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It's been ages since I last layed a word on my Blog. Ever since the Olympic Games started on 13 August with the most inspiring Opening ceremony, I've been on the MIA list. I wish I could brag about being in the midst of all the action in Athens. However, I did slog in front of the tele with all the unearthly hours of live coverage. This was honestly the most enjoyable games by far. What more can you expect from good looking, well built boys and gals, human drama unfolding over unexpected corners, spirits lifted and the glory of unity. Yupe... that's the big games... and it's worth waiting 4 years.

Opening Ceremony
The games started off with the most beautiful opening ceremony. A stadium filled with 72,000 people and four billion more across the globe watched the moment the Games returned to the country where they were born and the city where they revived. The centre of the stadium was filled with a pool of water, it laid silent and still, reflecting a scene of peace and serene. Connecting symbolically the Ancient Olympia Stadium with the Athens Olympic Stadium, the beginning of the Opening Ceremony bridged 3,000 years of Olympic Games history. 400 percussionists played to the rhythm of the Greek dance “zeimbeiko” and then to the heartbeat, as the Olympic circles appeared flaming through the water that covered the Olympic Stadium’s field of play.
Next, a giant Cycladic head (2,700 b.C.) slowly emerged from the centre of the Stadium. Following the course of Greek art, it then broke apart to reveal to the astonished audience the figure of a “Kouros” statue and then to a classical statue. At the perimeter of the field of play the history of Greek civilisation was depicted, starting from the Minoan age to the present day, through works of art. Pieces by pieces flying in the dark sky, projecting images of humanity from all race and colour.

The march in of the 202 National Delegations paraded in the Olympic Stadium in alphabetical order (according to the Greek alphabet). Singapore had a team of about 16, and as they entered came the commentary: "Singapore offers S$1,000,000 for a gold medal, S$500,000 for a silver and S$250,000 for a bronze." Hell! Did I later realise it was freaking a lot of money! Repeated gold medalist in other countries were getting something like US$60,000. What to do, we're a little island with lots of money...

The finale brought up a gigantic ATHENS 2004 Olympic Torch where the Olympic flame will light throughout the Games. As the last Torchbearer, Sailing Olympic winner Nikos Kaklamanakis, reached the Cauldron, the Torch pivoted downwards, bringing symbolically together earth and sky. It almost looked like a erected penis in flames... very funny!

Besides Gymnastics, Swimming is my 2nd favourite competition to catch. There were a couple of New Kids On The Block, starting off with Michael Phelps (US) who came on stage and blew everyone off when he won the 400m Individual Medley. The corky individual wore huge earphones (rap music it seems) as he entered the arena claiming he would win a Gold for every event he's participating it. Giving shivers to Australia's Ian Thrope and lots of drama to spectators. High drama lurked when Thrope, Phelps and Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED) fought for Gold Glory in the 200m Freestyle. Thrope came on stage, looking composed in his full body wet suit and yellow cap. Very outstanding in and out of the water. It was quite a nerve breaking 2 mins, with Thrope beating Hoogenband by 1/12th of a second to grab gold. This was also swimming's year of the under dogs, when the South Africa team came from nowhere to win the 4x100m Men' s Freestyle Relay and defeated USA' s team finishing in the first place with 3:13.17 a new world record. Then came Kosuke Kitajima (JAP) who clinched 2 Golds in Men's 100m and 200m Breaststroke. Japanese news agencies were producing news flashes right after the evening, distributing them all over town! Singapore's swim team was a total disgrace... of which there's very little I'd like to mention.

It was by far the most exciting gymnastics games competition I've ever seen. The high tension drama was almost ridiculous.
Gymnastics is one of the oldest Olympic sports. It has always been a part of the ancient, as well as the modern Olympic Games. The term “gymnastics” derives from the Greek word “gymnos”, meaning naked. This is also the root of the word “gymnasium”, which was a training area where athletes gathered to exercise, compete in sports and receive training in philosophy, music and literature. My favourite teams have always been the Romanians and Russians. Catalina Ponor (ROM) and Anna Pavlova (RUS) performed with exceeding grace, rhythm, skill and movement. The feats these athletes can perform on those apparatus are simply amazing. The men's individual was heart pumping action when Paul Hamm (US) and Yang Wei (CHN) fell with poor results from the vault and bars respectively. They were almost out of contention, allowing the Koreans to take 1st and 2nd placing till Hamm made a spectacular come back on his last horizontal bar performance, overtaking everyone with a well deserved Gold! It was the classic example of from Zero to Hero! In the Men's Artistic Horizontal Bar finals, Alexei Nemov of (RUS) had to quiet the crowd after receiving a controversial score from the judges. In all protest, the low 9.7 plus score was adjusted to a high 9.7 plus! Hell, was it crazy!

Badminton / Table Tennis
I must confess to the sole reason of catching these 2 games - they were Singapore's only chance of laying a medal in over 40 years. I think the whole world already knows how badly we wanted to be listed in the hall of fame. Unfortunately for us, Ronald Susilo (Badminton) and Li Jiawei (Table Tennis) failed to make the cut. I must admit, they brought that tiny glimmer of hope back to Singapore. It was almost frustrating when Li came so close winning 3 games to 1 (KOR) and having to fight all 7 games, before defeating. Better luck next time for another shot at S$250,000. But Li later did get a S$100,000 reward for being in the top 4. Cash which she should find useful in her "match set" with Susilo.

I'm sure I'm not the only female who watches diving for the solid ass performances shot down from an overhead camera. The most shocking moment came for Men Synchronised Dive, when China's sure win double fell back first into the water. Scoring 0 in their last dive. Their hopes for a medal dashed and the home town Greeks cheering for joy when the Greek boys took Gold!

Bits and pieces of the other events included, Beach Volley Ball, Volley Ball and Athletics. Towards the end of 16 days, and hours less sleep... it has been a great game; and till we meet again in Beijing 2008! Let's watch Asians rule!

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