Home>News Center>China

Olympic Games starts in Athens
By Yu Yilei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-14 00:35

At last, the world's greatest sporting spectacle has fired the starting gun on the world's greatest athletes.

The Athens Olympic Games 2004 (XXVIII Olympiad) has officially begun, 108 years after being given birth in the ancient Greek capital.

A record 10,500 athletes and 5,500 team officials from 202 National Olympic Committees, three more than four years ago in Sydney, are participating in the world's most watched sporting meet. They will battle for 301 gold medals in 28 sports.

It is expected that there will be 4 billion TV viewers and 5.3 million spectators actually on the scene to watch .

For the city itself, the Games has brought little so far but trouble and cost.

Construction nightmares, budget over spending, security concerns over the first Olympics since the 9/11 attack in the US -- and constant concerns about whether the city would be ready in time -- have all added to the stress of the homecoming.

But it seems they have achieved the impossible. The building is completed, transport in the city is running smoothly and there is a tight but not intrusive security network looking over it all.

"Welcome home," read the signs everywhere in the city.

"We are ready for the Games to begin," says Gianna Angelopoulos, president of the organizing committee for the Athens Olympic Games. "Four years of teamwork have created an Olympic city here in Athens. Our city is painted in the Olympic colours and we are ready for competition.

"We will show the world our country's traditions and modern achievements."

This morning's opening ceremony backed him up.

The three-hour heartstopper showed that the modern Greeks have the same ambitions and abilities as their predecessors..

They turned the Olympic stadium into a giant pool representing the Aegean Sea.

Four hundred drummers paraded around the stadium to a thunderous beat before the Olympic rings floated up from the water followed by a boy floating in a giant paper boat.

Ancient Greek goddesses then turned the stadium into the Olympiad Mountain.

But the Greeks are keen to show more than history.

"With these Games, Athens wants to show the world a modern Greece. We believe we are already doing that, as we promised, but we also wanted to make a connection with ancient Greece -- which did give birth to these Games," said Angelopoulos.

The goddesses then gave up their major roles to today's deities -- the sportsmen and women from all over the world.

The Chinese contingent entered the stadium headed by NBA Houston Rockets basketballer Yao Ming -- a towering 2.26-metre superstar -- as flag bearer.

China's neighbours -- the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- marched in together under one flag, as in Sydney.

China is sending a record 633-member delegation, including 407 athletes, to compete in 26 sports.

The nation aims to grasp at least 20 golds following the 28-top medal tally in Sydney, which gave it third place in the medal standings.

And there will be a special eye kept on China, who will host the next Games in 2008, and who will see Athens as a testing ground for their athletes.

  Today's Top News     Top China News

115 die in wake of Typhoon Rananim



Experts: Consumer prices reach peak



Quake cracks reservoirs, 50,000 in danger



China prepares for upcoming French culture year



Chlorine leakage injures 70 in Jiangsu



US governor resigns, admits gay affair


  Typhoon kills 63, injures 1,800 in Zhejiang
  US apologizes to Chinese abuse victim
  Shaanxi urges equality awareness
  Local officials jailed for fake milk powder cases
  Zhejiang tackles gender selection
  Power shortage spurs new tourism
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  News Talk  
  When will china have direct elections?