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September 2004 / No. 31


Sports

Athens 2004 Olympic Games

Hossein Rezazadeh,
Gold - Weightlifling - Men’s +105kg


Iran’s Olympic Accomplishments

The 2004 Olympic Games officially came to an end in Athens with a spectacular closing ceremony. Greek music and dance kicked off an evening of celebration before the flame was extinguished and the flag lowered.

A firework display welcomed the athletes into the Olympic Stadium. The torch has now been passed to China as Beijing prepares to host the Games in 2008. Their athletes will be relishing the prospect of performing on home soil after collecting a record medal haul in Athens.

Despite pre-Games fears over construction and security, the Athens Olympics have generally been hailed as a success. In his closing speech, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told the city: “You have won … These were unforgettable, dream Games.” And Athens Games Boss Gianna Angelopoulos added: “The Olympics came home and we’ve shown the world the great things Greeks can do.”

Hadi Saei Bonehkohal, Gold - TaekWondo - Men’s Under 68kg

Television ratings are 15% up from the 2000 Games in Sydney, while ticket sales have topped figures from the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics. “The organization was outstanding and we had competitions in state-of-the-art venues,” said Rogge.

“They really did a fantastic job. I am very, very happy about the Games … We have discovered a new Greece. Greece was great for the Games.”

“These Games were held in peace and brotherhood. These were the Games where it became increasingly difficult to cheat and where clean athletes were better protected.”

Rogge’s predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch had hailed the 2000 Games in Sydney as the greatest Olympics ever. But Rogge gave a diplomatic response when asked whether the Athens Games were better. He said: “You cannot compare Games that are held at different times and in different countries.”

The combined performances of China, Japan and South Korea also impressed Rogge, who described their efforts as the “awakening of Asia” and an ominous sign for the rest of the world ahead of the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The opening of the Games was overshadowed by the missed drugs tests of Greek stars Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou. And among a steady stream of failed drugs tests during the two-week event, three Olympic champions were stripped of their titles. But Rogge said the 2004 Games would be remembered for the improvement in drug testing which allowed honest athletes to prevail.

Earlier in the Games, Rogge had described security, which saw athletes outnumbered seven to one by security personnel, as “flawless.” But on the final day of action, the men’s marathon was marred by an intruder who dramatically pushed race leader Vanderlei de Lima into the crowd. De Lima went on to take bronze which he was awarded during the closing ceremony. The Brazilian was also honored with the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, which recognizes acts of sportsmanship, and was given a huge cheer by those in the stadium.

It was one of many highlights of the two-week extravaganza, which also saw two notable athletics doubles. After Holmes’ double over 800m and 1500m, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj became the first man since Paavo Nurmi in 1924 to win both the 1500m and 5,000m. And earlier in the Games, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps scooped six gold medals among a total of eight.

Alireza Rezaei,
Silver - Wrestling - Men’s Freestyle 120kg

Iran could be Fourth: A number-crunching Iranian sports official claimed Iran did in fact beat the United States at the Athens Olympics, even if the Americans won 103 medals compared to Iran’s six.

“Iran won one medal for every 6.2 athletes sent to Athens, while the United States won one medal for every 13.8 athletes,” the Head of Iran’s Physical Education Organization Mohsen Mehralizadeh told the press.

According to his calculations, Turkey won one medal per 12.8 athletes, Britain got a medal for 11.8 athletes and Japan got one for 12.2 athletes.

Masoud Jokar, Silver - Wrestling - Men’s Freestyle 60kg

Alireza Heidari, Bronze - Wrestling - Men’s Freestyle 96kg

“Therefore,” the official asserted, “of the 202 countries present at Athens, Iran was in fourth position. This is a good result.”

His interpretation of scoring, however, differs from the accepted standard medals table—which puts the United States top with 103 medals, of which 35 were gold. The medals table puts Iran in 29th position.

Rezazadeh Wins Gold: Hossein Rezazadeh set a new world record as he reclaimed his Olympic title in weightlifting’s +105kg class. Rezazadeh set a new best of 263.5kg in the clean and jerk, beating his own record of 263kg set last year. Nicknamed the “Iranian Hercules”, Rezazadeh finished with an overall total of 473.5kg, which also tied his previous overall world record.

“An Olympic gold medal is a precious thing and it’s important for me and my country. I trained very hard for it and Allah helped me,” said the deeply-religious Rezazadeh, who held a copy of the Koran in one hand during the medal ceremony. “I dedicate this medal to the people of Iran and everybody who has helped me. I can lift heavier weights—if I am healthy I will go to 500kg.”

Yossef Karami, Bronze - TaekWondo - Men’s Under 80kg

Already one of Iran’s sporting stars, Rezazadeh returned to another hero’s welcome after securing his country’s first medal of the Games. After taking the gold in Sydney, he had a branch of Iran state bank named in his honor and was awarded the “Badge of Courage” from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

Escaping Censure: Iran has escaped censure over the failure of its judo world champion to fight an Israeli at the Olympics. The International Judo Federation accepted the disqualification of Arash Miresmaeili because a medical condition left him too heavy to fight.

The federation allowed Miresmaeili’s defense that he had no pre-planned intention not to fight and noted he had not said he was boycotting the bout. “The IJF has no rule for penalizing overweight athletes,” the body said. The IJF statement quoted Miresmaeili as saying he had “made no statement of any sort to any press.” The International Olympic Committee takes a dim view of political gestures at the Games and is liable to punish athletes or teams which make them.

The 23-year-old double world champion, who carried his country’s flag at the Games’ opening ceremony, weighed more than five kilograms over the 66 kg limit for the bout against Israeli Ehud Vaks. After the draw, he was quoted by the Iranian news agency as saying that he had refused to face his Israeli rival in sympathy with the “oppressed Palestinian people”.

A spokesman for the Iran National Olympic Committee had said it was a “general policy” of the country to refrain from competing against Israeli athletes and that Miresmaeili had simply observed the protocol. However, the Iranian Olympic team had subsequently explained to the IJF that the fighter had suffered from digestive problems on arrival in Athens and had been unable to lose weight in time.

Iran have given judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili a $125,000 reward, saying he sacrificed a gold medal at the Athens Olympics by refusing to fight an Israeli. State television showed Miresmaeili at an award ceremony receiving the same sum as Iranian Hossein Rezazadeh, who took the super-heavyweight weightlifting gold at the second Olympics in succession. “He would definitely have won a gold medal if he had taken part,” said the sports official, who declined to be named.

The International Judo Federation had considered a sanction against Miresmaeili during the Games but concluded that he had been overweight for the fight and could not have taken part. The International Olympic Committee also did not take any action.

 

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