‘Unforgettable dream Games’ close

Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima was leading the men’s marathon six kilometres from the finish line when he was shoved into spectators who had lined the historic 42.195km route from Marathon to the Panathinaiko stadium.

Wearing a green beret, a red kilt and green knee high socks, defrocked Irish priest Cornelius Horan, ran onto the course and pushed de Lima out of the race.

The Brazilian was visibly distressed by the attack, but eventually got free from Horan’s grip with the aid of onlookers and resumed his run.

The two-times Pan American champion was shortly overtaken by Italian runner, Stefano Baldini, who took the gold, and American silver medallist Mebrahtom Keflezighi.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded de Lima the Pierre de Coubertain medal for demonstrating fair play and completing the event, to hang alongside his bronze medal.

It is the second time that Horan has sprung to notoriety for interrupting sporting events, the last time in July 2003 when he ran onto the track of the British Grand Prix forcing racers travelling at more than 200 mph (320 kilometres per hour) to swerve around him.

He is now in the custody of the Greek police.

At the Athens closing ceremony, IOC president Jacques Rogge declared the 2004 Olympics the “unforgettable, dream Games”.

He praised Greece for “brilliantly meeting the tough challenge of holding the Games”, and hailed the achievements of organisers in cracking down on drug cheats.

The United States topped the medals table with 35 golds, just ahead of the Olympics’ ‘awakening giant’ China, which hauled in 32.

Australia put in its best performance ever, winning a total of 17 gold medals, one more than the total reached in Sydney, to sit in fourth place.

The world must now wait four years to meet again in Beijing for the 29th Olympiad where the host nation hopes to go one step better.

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