sample at a drugs test.

Steve Redgrave’s fourth rowing gold in successive Games made him Britain’s most successful Olympian.

But perhaps the most abiding memory was of the world’s most famous sportsman, Muhammad Ali, conquering his Parkinson’s Disease shakes to light the Olympic flame 26 years after winning gold in Rome.

2000 SYDNEY

The Sydney Games were the biggest with 10,651 athletes competing in 300 events but despite their size they were recognised as the best organised.

Cathy Freeman symbolised the desire to reconcile the people of Australia when she ascended to the cauldron in a cascading waterfall to light the flame.

Ten days later the Aborigine won the 400m final before an ecstatic crowd in what was to be her last major race.

Ian Thorpe has since become one of the greatest swimmers of all time but in Sydney the 17-year-old was limited to two relays golds and a silver medal in the 200m freestyle.

Dutch pair Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn stole headlines in the swimming.

Van den Hoogenband won the men’s 100m and 200m while de Bruijn took double gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle.

Marion Jones bettered Fanny Blankers-Koen’s 1948 achievements when she became the first woman to win five medals in athletics in the same Olympics with gold medals in 100m and 200m and 4x400m relay and bronze in the long jump and 4x100m relay.

She was stripped of the lot this year and sent to jail for six months after admitting to taking banned drugs

Britain’s Steven Redgrave became the first rower to win gold medals at five consecutive Olympics.

French judo great David Douillet, who had been sidelined for a year by shoulder and back problems, won his second consecutive Olympic title, beating Shinichi Shinohara of Japan in a controversial final.

Korea (South Korea) and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) marched together under the same flag while four athletes from newly-independent East Timor took part.

Vietnam won their first medal since they began competing in 1952 when Hieu Ngan Tran captured silver in women’s taekwondo.

And Susanthika Jayasinghe’s 200 metres bronze made her the first Sri Lankan woman to win a medal.

2004 ATHENS

The 2004 Summer Games returned to their rightful birthplace Athens and there was a Greek tragedy even before they got going when top home sprinters Katerina Thanou and Costas Kenteris were involved in a mysterious motorcycle accident which led them to miss doping tests.

The scandal grew and under pressure they finally withdrew from the Games “in the interests of the country.”

Athens witnessed an impressive performances from the Asian nations – especially future hosts China – that created all the headlines.

United States were again the best performers with 103 medals (35 golds) but China sent them a chilling message with an impressive second best of 63 medals, 32 of them gold.

The Asian nation also won their first ever athletics gold when 21-year-old Liu Xiang burst down the 110m hurdles track at a pulsating pace to equal the then world record.

The Olympic stadium also vibrated to the historic exploits of middle-distance runners, Hicham El-Guerrouj of Morocco, who won 1,500m and 5,000m gold, and Britain’s Kelly Holmes, who bagged a glorious double in the women’s races at 800m and 1,500m.

Poolside, it was 19-year-old American all-rounder Michael Phelps who proved to be in a class of his own, speeding to eight medals, six of them gold – taking the highest medal haul for a swimmer at one Games.

In team events, the US basketball team fell spectacularly from grace by only managing a disappointing third place after having won it on the previous three occasions, with Argentina eventually going on to take glory against Italy.

That triumph came a day after the Argentinian football team’s historic gold over Paraguay – their first gold in 50 years – thanks to a goal from future Manchester United star Carlos Tevez, the games’ top goal scorer with eight.

The only new world record was set by Russian woman Yelena Isinbayeva who cleared 4.91m in the pole vault.

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