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Cape Town loses to Athens
CAPE TOWN'S noisy street party came to a stunned halt shortly before 7.00PM as the city learnt that it had lost the Olympic Games for 2004 to Athens.

CAPE TOWN'S noisy street party came to a stunned halt shortly before 7.00PM as the city learnt that it had lost the Olympic Games for 2004 to Athens. The city had been buoyed all afternoon by confident speakers assuring a vast crowd at the Grand Parade that it was "in the bag".

There was some compensation in the revelation that the Cape Town presentation to the International Olympic Committee was the only one to receive a standing ovation. And twenty minutes later, the party had started up again, as TV commentators turned philosophical, saying the bid had helped improve infastructure, and that it was rare for a city to win on its first attempt.


CITIZENS of Cape Town are bracing themselves for the "mother of all parties" when the International Olympic Committee selects the host for the 2004 Olympics on Friday.

Win or lose, officials in Cape Town are planning to throw a massive parade, concert, discos and other functions on Friday to celebrate the Olympic efforts.

Cape Town is one of five finalist cities bidding to host the 2004 games. The others are Rome and Athens, seen as frontrunners, Stockholm and Buenos Aires. The IOC will make the announcement around 1700GMT on Friday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Up to 70 000 people are expected to descend on Cape Town's city centre for the spectacle, which will be broadcast live, and police reinforcements hadve been ordered to prevent "vandalism and hooliganism." Unnofficial celebrations at the commercial Waterfront district will accompany a huge bash at the Grand Parade grounds, opposite Cape Town's city hall, and a parade through the port city.

"I appeal to our citizens and our many visitors to not only show support for our Olympic bid, but also to demonstrate that we can stage a celebration that will mirror a united and orderly front," acting provincial premier Gerard Morkel said.

President Nelson Mandela is expected to deliver the grande finale of Cape Town's final presentation to the IOC on Friday morning, amid hopes that his stature as a statesman will be a deciding factor in attracting votes for the city.

The punters have now pushed Cape Town well down the list of potential Olympic winners, with the three European cities of Rome, Stockholm and Athens now considered the frontrunners, and with Cape Town and Buenos Aires the "outsiders". But the good news, as one senior official summed it up, is: "There is still fog everywhere in this one."