Greeks return with mixed memories of life at Salt Lake Winter Games

SALT LAKE CITY – The 19th Winter Olympics will most likely go down in the history books for the extreme security measures that needed to be taken after the September 11 terrorist attacks. They may also be remembered for the alleged favoritism shown by referees and judges to American entries, also widely suspected by visiting teams and athletes. These suspicions, depending on the case, were both justified and not. Not everything was perfect in Salt Lake City. The heightened security measures dominated media reports, while some deficiencies were made known once the event was over. Overall conditions at the Olympic Village, according to the president of Greece’s Skiing Federation, Yiannis Pantelidis, who piled up a mountain of complaints, were far from satisfactory. Even the amount of food served to athletes and team officials, he said, was inadequate. «It was kept to the basic minimum. The Americans economized on everything to get through the Games, financially speaking. They didn’t even provide us with tickets for events that didn’t involve our national team. I believe that was unacceptable. It’s never happened at any other competition,» Pantelidis said. «As for tidiness at the Olympic Village, that, too, was superficial – nothing special. In this respect, Calgary and Lillehammer were better. I wonder how they’re going to come to Athens in 2004 and instruct us on tidiness or cuisine,» the federation’s boss added. Summarizing the modestly sized Greek team’s overall performance, which, as had been anticipated, failed to register any worthwhile results, the federation’s chief claimed that some improvement had been made over previous Olympiads. Without a tradition in winter sports, Greece, as is customary, had sent just a handful of athletes – some of them self-financed Greek-Americans – mainly for symbolic reasons and with no realistic hopes for medals. Greece has never won a medal at any major winter sports event. «We rose to 30th place. Most of the youngsters did all they could. Vassilis Dimitriadis showed that we’ve made considerable improvement. It just so happens that a good result has yet to come our way as solid proof of our progress,» the federation’s chief said, who pinpointed the 24-year-old athlete’s encouraging performance in the slalom to support his claims. Dimitriadis narrowly missed ending 26th in the slalom among 78 entries, after missing the second-last gate on one of his runs. «It was an unlucky moment. I made two very good runs on a testing slope. I did well with the difficult bits and faltered on the easier ones. You can’t relax unless you’ve reached the very end,» Dimitriadis said. «I think we’ll get better results in the future. I’m going to work hard at reaching the objectives I’ve set,» he added, with the next already Winter Olympics, to be held in Torino, Italy, in mind.

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