I think the most powerful part of any Olympics for me is the marathon competition. All of the other events have their drama and history, but the Marathon is timeless. A messenger running a great distance to relay the results of a battle and then collapses and dies. Every time this event takes place in the Olympics I think that it is truly a historical event that transcends the actual running.
Back in 2000, my wife and I completed the Honolulu Marathon. I am not ashamed of the pathetic time that I logged that day, which was something north of 6 hours which I could blame on an improperly cut toenail if you were to believe my excuses. More important to me than the time was the actual finish, which I viewed as a personal accomplishment much greater than my attendance at Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, The Rose Parade, getting good grades, etc.
On that day, I could really understand what it could be like to run 26 miles, deliver a message, and die.
Congratulations to Athens on a wonderful 2004 Olympics. I really enjoyed it.