2004 - Athens

Last Updated: 20/06/12 1:23pm

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The Olympics returned to its spiritual home of Athens in 2004 and despite initial fears they wouldn't be ready in time, the Greeks put on a terrific 17-day spectacle to rival the Games of Sydney.

In this year...

The shot put events were held at the site of the ancient Olympic Games at Olympia.
The United Arab Emirates won their first gold medal thanks to Ahmed Almaktoum's win in the double trap shooting.
Women's wrestling made its Olympic debut with competition in four weight categories.
Canoeist Birgit Fischer became the first athlete in any sport to win two medals in five Olympic Games.
Argentina's football team, containing Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano won gold without conceding a goal.
A Boxing Day earthquake causes a huge tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Arsenal win the Premier League title after going through the entire season unbeaten.
The Taipei 101 in Taiwan is opened as the world's tallest skyscraper at 508m or 1,676 feet high.
Social media website Facebook was founded in February at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Greece win the European Championship title with a surprise victory over hosts Portugal.
American rider Lance Armstrong wins an unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France.
The Remains of a previously unknown species of human is discovered in Indonesia called Homo floresiensis.

A record 201 nations participated with more athletes, more female competitors and more events than ever before, while the global television audience of around 3.9billion scaled new heights.

It was the first time since 1996 in Atlanta that every country with a National Olympic Committee showed up at the Olympics - a fitting tribute to the Games returning to their birthplace, with the motto for the event unsurprisingly being 'Welcome Home'.

Several events paid tribute to that first Games back in 1896, with the marathon races following the same original route starting in Marathon and ending in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens - although Paula Radcliffe failed to reach the stadium as her dream ended in tears before the end of the race.

America again topped the medal table with 103 in total, including 35 gold, and their headline performer of the Games was undoubtedly the awesome Michael Phelps, with the swimming sensation winning eight medals, six of which gold, to tie gymnast Alexander Dityatin's record set in 1980.

Kelly Holmes was the heroine for Great Britain with an unprecedented golden double in the 800m and 1500m, while Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, arguably the greatest middle-distance runner of all time, also fulfilled his destiny at long last by claiming his first Olympic gold medals in the 1500m and 5000m.

Britain's 4x100m quartet of Darren Campbell, Jason Gardner, Mark Lewis-Francis and Marlon Devonish put their individual disappointments behind them to produce the performance of their lives to shock the highly-fancied Americans and snatch an unexpected dramatic gold.

Matthew Pinsent just about succeeded in his bid for a fourth consecutive gold medal in the coxless fours in what was one of the most thrilling finishes to any race in this Games.

A young fighter from Bolton called Amir Khan made a name for himself as he claimed silver in the lightweight division of the boxing at the age of just 17, while Bradley Wiggins won three medals in the velodrome in an early indicator of Britain's emergence as a track cycling superpower.

Greek sprinters Konstantinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou went into the Games as huge medal hopes after winning gold and silver in Sydney four years earlier, but they both withdrew after bizarrely staging a fake motorcycle accident to avoid attending drug tests.

Olympic Stars:

Michael Phelps announced himself as an Olympic superstar with a wonderful performance in the swimming pool resulting in him bagging six golds and eight medals in all.

It could have been so much better for Phelps as well, but he was denied equalling Mark Spitz's record of seven golds when Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband beat him in the 200m freestyle, a race regarded as one of the best of all-time.

Great Britain's hero was Dame Kelly Holmes, who claimed two unforgettably brave performances to become just the third female in Olympic history to win the 800m and 1500m double.

Despite suffering an injury-hit build-up, she ran a well-paced race to nick the 800m on the line, and just five days later she produced an equally-dramatic victory in the 1500m - and at the age of 34 she was the oldest athlete to claim gold in either event.

Morracan middle distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj also claimed a brilliant track double as he became the first winner of both the 1500m and 5,000m since Flying Finn Paavo Nurmi back in 1924.

El Geurrouj was a multiple world champion but missed out on the Olympics until Athens, when he pipped Bernard Lagat in the 1500m and Kenenisa Bekele in the 5,000m in two thrilling finishes which saw him win both races by a combined margin of just over three-tenths of a second.

Liu Xiang helped break the mold as he became the first Chinese man to win a track and field gold with his sparkling display in the 110m hurdles in Athens fulfilling the promise he showed as a junior.

Liu became one of China's biggest stars as he came flying home in a time of 12.91 seconds, equaling Colin Jackson's world record mark set in 1993 and making him just the sixth man to go under 13 seconds in history.

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