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An Olympic Games unsullied by political protest, boycotts, violence or drug scandals is long overdue. Indeed, there is a sense in which the Games themselves are on trial over the next fortnight. Some all-too familiar charges are in the air again: that the Games are too commercial, embrace too many sports, are altogether unwieldy. Even the most fervent Olympian might concede that the way the Games have developed in the last two decades has not been entirely healthy, and that their reputation needs restoring. The athletes in Barcelona cannot solve the Games' problems on their own, but of course it is to them that we look to have our faith restored. What we want are inspiring performances, or at least brave and honest ones. Who will provide them? As the lone superpower the Americans should lead the way, with Africa surely taking another big step towards world sport's centre stage. Meanwhile, what comes out of the remnants of the old Soviet Union and eastern Europe will provide one of the Games' greatest fascinations. On these pages we concentrate on the leading Britons. We look at the competition day by day, and at the athletes for whom Barcelona represents the culmination of a lot of hard work, and the chance to claim the glory still unique to the Olympics.