=== 2000 Summer Games come to a close in Australia ===
 Sydney, Australia (Sports Network) - The 2000 Summer Olympics came to a close
 Sunday night with the tradition of the sparkle of the closing ceremonies.
 International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch declared that
 the Sydney Olympics were the "best games ever," as there were many dramatic
 victories, but there were also several doping embarrassments that surrounded
 these Summer Games.
 Australia hosted the 27th Olympiad with class and style, as the Olympic
 Stadium was filled with more than 100,000 fans each night of the track and
 field competition.
 Fans packed the stadium again Sunday night, many flashing flashlights and
 chanting "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" and doing the wave.
 The ceremony also featured the Men at Work song "Land Down Under." There 
 two Royal Air Force f-111s that flew over the stadium, fireworks artists from
 five continents, 7,000 performers and a parade of famous Australians ranging
 from model Elle MacPherson, golfer Greg Norman and Crocodile Dundee
 himself...Paul Hogan. The rock groups INXS and Midnight Oil also performed.
 The ceremony ended with the unofficial national anthem, "Waltzing Matilda."
 There was also an extreme pyrotechnics show along the Sydney Harbor.
 The Summer Games in Sydney featured several unexpected dramatics. U.S. 
 Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner won the gold medal by defeating Russian 
 Kareline, who was unbeaten for 13 years and didn't allow a point for ten.
 Gardner's peers elected him to serve as U.S. flagbearer for the closing
 ceremonies. The American softball team rallied for gold medal after losing a
 112-game winning streak and dropping three straight in the tournament. The
 U.S. men's basketball team was almost beaten, squeaking past Lithuania 85-83
 in the semifinals.
 The U.S. track and field team again demonstrated why they are the number-one
 ranked squad in the world. Team USA earned a total of 20 medals in track and
 field competition at the Sydney Olympic Games...eight more than the next-best
 nation, the Russian Federation with 12. Ethiopia was third in the medal tally
 with eight. Team USA?s 10 golds more than doubled the second-best totals of
 Poland and Ethiopia, which had four each. The Russian Federation won three
 golds. The American baseball team dethroned two-time defending gold medalists
 The games closed with Marion Jones getting her five medals, although they were
 not all gold (3 bronze).
 It was an Olympics of many firsts, especially for women's competition.
 Taekwondo, trampoline and synchronized diving made their debuts in 
 polo and women's weightlifting.
 The 2000 Summer Games also featured domination in the pool by the United
 States. The Americans won 33 swimming medals, 14 of them gold, as Jenny
 Thompson led the charge. However, nobody will soon forget "The Thorpedo" Ian
 Thorpe of Australia, Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband both of the
 Netherlands. American Lenny Krayzelburg had three gold medals from three
 However, the Summer Games were tainted by several allegations of doping and
 cheating. Five medals were taken away because of positive drug tests,
 including a gold medal by Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan. She took cold
 medicine prescribed by her doctor, but the medicine turned out to be banned.
 American shotputter CJ Hunter, the husband of Jones, had pulled out of the
 Games injured but tested positive for steroids.
 It was an emotional time for many Australians as Cathy Freeman became the
 first Aborigine to win a gold medal at the Olympics, taking the 400-meter race
 in front of a raucous crowd of 112,000.
 Another heart-warming moment came in the 100-meter freestyle swim event. Eric
 Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea swam solo and got a standing ovation just for
 finishing the race.
 It was also a tough emotional ride for Samaranch at the Summer Games. His wife
 died hours before the opening ceremony and he went back to Spain to bury,
 returning a day later.
 With Australia in the rear-view mirror, the world will look ahead to Athens,
 Greece as they host the 2004 Summer Games. The 2002 Winter Olympics will be 
 Salt Lake City, Utah.
 10/01 07:38:17 ET

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