XXVIII edition of the Summer Olympics
13 August - 29 August 2004
It is a return to the past. The modern Olympic Games, started in Athens in 1896, returned to their birthplace. A whole host of records: 201 participating countries, 301 events (both exceeding the 2000 Games). It was also a great success with global audiences. Nearly 4 billion (3.9) people followed the Athens Games on TV compared to 3.6 billion in Sydney four years earlier. Women's wrestling made its first appearance within the Olympic programme. The US swimmer Michael Phelps with six gold medals and two bronzes was the hero of the Games. The Dutchwoman Leontien Ziljaard-van Moorsel, after three golds in track cycling in 2000, claimed her fourth gold in the time trial on the road, adding a bronze in the individual pursuit on the track. Germany's Birgit Fischer in Kayak continued to amaze the world with her eighth gold in the K4 500 and silver in the K2 500 reaching 12th position in the individual Olympic table and the only woman on the podium at each games from 1980 -2004. In athletics two major stars confirmed their talent. The Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj won at two gruelling distances: 1,500 and 5,000 while Britain's Kelly Holmes crossed the finish line first in the 800 and 1,500. China, proved it was ready for Beijing 2008, by winning 32 gold medals, 17 silvers, 14 bronzes in 20 different sports claiming second place in the medal table (1st. USA 36, 39, 27) greatly improving on the results from Sydney (28, 16, 15). There was a record number of Italian athletes. Never before in Olympic history had an Italian team brought 367 athletes. For the first time Italy qualified 8 squads in team events and with great success too. Gold in women's water polo, for instance, won by the "Setterosa" (nickname of the Italian women's water polo team) at the first Olympics. There were also medals for the men's Basketball, Volleyball and Football teams. Even if for the volleyball team, led by the head coach Montali, the silver improved on the third place in Sydney, they were still haunted by victory in the final that Italian volleyball had been chasing since 1996; the Basketball team led by head coach Recalcati got a historic second place the first since Moscow in 1980. The football team, then, led by Claudio Gentile, claimed third place with a return to the Olympic podium after a medal drought since 1936. Italian fencers went on the attack with Aldo Montano in the saber, Valentina Vezzali and the men's foil team (Andrea Cassarà, Salvatore Sanzo, Simone Vanni) all winning gold, taking medals won in the sport to over 100. It was the moment for Igor Cassina to amaze everyone on the horizontal bars including a move named after him. His victory in artistic gymnastics went alongside the bronze in the rings obtained by Jury Chechi in his last Olympics. Italy was the star from start to finish. Paolo Bettini began the gold rush in the first event on August 14th with road race gold. Stefano Baldini in the home of the marathon, crossed the line in first place just before the closing ceremony, with the national anthem played around the world.
10.625 (6.296 Uomini; 4.329 Donne)
367 (232 Men; 135 Women)