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Swiss athletes chase medals at Athens Olympics

(Keystone)

Switzerland has sent just under 100 athletes to this year’s Olympic Games, which officially opened on Friday in Athens.

Under the slogan “one team – one spirit”, the team hopes to come away with at least five medals from the Games in the Greek capital.

The 28th Summer Olympics, which this year take place in the country that invented the ancient games, present the Swiss team with many challenges.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Swiss won a record nine medals – one gold, six silver and two bronze.

But team leader Werner Augsburger is playing down any chance of a repeat performance in Athens.

“It won’t be as easy to do as well as we did in Sydney,” said Augsburger.

The 2004 team is smaller than it has been at previous Olympics, but Swiss athletes will still be competing in 16 disciplines.

And even if the Swiss are not so strong in the mainstream events – despite the presence of 800m runner André Bucher and 800m freestyle swimmer Flavia Rigamonti - the country stands a good chance in the less traditional sports.

Roger Federer

All eyes will be on two-times Wimbledon tennis champion Roger Federer, judo champion Sergei Aschwanden, fencer Marcel Fischer, and triathlete Brigitte McMahon.

Other medal hopes include beach volleyball, which has two men’s pairs in the world top ten, and the cycling and show jumping teams.

If the Swiss cannot manage the Sydney tally or even the seven medals won in Atlanta, they will be hoping to avoid the disappointment of the 1992 games in Barcelona, in which they only won one gold medal.

The Swiss Olympic Association is this year giving SFr20,000 ($15,000) to each winner of a gold medal, SFr18,000 for silver medals and SFr15,000 for bronze. Smaller sums will be given to those placed fourth to eighth.

The amounts are comparable to those awarded at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Honour

The Swiss team will be presided over by Swiss-Greek Michel Georgiou, who is the Olympic attaché this year.

The athletes are being lodged in three houses in the Olympic Village, although several are staying elsewhere.

The team will have the chance to celebrate any victories in the newly-opened House of Switzerland, situated at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens’ old town.

In total, the budget for the Swiss Olympic adventure is SFr2.69 million, an increase on the SFr2.1 million set aside for Sydney.

Georgiou will be among those taking part in the Swiss Olympic procession at the opening ceremony – a double celebration as it will also be his birthday.

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux

Key facts

The Olympics run from 13-24 August 2004 and include:
28 sports and 37 disciplines.
35 competition venues.
10,500 athletes and 6,000 officials from 202 countries.
99 Swiss athletes – 60 men, 39 women.

end of infobox

In brief

The Swiss are hoping for between five and nine medals this year.

Hopes are pinned on: Roger Federer (tennis), Patrick Heuscher/Stefan Kobel (beach volleyball), Sergei Aschwanden (judo), Brigitte McMahon (triathlon), Marcel Fischer (fencing).

Plus: Franco Marvulli/Bruno Risi (track cycling), Christophe Sauser (mountain biking), Markus Fuchs (show jumping).

end of infobox


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