RIGA - With less than 40 days left until the Olympic Games in Athens, Latvia got into the Olympic spirit when it held the first ever Latvian Olympiad in Ventspils July 2 - 4. The event had all the trimmings of the real Olympics with a torch relay, opening ceremony and the threat of a Russian boycott.
The Olympiad consisted of athletes from 26 regions and 7 cities. Some were competing for a place with the Latvian Olympic team, while others were simply there to proudly represent their region.
Around 3,000 athletes competed in 23 different sports, with 213 medals given out in over 159 disciplines. According to the daily Diena, the turnout was generally low except for those events where an athlete from Ventspils was competing. As one would expect, the basketball games drew a larger crowd, as did those events where a place on the Olympic team was at stake, such as in the javelin throw.
In the women's javelin event, Ilze Gribule took gold with a throw of 55.63 meters, Lindu Brivuli took silver with 54.89 meters and Ingu Kozarenoku took bronze with 54.44 meters. All three will now likely head to Athens, but the final decision remains with the Latvian Olympic Committee, which also helped to organize the Olympiad.
For the men's javelin team, tried and trusted veterans Voldemars Lusis, Eriks Rags and Vadims Vasilevskis will all be representing Latvia at the Olympics.
Overall the games went smoothly with only a few minor miscommunication problems. There was the occasional false start, and in one incident it took medics some 10 minutes to get to an athlete after he fell ill after a race. Girts Lamba, a well-known Latvian athlete, told Diena that medical staff should be standing ready at the finish line at every race.
Following the success of these games, the organizers are already starting to think about the next games in four year's time. Riga and Valmiera are being considered as possible venues, although some officials believe that the games would be in danger of losing their regional feel if they are held in Riga.
Valmiera would need to first construct an arena suitable for holding the games if it is selected. The official Latvian Olympic team will be announced by the Latvian Olympic Committee on July 15.