Morning or night OK

LONDON (AP) – It’s been a confusing week for the 2004 Athens Olympic marathons. A week ago the world governing body of athletics recommended running the two Olympic marathons at 7 p.m. to avoid the worst of the Athens heat, but said 7 a.m. starts would be acceptable. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) assumed Greek organizers would accept their first choice. Instead, they have opted for the second. Organizers turned down the 7 p.m. starts, arguing poor early evening light and technical problems would hinder TV coverage. The marathons are set for August 28-29, the last two days of the two-week Olympics. Organizers also said an evening marathon on the final day would clash with the Games’ closing ceremony. «It’s been a bit of a difficult situation for us,» IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said yesterday. He called the 7 a.m. starts a «compromise decision» and said the IAAF turned down a request by Athens organizers that the marathons begin at 5.30 p.m. A 9 a.m. start was also rejected. «Trying to satisfy all parties has been a difficult thing,» Davies said. «In the end the interest of the athletes has been paramount. There’s no way with the heat of Athens we could accept 5.30 [p.m.].» Davies said the IAAF Council, examining the effects of heat and humidity, said from «a health point of view, from the athletes’ point of view, the evening is better. But the early morning is also acceptable.» «Both options are OK from a health point of view.» The morning starts are similar to the marathon timetable in the 1997 world athletics championships in Athens, when the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) races began at 8 a.m. A spokesman for the organizing committee said yesterday «a decision has not been taken yet. There will be a decision soon after a common agreement.» Davies noted the schedule had to be formally approved by Athens and the International Olympic Committee, but said he didn’t expect changes.

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