Competition sizzles

The 28th Olympiad got under way in Athens over the weekend, with athletes taking center stage – stepping out of the glow of an internationally acclaimed opening ceremony on Friday night and out of the shadow of a tense drama involving two star Greek sprinters who failed to turn up for a drug test. But the weather turned out to be as hot and as windy and as unpredictable as it can be counted on to be in August and troubled athletes and organizers. A forecast of high winds (with gusts reaching 54 kilometers per hour, or 29 knots) and storms in the next 24 hours prompted officials to postpone today’s program at the Olympic Rowing Center at Schinias in eastern Attica, after they had rescheduled yesterday’s events to finish early. A cold front is expected to cross northeastern Greece today, creating conditions very different from the sweltering heat that plagued riders in the men’s road cycling race in central Athens on Saturday afternoon, with the temperature reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Strong winds yesterday brought cooler weather but hampered women in their road cycling race and forced a postponement of sailing events at Aghios Cosmas. A light rain even fell as a preliminary round of beach volleyball began yesterday but the Brazilian and French men’s teams went ahead with the match. Reports said that the strong wind had pushed archers’ arrows off course. But as events picked up speed, so countries began to gather medals. Yesterday China led with five gold medals, followed by Australia and Japan with four each, Italy and Ukraine with two each and the United States, Russia, France, Hungary, Thailand, South Africa and Turkey with one each. Australia and the United States, with eight medals each, led in total. In the Olympic pool yesterday South Africa won the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay gold in a world record time of 1 minute, 13.17. They beat the Netherlands and the United States, ending the hopes of US star Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals. Phelps broke his own world record in the 400m medley with a time of 4 minutes 08.26 on Saturday. World records were set also in weightlifting and shooting. Although ticket sales have picked up over the past two weeks, many events with star athletes – such as tennis on the weekend – were played before small crowds.

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