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Olympic news for October 3
The 2000 Olympic Games has finally come to a close, ending an event that has had the biggest build up that Australia has ever seen. For the greater part of last decade, "Sydney 2000" has infiltrated everything, from the mass media down to corner shop retailers - there was no avoiding it. Despite many forecasts of a logistical nightmare for the city in terms of traffic chaos and looking after a huge influx of tourists, Sydney coped rather well. In fact, the previous two weeks were a refreshing change, as everyone basically went on holidays for the duration.
Getting to the venues was handled reasonably well by public transport, leaving most of the major roads deserted as many would have noticed when out training. The weather was even good apart from a couple of days. So now it's back to "normal" - whatever that means. What do you do when the party's over?
The medal count
The first thing to do is to count your sweets, i.e. medals. By now, most Olympic followers will have the final medal tally imprinted firmly on their brains (for at least a week) as they try and put a value on which country has the best sportspeople. Across all sports, the USA finished finished number one with 39 gold medals, and 97 in total. Russia was second (32 gold, 88 total) and China third (28 gold, 59 total).
However, on population based figures, the best nation was the Bahamas (pop. 307,000), whose one gold and one silver put them well ahead of the rest. Economics professor and former owner of cyclingnews, Bill Mitchell, calculated a weighted medal tally from whence this figure comes. Australia and Cuba were also prominent on this scale.
The cycling medal tally (not taking into account population) saw France take the number one spot again, courtesy of 5 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medal. As in Atlanta four years ago, the French "Tricolore" team were particularly strong in the track events, winning four gold medals in Sydney. The total could have easily been five, after the red hot favourite in the 1 km time trial, Arnaud Tournant could only finish fifth in his specialty event, although he did help the team win gold in the Olympic Sprint. More on that later.
Germany enjoyed another consistent Games with a haul of 10 medals, spread across all three disciplines (two more than their pre-Games target of 8). Their three gold medals were courtesy of Robert Bartko, the World Record breaking 4000 metre pursuit team and Jan Ullrich. They were closely followed by the Dutch team, who earned 3 golds and one silver all from Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel who dominated the women's track endurance and road racing.
Italy managed to snare two gold medals, both from women's racing. Antonella Bellutti won the points race and Paola Pezzo won the MTB cross country for the second time. A number of countries won one gold medal: Australia (Men's Madison), Great Britain (Men's Kilo), USA (Men's Sprint), Spain (Men's points race) and Russia (Men's road time trial).
Those are the gold medal facts that will probably be used by Governments to dish out money for sports in the coming years. It is expected that Australia will reduce its funding across the board, and cycling will of course be affected. Will this make a difference in four years time to the medal tally? Possibly, but it is of course too early to predict.
Final cycling medal tally
Gold Silver Bronze Total France 5 2 1 8 Germany 3 4 3 10 Netherlands 3 1 0 4 Italy 2 0 1 3 Australia 1 2 3 6 Great Britain 1 1 2 4 USA 1 1 1 3 Spain 1 0 1 2 Russia 1 1 2 4 Ukraine 0 1 1 2 Belgium 0 2 0 2 Switzerland 0 1 1 2 Kazakhstan 0 1 0 1 Uruguay 0 1 0 1 Lithuania 0 0 1 1 China 0 0 1 1
Two weeks, 18 separate events, over 400 athletes. That's a lot of top quality racing to absorb, but there were a few standouts and a few disappointments. Here's cyclingnews.com's "pick of of the Olympics", cycling and non-cycling.
The opening and closing ceremonies: An impressive feat, cramming almost every Australian icon into a parade lasting a few hours. The corrugated iron was a little strange, but overall it was fun to watch and quite unique.
The Dunc Gray Velodrome: Ron Webb's 58th construction was arguably his best ever. Two world records fell (three if you count Robert Bartko's 4.18.515 in a UCI approved position for the IP). The track is fast and will get faster as it ages, and may see attempts on the hour record in future.
Men's kilometre time trial: In one of the biggest upsets, Frenchman Arnaud Tournant failed to win, or even place in the 1 kilometre time trial, despite having dominated the competition for the past three years. He was last to ride, but could not match the impressive Brit, Jason Queally's time of 1.01.609 (also an Olympic record).
Felicia Ballanger: "Winning is never easy", but she made it look like it as she took gold medals in both the 500m TT and women's sprint. She's not retiring either.
Leontien Van Moorsel: Won every race she started in except for the women's points race where she came second. She also broke Marion Clignet's 4 year old 3000m World Record, clocking 3.30.816 in her semi-final. An impressive comeback from the former World Champion who was suffering from anorexia 6 years ago, only returning to competition in 1997.
The German 4,000m Pursuit Team: Robert Bartko, Guido Fulst, Daniel Becke, and Jens Lehmann made history in the final when they rode 3.59.781 (60.06 km/h) to break the 4 minute barrier, beating the impressive Ukrainians. After a first kilometre in 1.04.162, the Germans rode between 58 and 59 seconds for the next three, to dip under the mark by just over two tenths of a second.
Brett Aitken and Scott McGrory: Their gold medal in the madison was Australia's first in cycling since 1984, and it was incredible to watch. Time after time, Aitken set up McGrory with perfect leadouts, and the two rode to a very emotional victory. "We did it for our kids" said Aitken afterwards.
The mountain bike competition: Two days of incredible atmosphere out at Fairfield City Farm saw the second ever Olympic MTB Cross Country races contested. Paola Pezzo surprised many by winning the women's title, while Miguel Martinez did not by winning the men's.
Pia Sundstedt and Joane Somarriba: For providing some action in the women's road race. Unfortunately, the type of field and the conditions dictated a fairly negative race.
Men's road race: The best one day race ever seen in Australia saw a victory to Jan Ullrich and two of his Telekom teammates, Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Kloden. The Olympic ideal went out four years ago with the introduction of professional teams, so the best thing to do was to enjoy the quality of the racing and it was good.
Channel 7's coverage unfortunately was not after they stopped showing it live as soon as Stuart O'Grady was dropped with a few laps to go. C7 was the alternative...or the loudspeakers.
Jan Ullrich: For almost winning two gold medals, proving that when in form he is very tough to beat.
Viatcheslav Ekimov: For beating Jan Ullrich in the "Race of Truth".
Channel 7: For allowing Roy and HG a free reign to bring us "The Dream". It was Australia's secret weapon against the overseas competitors, after they were forced to stay up late to watch it. Fatso the Fat Arsed Wombat was voted by an independent panel of experts as the "Most Successful Olympic Icon in History".
The International Olympic Committee: For failing to recognise any websites other than their own, which was a little slow. Bonus points for comprehensiveness though.
Can't get enough?
The Olympics is finished, but there's still plenty to see for the hard core cycling fans. If you haven't yet caught up on all the results and reports, then you can access these via the results/schedule page. Of course, there are plenty of photos (nearly 400 at last count) that we've accumulated in these two weeks and more will be added to these sections in coming days. The following index may be useful in order to find the pic that you want.