One of the beauties of the Olympics is that it provides cut-and-dried answers to questions like “Who is the fastest?” “Who can jump the longest?” and “How high can they reach?” But while such queries are answered on the track, the field and elsewhere, the success of the Games themselves is a much more subjective thing.
Few can doubt that London2012 exceeded expectations. So surely it must be classified as a success. Well, it’s not that simple. Athens2004 also blew people away but its legacy has been in doubt almost since the moment the last athlete left the city. Today, the Athens Games are the bogeyman deployed to scare any other cities that might be inclined to see the occasion as a carefree celebration rather than a precision-timed exercise in planning and public spending.
In a harrowing Olympic Games for Greece, perhaps the country’s most tragic figure in London was open water swimmer Spyros Gianniotis. After 10 kilometers of grueling competition in Hyde Park’s Serpentine, an Olympic medal slipped from the 32-year-old’s grasp in the final seconds of the race. Gianniotis, a world champion in this event, missed his fourth chance to add an Olympic medal to his collection. He admitted that at his age, this might have been his last opportunity. Seconds later, he broke down in tears.
There was something else eating away at the swimmer. He knew that at these Games, where the Greek Olympic squad was whittled down to just 105 athletes, some traveling without their coaches due to a lack of funding, and where just two bronze medals had been won by Greek competitors, another podium finish would have meant a great deal.
“This was different from all my other races,” he told NET TV. “I wanted to do this for my country.”