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Gold medal for the quirkiest tale goes to...

Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 10:24PM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 10:24PM
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ATHENS, Aug 30 (Reuters) -- Lay Down Sally. Romeo and Juliet. Russian Roulette. Miracle births.

From farce to tragedy, the Olympics are sporting theatre and Athens 2004 offered the perfect stage for a huge variety of plots and leading characters.

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Australian rower Sally Robbins is one person who cannot wait for the curtain to fall on the greatest sporting show on earth.

Robbins, who quit pulling with her crew in sight of an Olympic medal, was dubbed "Lay Down Sally" after her infuriated team mates threatened to chuck her out of the boat.

In sharp contrast, compatriot Grant Hackett can lay claim to an Aussie baby-boom when he swims in the marathon 1500 metres.

"It's really quite bizarre but apparently when I swim the 1500 at this level, I can conceive babies for people," Hackett said after receiving e-mails from grateful women who got pregnant watching his races.

"I suppose they're lucky I'm not a sprinter because that's all over in a minute."

The Olympic dreams of top Latvian athletics coach Gints Bititis ended even before he reached Athens when he was thrown off a plane for being drunk and stripped of his accreditation.

On their way home, New Zealand's Olympic champions will have to watch out for zealous agriculture officers. The olive wreaths they were given for winning medals could go up in smoke as they are considered "a biosecurity risk."

New Zealand eventing rider Heelan Tompkins awarded herself the Olympic gold for embarrassment after chatting away to someone sat next to her in the athletes' village.

"I said like 'What's your name?" and he says 'Oh, Roger' and I go 'What do you do?' and he says 'I play tennis.' And I was like 'Oh My god, Roger Federer' and I was thinking I hope I didn't say that out loud."

Athens taxi drivers have an appalling reputation for being crooked. Yannis Zavos put the record straight.

He had his 15 minutes of fame for returning an Olympic medal to a Dutch rower who left it in his cab. Zavos admitted trying it on for size first "but the wife started teasing me."

But there was tragedy too amid all the farce.

In a "Romeo and Juliet" tale of doomed love, Greek judoka Eleni Ioannou died after jumping off a balcony. The incident followed a row with her boyfriend hours before going into the athletes' village.

He jumped off the same balcony two days later after blaming himself for her leap. He is still in intensive care.

A Greek soldier guarding an Olympic facility in Athens was shot dead after apparently playing a game of Russian roulette with a policeman that went horribly wrong.

The Olympics were a Tower of Babel with a record 202 nations competing. Little wonder that so much gets Lost in Translation.

When questions are posed in English, translated into Russian and answered in Greek before finally returning to their starting point, language inevitably gets tortured.

Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva was asked at a news conference after winning her pole vault gold whether she would spend some of her money on her famed shoe collection.

"Yes," came back the multi-translated answer, "I did do a bit of archery when I was young."

The question was asked again.

Isinbayeva giggled and looked lost. But her eyes lit up at the third and final attempt. "Ah yes, I understand," she smiled. "A yacht and a car."

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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