The 2004 Olympics occurred in the middle of Greek architecture, culture and history. The ancient monuments illuminated on the hilltops were breathtaking. Knowing this was happening where the Olympics originated made it more momentous. Also, any country able to successfully organize and orchestrate such a huge undertaking deserves long and loud accolades. Greece did a very good job.

The athletes were awesome. No matter their ages, they demonstrated incredible dedication to their sports. Many had trained relentlessly for years and it showed. Repeatedly, I found myself thinking, "How did she do that? How did he pull that off?" I felt pride for all the athletes, including the USA team, the young Muslim woman who ran with her head and legs covered, and those from places with virtually no training equipment or opportunities, who were competing right beside participants from countries with well-funded programs. In the final analysis, the spirit and skill, and not the origin of the athletes, often are the determining factors in the final results.

The swimmers have broad shoulders and lean bodies with smooth, muscular thighs. The runners have legs with their own personalities and attitudes. Soccer players look hard and tough all over and they run like the wind. Volleyball players don't have huge biceps. The art of thinking ahead and aiming in an unpredictable direction is important to their sport. The gymnasts are marvelous to watch, being simultaneously extremely strong and full of grace. In fact, many of the contests (like synchronized swimming and diving and equestrian events), are rife with strength, grace and exemplary showmanship. The medals won for the USA in many men's and women's competitions made me proud. A young Oregon woman won the gold in saber fencing. How about that!

There was some arguing with officials, but not much. Most of the athletes interviewed were gracious and respectful of their opponents. The version of the Star Spangled Banner played for medal ceremonies was lovely, but lacked its usual oomph. Maybe they wanted softer music to show the USA is melodious as well as victorious.

Disqualifications were present. Like, did a swimmer move his/her legs too much after the turn-around? It would help the judges to see the under water cameras before they cry "foul," and evidently they did not always have that opportunity. At least once, a disqualification was reversed 15 minutes after having been asserted by a judge. The athlete in question was jerked from gold to nothing to gold during that short time. Of course, there are also protests, which can be and are filed, with results determined later.

Some athletes were declared ineligible for the Games in Greece because they did not pass drug tests. Maybe there should be two competitions. One could be the regular Olympics for those hardy and amazing athletes whose systems are pure and free of offending drugs. The other could be somewhere else for those who want to take heaven-knows-what to see just what their bodies can accomplish. Regardless, the Olympic Games is an occasion for participants from all over the globe to compete and present a colorful, astounding and fabulous two weeks of peaceful sports, in spite of unrest and war existing here and there around the world. What a refreshing change of pace on television.

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Cynthia Hilden's column appears every other week. She can be reached at cyhilden@msn.com

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