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Athens, here we come É

Scoring tickets to events is an Olympian feat in itself

On the second Friday in August 2004, in front of 75,000 cheering spectators, a lone runner will carry a torch into the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece, and light the flame to open the Summer Games of the XXVIII Olympiad.

And Tracy Forrester of Portland will be there.

'I submitted a deposit almost two years ago to be on the top of the list,' she says.

The first in a series of ticket lotteries was held in May, and Forrester received all of her choices, including track and field, basketball, field hockey and wrestling, in what promises to be a historic competition.

The Olympic Games are returning to Greece for the first time since Athens hosted the inaugural modern Olympiad in 1896. Greece also is the birthplace of the Olympics. For nearly 12 centuries, dating to 776 B.C., Greeks staged athletic games every four years on the plains of Olympia.

Tonia Pajak of Portland has attended the Olympics four times and just bought tickets to see the games in Athens.

'I remember watching my first Olympics on TV in 1972,' says Pajak, a 40-year-old travel manager for General Electric. 'I was age 10, and ever since I've just loved the Olympic Games.

'It is eye-opening, seeing the people there from other countries. Some of them É dress up in the colors of their country and paint their faces ÑÊit's so much fun.'

Forrester, 30, and her husband, Joshua, 31, who own Ace Communication Services Inc., attended the Olympics for the first time in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. The event had extra meaning because her husband's friend Tom Pappas Ñ an Oregonian from Azalea Ñ competed in the decathlon.

'Being able to see somebody you know compete was thrilling,' Tracy says. 'And that feeling Ñ when the gold medal is given, and you hear your national anthem played Ñ is indescribable.'

Now that she has the tickets she wanted, Forrester is preparing for her next Olympic feat: planning what to see and where to stay.

'I have my little travel books already,' she says. 'As soon as I can figure out how to pronounce some of these things, I'll start planning!'