Athens (Via Globe Telecom),  August 15, 2004  (STAR) By Lito A. Tacujan - Athens the morning after still reeled from a dazzling Greek celebration of 3,000 years of history and culture as the city brought the Olympic Games back to its ancient cradle in the opening of the 28th Games in the modern era Friday night.

As 70,000 spectators at the brand-new Calatrava-roofed Olympic Stadium and over three billion more the world over watched, organizers pulled off a six-hour spectacle that will be long remembered as it depicted Greek myth and history.

The lean Philippine contingent emerged onto the venue fifth from last nearing midnight in a marathon marchpast of a record 202 nations in a unique order of appearance according to the Greek alphabet.

Boxer Romeo Brin’s image burst into the two giant screens situated on both ends of the stadium waving the Philippine flag – a final tribute for the man on his last Olympiad and an eleventh-hour replacement for compatriot Chris Camat.

There were 10 athletes and 14 officials, from the RP side which attended the rites. The three Filipinas in the fold — trackster Lerma Gabito, swimmer Jacklyhn Pangilinan and archer Jasmin Figueroa — were resplendent in pink native ternos while the men marched in jusi barong.

"Masaya pero masasakit ang katawan," said an RP official on the conditions of the athletes after the Games’ opening ceremonies.

The 24-year-old Camat relinquished his role as flag bearer to prime up for his opening bout against Sydney Games silver medalist Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov of Russia this afternoon.

Another Filipino athlete, Miguel Molina, also skipped the opening rites to stay in sharp form for his four events in swimming.

It was a performance of epic proportion dished out by hundreds of Greek artists in the show that fused the ancient and the modern Greece in stunning pageantry and lightshow over an artificial lake in the middle of the ground.

There was a float parade that brought out an entire gamut of Greek mythology that featured Hercules and Alexander the Great while hovering over the stadium core where art pieces that broke apart, showing different periods of ancient Greek sculpture.

It was a fitting celebration for the return of the Games in its birthplace after 108 years.

Greek President Costis Stefanopoulos declared the Games open amid peeling of giant bells and IOC president Jacques Rogge and Athens organizing committee chair Gianna Angelopoulous-Daskalaki welcomed the athletes under an olive tree.

Meanwhile, four athletes will compete Sunday in the third day of the Olympics with archer Jasmin Figueroa facing off with a formidable rival informer world champion Natalia Valeeva in the 18-arrow match in the Olympic round.

Brin will clash with Swweden’s Patrick Bogere in boxing and swimmers Miguel Molina and Fil-Am Jacklyhn Pangilinan see action in the hearts of 200-m freestyle and 100-m breasttroke, respectively. Shooter Jethro Dionisio is to complete the final 25 claybirds in the eliminations in the trap event.

ATHENS NOTES: POC president Celso Dayrit watched the proceedings on a special section for NOC heads while tourism Obet Pagdanganan, who will head next year’s organizing committee in the Manila SEAG, marched with other RP officials like Dr. Raul Canlas, Benjie Ramos, former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez, POC’s Boying Santos-Viola, Art Macapagal and Rep. Monico Puentevella… Greek fans gave a thunderous applauses to the Portueguese whom the Greeks beat in the Euro 2004 championship... The NBA stars brought up the rear of the big US contingent with Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson very visible… Yao Ming carried China’s flag and athletes from other nation would break ranks to take photos of the man… Wimbledon champion Roger Federer is the listed flag bearer of Switzerland.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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