Olympics 2000 notebook

That legendary bugaboo in sports - extraordinary expectations - somewhat diminished the towering Olympic achievements here of the grande dame of American track and field, Marion Jones.

All she did was score dominating victories in the 100 and 200 meters, run a blazing leg on the women's winning 4x400-meter relay, win a bronze in the long jump and another running a superlative leg on the 4x100-meter relay.

That's three golds, two bronzes, and the feeling is, "Aw, nuts."

"In a couple of days when I look back," says Jones, "I'll probably feel these were successful Games."

It's because of Jones's attempt to win five gold medals. And it was Jones who raised the issue of winning five, not the media.

The US women's basketball team beat Australia 76-54 to win the gold. While the men and women invariably are substantially better than their competitors, other countries like Lithuania and France have gotten better. The US allowed France to get within four points with four minutes remaining before subduing their opponents 85-75. Also, the US were almost defeated by eventual bronze medalists Lithuania, barely scraping out a two-point victory.

A dramatic upside surprise for the Americans came in the pole vault, which no American has won since Bob Seagren did it in 1968 in Mexico City.

The victor was Nick Hysong, who won the NCAA championship in 1994 while at Arizona State University. He was one of four competitors who cleared 19 ft. 4-1/4 in. But Hysong made it on his first try. Fellow American Lawrence Johnson, also a NCAA champ, was second, clearing the height on his second effort.

Russian Maksim Tarasov, four-time world champ and defending Olympic gold medalist, was third.

Maurice Greene spent a good part of his Sunday apologizing for the behavior of the US men's 4x100-meter relay team, which won as expected.

After the race, the group - including Greene, Jonathan Drummond, Bernard Williams, and Brian Lewis - proceeded to flex their muscles, strut, and clown, including during the playing of the National Anthem at the awards ceremony.

"We're truly sorry if we offended anyone," said Greene.

Drummond defended the actions, saying the group was "just expressing ourselves the way we know how." But Nanceen Perry, a member of the women's 4x100 relay team, said she and her colleagues are "kind of ashamed."

The US easily won the most medals in the Olympics with 97. Russia was second with 88. For the Americans, the most gold medals were won in swimming (14) and in track and field (10). But the US failed to win any medals in 12 disciplines, including badminton and volleyball.

Americans failed to qualify for the Games in four disciplines.

"We lost two games to get a medal," says US soccer player Brian Dunseth, "and that's pretty disappointing." That's also being pretty hard on yourself. After all, the men, who came in fourth, generally have ranged between bad and awful in international competition. They were far better this time, losing to Spain (3-1) in the semis, and Chile (2-0) in the third-place match.

On Sunday, Olympics officials announced they sold 6.7 million tickets out of 7.6 mil available. For track and field, which had the most seats available, organizers say just 5,000 of the 1,530,000 tickets were unsold.

There's worry over whether Athens can get itself prepared for the 2004 Games, including security concerns. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the organizing committee, says the reason all will be well is "the Olympic traditions are at the center of our national heritage and identity."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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