European papers celebrated the Athens 2004 Olympics and also had a few words to say about the doping cases that marred the games.
"The cynics were wrong," declared London's The Independent. "The Athens Olympics turned out to be every bit as exciting, as euphoric and as proficiently organized as the spoilsports said they would not be." The paper had plenty of congratulations to pass around: to the Greeks for transforming their capital into an efficient and welcoming venue, to the participants for -- with a few glaring exceptions -- competing in the true spirit of the Games, and above all to Britain's medal-winners, who exceeded Sydney's medal tally.
"The Olympic flame, while beaming brightly out to the rest of the world, does not evoke a particularly confident or certain future for the games," wrote the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The paper noted that the olive wreaths of the winners wilt quicker than ever before, and the successful image portrayed by the small Greek nation came at an equally high cost of more than €6 billion ($7.2 billion). This leaves many visitors wondering how the Athenians -- who for so many years lived with the doubt and fear that they would fail in their attempt to host the summer games -- will now cope with their post-Olympic hangover, the paper continued.
With the Olympic flame now on its way to Beijing, the Spanish paper ABC congratulated the Greeks for a respectable organizational success, especially considering the added security constraints and challengers due to the danger of a terrorist attack. "The Australian team deserves special mention for making the fourth place on the medal tally," the paper reflected. "They are a particularly efficient model of sporting success that perhaps other nations should observe more closely and adopt some of their methods to achieve similar results."
It wasn't the athletic highs but the doping lows that caught the Dutch paper De Telegraaf 's attention. It commented that the daily doping scandals were due to heightened testing regime. "The Athens Olympics and the 3,000 doping tests were a new, promising start and the rigorously inspected sporting field looked a lot better than eight years ago and earlier when the former East Germany used any possible means to cheat the world," the daily opined. But Athens has set a precedent that now forces the International Olympic Committee and the anti-doping agency WADA to continue on this tough path, the paper concluded.