Messy end to the marathon

All went smoothly before and during Sunday’s Athens Marathon, used by Athens 2004 organizers as a test event for next summer’s Olympiad, but chaos did await competitors at the finish line. Some 3,000 athletes who completed the 42-kilometer course, most of it uphill, needed to apply further effort to track down clothing items left at the starting line. An insufficient number of volunteers stationed for the task were clearly unable to handle the workload. Admittedly, next summer’s Olympic marathon will be run by a far smaller pack of runners, about 100 in all, but the pictures of chaos at the finish line do not bode well for the country’s image less than a year before the Athens Olympics. The event’s organizer, Segas, Greece’s track-and-field federation, contended that Athens 2004, the Games’ organizing committee, was also accountable for the confusion after failing to send volunteers it had promised. That, however, was not all. Many visiting athletes, responding to a Segas 100-euro entrance fee for foreign runners only, managed to lodge applications as locals to avoid paying.