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Athens Passes Olympic Flag to Beijing - 2004-08-29

The summer games in Athens ended with a bang - but not the kind most feared, as in terrorism. No, the bang was a grand finale of fireworks, song and dance, bringing an end to the Olympics' 17 day run. The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens have been declared officially closed.

Unforgettable, dream games. Those were among the closing remarks from International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who earlier in the day had promised not to repeat his predecessor's oft-heard phrase, these were the best games ever.

He also told reporters that the competition should be about the athletes and not the host cities. Still he gave high praise to Athens. "I've always said I believed there was enough time to finish the preparations in due time. Many did not believe me. Many did not believe the IOC by saying oh you are very nice to the Greeks but you don't believe it yourself. Yes we believed it. We knew [the Greeks] could do it amidst a very strong skepticism and criticism internationally. I think our Greek friends have delivered in a splendid way," he said.

On Sunday, closing ceremonies for the 2004 Olympics officially brought an end to the summer games that had been plagued first by bad publicity, then doping scandals and judging controversies. But with all of that unpleasantness now behind them, the crowd of 70,000 cheered and applauded throughout the closing ceremonies, roaring with pleasure as the IOC President thanked Athens and Greece in their own language, Efharisto.

The producer described the show as full of joy; of dance and music; of tradition and community. He says Greece has a lot to celebrate. The audience apparently agreed, paying anywhere from $120 to $900 dollars for the Olympics' grand finale.

Although the Olympics got off to a slow start two-and-a-half weeks ago with sluggish ticket sales, it made up for it in the final week of the games as ticket sales climbed slightly above expectations.

So, in the end, all the worries about security, completion of the venues and transportation evaporated in the hot Athens sun almost as soon as the Olympics opened its gates. Acknowledging as much during Sunday's closing ceremonies, IOC President Rogge told the crowd, my dear Greek friends, you won.