Athens Olympic chiefs were squirming today as the Kostas Kenteris controversy refused to go away. Kenteris was forced to watch last night's opening ceremony on TV from his bed in the KAT hospital as he continued to recover from the injuries he sustained in a mysterious motorcycle accident on Thursday night.
IOC officials are still investigating the crash, and more specifically, the reasons why he, along with training partner Katerina Thanou, the reigning Olympic 200 metres champion, failed to turn up for a routine drug test in the athletes' Village on Thursday evening.
Had he not become embroiled in the ongoing controversy, it was widely anticipated that Kenteris would have been handed the honour of lighting the Olympic flame last night. Faced with the embarrassment of admission, it was a question Athens officials were keen to avoid, although they did confirm Kenteris was on an original 12-man shortlist.
Athens 2004 communications manager Michalis Zacharatos said: "Of course he was. He is an Olympic champion. The fact is we didn't make a final decision until yesterday morning, by which time Kostas had already informed us he wouldn't be fit enough to attend the opening ceremony."
In the end, sailor Nikolaos Kaklamanakis lit the flame, leaving the Hellenic Olympic Committee to deal with the Kenteris and Thanou issue at an emergency meeting of their executive board this afternoon.
Speculation is rising that the pair will either be expelled or withdraw from competition.
Meanwhile, the IOC claimed to be unaware of the intention of Iran's world judo champion Arash Miresmaili to pull out of his 60kg first-round clash with Israel's Ehud Vaks on religious grounds.
In his opening address last night, IOC president Jacques Rogge urged athletes to show us the spirit by overriding national, political, religious and language barriers.
However, it appears that Miresmaili, with the full backing of Iranian officials, has opted to snub Rogge as well as Vaks.
Filed by Mark O'Neill-Cummins