OF GODS AND GAMES

Before Sydney in 2000, the world was dazzled by the city's harbor with its soaring opera house. But the run-up to the Athens Olympics has been relentlessly bleak. While the hosts have extolled their heritage, the rest of the world has obsessed about terrorist threats. Safety concerns, coupled with major construction delays, gave rise to a global fret: Athens might never be ready. Greece worried about the dismal prospect of empty hotels, quiet taverns and no lines at the Acropolis. But this week, just a few shot puts and discus throws from where the modern Games were born more than a century ago, a record 202 nations will unite beneath the Olympic flame--and consternation has already given way to celebration. Last week the Iraqi soccer team thrilled their war-torn country with a victory over star-studded Portugal. And over the weekend U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps began his quest for a record eight golds with one in the individual medley, while Japanese judo champ Tadahiro Nomura won a historic third gold in his class. No worries here.

OF GODS AND GAMES | News