Athenians celebrate Olympic triumph

Procycling editor Jeremy Whittle has left Maroussi media village, at the heart of the Athens Olympic

Procycling editor Jeremy Whittle has left Maroussi media village, at the heart of the Athens Olympic
I have left the hot Athenian sun behind and the odyssey of my Olympic Games is over. After a weekend of partying, there were plenty of bleary-eyed athletes on the flight into London, some heading onwards to other continents, others making the short hop to nearby parts of northern Europe. Universally however, it was agreed; we had all had the time of our lives. Like many others, I arrived in Athens a sceptic, preparing to pour scorn on the Olympic ideal, yet also like many others, I returned home a convert. Before I left for the Games, all I saw was the juggernaut of the Olympics, the rampant commercialism, the creeping corruption, the terrifying potential for terrorism and, of course, the fear of widespread doping. Things did not start well. As soon as I arrived, the tragi-comic Kenteris Affair was shocking the gracious Greek hosts. It was a monumental doping scandal before the Games had even begun. But the Greeks smiled through it, took a deep breath and recovered to successfully stage a stunning Olympic Games. The scale and power of the Athens Games has refreshed my fascination in elite competition and renewed my faith in the power of sport as a vehicle for bringing together diverse cultures and for acting - taken as a whole - as a force for good. Less than a month after an unexciting Tour de France, monopolised by the interests and ambition of one athlete, and clouded yet again by ongoing ethical concerns, the overwhelming grandeur of the cycling events at these Games felt like a long cold drink after weeks spent in the desert. Athens has bequeathed a lot of special memories; a night sky filled with helicopters, airships and fireworks as the opening ceremony reached a climax; the boyish excitement on Thomas Voeckler's face on completing his first Olympic road race; the desolation of Nicole Cooke, who sat alone in the team boxes long after the women's road race ended; the awe in Tyler Hamilton's eyes as he realised that he had won Olympic gold; and the tidal wave of emotions that swept over Stuart O'Grady after he and Graeme Brown took a thrilling victory in the Madison, the last event in the cathedral of the Athens velodrome. These were heady days and I am glad that I was there to experience them. The Olympics are, I found out, all they are cracked up to be. Yes, the Games can justifiably be accused of commercialism. They are horrifically expensive to stage, they are prone to corruption and often they are downright cheesy. But the upside is equally persuasive. The Athens Olympics will be celebrated for their diversity, their sense of history and - despite more than 20 incidents of doping - their ability to banish cynicism. In a world that suffers from a lack of faith, that in itself made it all worth the effort.
This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
  • Discipline: Road, Mountain, Urban, Womens
  • Location: UK, USA, Australia
Back to top