Award ceremony for Aussie stars marred

A ceremony to honor Australian Olympic champions Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe with an award from Greece’s National Tourism Organization (GNTO) was canceled yesterday after a row over TV rights. Greek officials blamed TV network Channel Seven for pulling the event at the foot of the Acropolis. But the two stars were finally given the award away from the cameras. «They used a whole lot of excuses. First they objected to a Greek television station sending footage of the event to Australia because they said it was an exclusive for an Australian channel. When this hurdle was out of the way, Thorpe’s and Freeman’s manager refused to let them attend the event,» a Greek Development Ministry official, Akis Panayiotopoulos, said. «The two champions received the award in front of the Panathenaic Stadium (in downtown Athens) instead,» Yiannis Patelis, EOT’s president, said. The Australian side was unavailable for comment. Thorpe and 400-meter champion Freeman received the «Xenios Zeus» award, which goes to personalities promoting Greek tourism abroad. The two champions are in Greece to take part in a documentary on Athens prior to Olympics for Channel Seven. Freeman has recently retired while Thorpe will compete in Athens. (AFP)