The road to Athens

news: The road to Athens

The football is over and appropriately Greece were the winners. During the next few weeks, we will keep you up-to-date with all the latest information surrounding the world’s greatest sporting extravaganza.

FOCUS: London 1948

The XIV Olympics followed the war years, which had caused the previous two events to be cancelled. The results of heavy bombing were still very much in evidence in London, essential goods were scarce and rationing forced many teams to bring their own food supplies with them. Despite being lodged in schools dotted around the suburbs, 4,099 athletes kept the Olympic spirit alive making these the Games of hope. Germany, Japan and Russia were excluded and were only to return in Helsinki in 1952.

London also represented the last chance for many competitors whose careers had been violently interrupted by the war years. Hungarian pistol world champion Karoly Takacs lost his shooting hand in a grenade attack and had been diligently training with his left. He triumphed over adversity, regaining Olympic gold. The star of the Games, however, was 30-year-old mother of two, Francina (Fanny) Blankers-Koen from Holland. Having represented her country in the high jump in 1936, she came to London and took gold in the 100m and 200m sprints, the 80m hurdles and the 4x100m relay. Only the rules limiting her to four events prevented her from adding the high and long jump golds to her haul – she was world record-holder in both disciplines. In total, the flying Dutchwoman bettered world best marks on 16occasions in eight different events, an achievement unrivalled in modern times. London re-lit the Olympic torch, now once more burning more brightly with every subsequent edition.

SPOTLIGHT – (Wo)Man of the moment

Little-known 21-year-old Craig Fallon from Wolverhampton could become a household name after the Olympics if he manages to win Britain’s first ever judo gold in Athens. Craig is the sport’s most exciting young talent, having already taken silver at last year’s world championships, following notable victories in other top-ranked tournaments. A big factor in his rapid progress has been the creation of the National Judo Academy at Bisham Abbey, offering world-class facilities with immediate access to doctors and physios if required. Craig will be in action on the opening day of the Olympics, August 14, competing in the 60kg, or bantamweight category. On paper, the man he has to beat to follow 1970s superstar Brian Jacks, is Japanese double Olympic gold medallist Tadahiro Nomura – a legend in the sport. The two met in Paris earlier this year, with Nomura narrowly coming out on top, but Craig Fallon is confident that he now knows what he has to do to beat the great man.

Animal Cruelty

As in Portugal and other southern European countries, Greece has a stray dog problem. It is illegal to have animals put down in the home of the Olympic Games and many dogs are dumped when their owners become bored with them. Neutering is considered ‘unnatural’ and as a consequence more than 15,000 strays roam the streets of Athens alone. Fearing that images of packs of ownerless dogs will damage Greece’s reputation as a civilised country during next month’s competition, authorities have initiated a mass cull by poisoning. Despite denials, there are no resources or commitment to house animals and 80 dogs have already been found dead by Greek animal welfare groups near the British team hotel. The RSPCA is seriously concerned, describing methods as ‘barbaric’ and ‘short-term fix’.


Fair play?

Glasgow Rangers have stripped Craig Moore of the club captaincy and placed him on the transfer list because the Australian wants to represent his country at the Olympics. The fate of Manchester United’s Portuguese star, Cristiano Ronaldo, is shrouded in secrecy – his selection coincides with the start of the Premiership campaign against Chelsea on August 13. Surely this is not true to the Olympic principal and good sportsmanship.

In the swim

America’s Brendan Hansen advertised his claims to Olympic gold in Long Beach, California by setting a new 200m breast-stroke record in 2m 09.04s. Team-mates Aaron Peirsol and Amanda Beard followed suit by setting new best times of 1m 54.74 s and 2m 22.44s in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke respectively.

Leaping leaper, speedy youngsters

US superstar Marion Jones, who had failed to qualify for her favourite 100m event at the American trials, succeeded to some degree in leaving the drug-taking controversy that surrounds her behind by making the long jump team with a leap of 7m 11 cm., the second longest of the year. At the same time, 20-year-old Jeremy Wariner caused a sensation with a time of 44.37 seconds in the 400m trials, the fastest of the year. Equally impressive was Shawn Crawford, already fastest this year over 100m, in the 200m heat, recording a year best time of 19.88 seconds.