SPORTS

Five-day test event begins

Organizers of the Athens Games yesterday began a five-day pre-Olympics test of the gymnastics facility, located in the main Olympic sports complex. The impressions, both of the performances of Greek athletes, and the new arena, were positive. The 15,000-seat venue, built in 1995, will also host basketball semifinals and finals during the August 13-29 Games. It is one of the few venues in the complex that did not need extensive refurbishment. During yesterday’s opening day of competition, Greece’s 20-year-old Vlassis Maras, already a two-time world champion on the high bar, and teammate Christos Lybanovnos both qualified for today’s final in the individual all-round events. Maras also qualified for the final on the high bar, while Demosthenes Tambakos, the current world champion on the rings and a sliver medalist at the Sydney Olympics, qualified for the discipline’s final. «I was very impressed by the venue and I’m satisfied by my performance,» said Tambakos. Commenting on his performance on the high bars, Maras also expressed satisfaction, while noting that he had chosen a low-rating routine well below his usual top-level competition standards. «I performed well without any falls. This was not my usual program, which could have earned me more points,» said Maras. At this stage of the national team’s Olympic preparations, it remains unclear whether Greece will be represented by one or two gymnasts in the individual events. The team’s unexpectedly poor performance at the World Championships in Anaheim, California, last year, has, consequently, limited Greece’s participation in the individual events to one athlete. Representation by a second gymnast will depends on whether Greece is granted a wild-card entry, which would go to Tambakos, who, defying the disappointing performances of his teammates in Anaheim, clinched his world title there. Despite traveling to the Anaheim event with a squad of world-class members with plenty of top-level success under their belts, the Greek squad ended in a disappointing 25th place. Prior to the event, Greece had been widely billed as one of the contestants to look out for. Greece’s poor team showing in Anaheim also deprived it of a berth in Olympic team competition, which is reserved for the top 12 sides at the preceding World Championships.