Athens waves goodbye after 'dream' Games
Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 9:54PM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 9:54PM
ATHENS, Greece (Reuters) -- Hundreds of thousands of athletes, officials and visitors waved goodbye to Athens in a post-Olympics exodus Monday, leaving city officials to probe a doping scandal that tarnished an otherwise dream Games.
A public prosecutor called in for testimony the star sprinter at the heart of a drugs test scandal that rocked Greece at the start of the Games, which ended with an exuberant song-and-dance closing ceremony Sunday.
Athens airport broke all flight and passenger records in its 3 1/2-year history Monday, handling nearly 900 flights and 75,000 people -- about 50 percent more than the average for the busy holiday month -- the Transport Ministry said.
At the port of Piraeus, eight cruise ships that had served as floating five-star hotels were also preparing to leave.
All went smoothly, apart from long queues at the airport Olympic stores, where thousands of travelers waited to buy last-minute souvenirs.
About 200,000 people were expected to leave the city in the first two days after the Aug. 13-29 Games, which International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge declared "the unforgettable dream Games."
Chief Greek organizer Gianna Angelopoulos had reason to be proud, along with all Greeks, saying the Olympian gods had smiled on Athens, which deserved the praise pouring in from around the world.
"Not just Zeus, but all the gods smiled on what we have done," she told Reuters Monday. "These were the most successful Games ever."
Thousands of Athenians who delayed summer holidays until the end of the Games were also expected to head for the beaches of the Greek islands and to family reunions across the country.
"September is finally here and I will be leaving," said central Athens cafe owner Dimitris Karaiosifoglou. "We did our duty for the Olympics and now it's time to rest."
But not all the work was done. Athens prosecutors Monday set out to clean up after the doping scandal that shamed Greece during its homecoming Olympics, calling star sprinter Costas Kenteris to testify.
Kenteris and fellow sprinter Katerina Thanou missed drugs tests and withdrew from the Games. Their trainer, Christos Tzekos, is being investigated for dealing in banned substances.
The sprinter's lawyer told reporters after the testimony that Kenteris did not know he was expected for a doping test.
A court was also busy handing a suspended one-year jail term and $3,600 fine to the Irish ex-priest who pushed a leading Olympic marathon runner off the road, possibly costing him the gold medal.
Dressed in a kilt and sporting a sign reading "The Second Coming is Near," Cornelius Horan grabbed Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima during Sunday's marathon race and pushed him into the crowd in the most serious security breach during the Olympics.
De Lima ended up with the bronze and the IOC's special "fair play and Olympic values" medal, named after the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre De Coubertin.
Police also arrested U.S. Olympic volleyball player Clayton Stanley after a scuffle in central Athens early Monday. He was charged with hitting a pregnant woman and resisting arrest.
As the world's athletes returned home to jubilant welcomes, the European Union claimed overall Games victory, saying it took more gold medals than the United States, the official winner.
The EU added up the medals of its 25 member states to come up with 82 gold and a total of 286 medals for the bloc.
"For the sake of comparison, the United States of America won 35 gold medals and 103 medals in total, with China and Russia behind them," chief spokesman Reijo Kemppinen told a daily news briefing.
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