ATHENS - Greece
Chosen to host the very first Modern games in 1896, Athens hoped to organise the centennial games in 1996. Unfortunately, the IOC chose the American town of Atlanta. However, the Greek capital succeeded in its bid to host the 2004 games. Since then the organisers have been racing against the clock. A new underground railway has been opened and a new airport is under construction. Despite local opposition, the Greek government has even decided to triple the budget for hosting the Games from the $11bn initially set at $35bn.During the 1896 games, the Americans reaped three in every four medals. It was a Greek however, Spiridon Louys, who was the star of these games, after he triumphed in the first marathon race.At that time, a mere 311 athletes, from Europe, America, and the West Indies, took part in the games. The King of Greece was the first to be given the privilege of reading the Olympic speech in a U-shaped stadium.It should be noted that Athens wanted to organise the games twice in every four years, in alternating with other towns of the world. However, financially, this was not a feasible project for the Greeks, and they have hosted the games only once in 1906.