High jumper to light Olympic cauldron

Updated: August 7, 2004, 4:08 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Greek Olympic high jumper Niki Bakoyianni will light the Olympic cauldron at the ancient Acropolis hill on the eve of the opening ceremony, officials said Saturday.

Bakoyianni, the silver medalist in the high jump at the 1996 Olympics, will light the flame on Aug. 12 on the "sacred rock," as Greeks call the hill.

The flame of the Aug. 13-29 games has traveled around the world to 35 cities in 27 countries before making its way back to Greece. The relay will end with the lighting of the cauldron in the main stadium on Friday.

Costas Kenteris, who won the 200-meter gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Games, is expected to ignite the cauldron at the stadium.

Testing positive
Irish distance runner Cathal Lombard tested positive for the banned drug EPO and could be suspended for two years, Irish officials said Saturday.

Lombard was scheduled to compete in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the Athens Olympics.

A spokesman for Ireland's Olympic team said the test was discovered by the Irish Sports Council, who then informed Athletics Ireland. EPO stimulates the growth of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Lombard, 28, has a hearing Monday. The Olympics begin Friday.

"It will reflect badly on the sport of athletics and will hang a cloud over the rest of the team," Athletics Ireland spokeswoman Patsy McGonagle said.

Lombard is Ireland's record-holder in the 10,000.

Safe and sound
Athens is ready to host "excellent" Olympic Games in a secure environment, Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis said Saturday.

"The Olympic venues are ready to host the grand sporting and cultural event," Caramanlis said, adding he appreciated the "great effort of all of those who worked at the Olympic sites."

Caramanlis, accompanied by Athens Organizing Committee president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, spoke after visiting the Olympic shooting and equestrian venues in Markopoulo. They also visited the Olympic rowing and canoeing center in Schinias.

Greece got off to a slow start in preparing for the Olympics because of political infighting and bureaucracy. Organizers are still putting the finishing touches on many projects.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press