ATHENS 2004 CEREMONIES


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Greece enchanted the world

Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony

 

Greece enchanted the world, the Greeks surpassed every expectation and it was the best Olympic Games opening ceremony in history, was the opinion given to the Athens News Agency (ANA) by most foreign correspondents who watched the spectacular opening ceremony of the 28th Olympic Games at the Athens Olympic stadium on Friday night.

"Athens is the flame which lit up the world," said John Mehaffey, Reuter's chief editor of the sports department in London. "I feel privileged to be experiencing and attending the Athens Olympic Games today," he added. "This was one of the best opening ceremonies I have ever watched," said Tomas Hann, a sports reporter of the German newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung."

Elizabeth Sotiriadou, a freelance journalist working for BBC and Swedish Radio, said on her part "I was brought up in Sweden by Greek parents, but today I feel proud more than ever that I am Greek." Adam Hirshfield, the sports correspondent of the website of "USA Today" said of the opening ceremony "it was something authentic. It was something very Greek. It was something very beautiful."

Greek President Costantinos Stephanopoulos declared the Games open after a spectacular theatrical celebration and procession of athletes.

The almost four-hour ceremony set the tone for the eagerly awaited "Olympic homecoming", 108 years after the modern Games were revived in Athens. Press leaks apparently added to the anticipation for the "Olympic homecoming" Opening Ceremony, although two dress rehearsals this past week merely confirmed that "all systems are go" for probably the biggest performance ever given at the Olympics.

Bjork's performance will undoubtedly be a show-stopper. The singer from Iceland appeared on the stage with a floor-length gown.

One of the central pieces of the show was a huge 17.3-meter-high replica of the head of a Cycladic statue rising out of the water that covered the stadium floor. As this prehistoric era statue rose above the stadium, it disintegrated slowly, revealing first the statue of a young man in the stiff style of the Archaic era (known as a kouros) before this too disintegrated to reveal the relaxed and realistic statue of a young man in the style we now know as Classical, which represents the Classical age of Athens in the fifth century BC and which is best expressed by the Acropolis and its temples.

The traditional parade of athletes was followed by a tribute to past Olympic host-cities, the last segment before the opening of the Games and the raising of the Olympic flame, the reciting of the Olympic oaths, the journey of the Olympic Torch, the lighting of a cauldron, designed by the architect that created the state-of-the-art roof over OAKA, Santiago Calatrava, and the finale.

Olympic gold medallist Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, the last torchbearer carrying the Olympic Flame, lit the huge torch in the Olympic Stadium, officially concluding the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games.  Before reaching Kaklamanakis, the torch was passed from renowned basketball player Nikos Gallis to veteran football star Dimitrios Domazos, and Olympic gold medallists Paraskevi Patoulidou, Akakios Kahiasvili and Ioannis Melissanidis.

Olympic medallist Pyrros Dymas opened the ceremony, bearing the flag of the Greek Olympic Team. 

"The Opening Ceremony is a unique opportunity for modern Greece to share its joy in, and pride of the centuries of its history; a history that gave birth to ideas, values and principles, which enlighten us all today. Democracy, philosophy, theater, sport itself, the Olympic Games – all were born in Greece," concept creation and artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou wrote in the media guide circulated just hours before the highly-anticipated ceremony.

More than 2,100 cubic meters of water were used to fill the main performance area, with the water covering some 9,600 square meters of  the stadium floor’s surface. Organizers said it took six hours to fill the space with water, but only three minutes to drain via 10 high-speed drainage valves. An underground reservoir will hold 2.3 million liters of water. Some 10,000 meters of fabric have been used for the 2,428 volunteer performers. 

More Opening Ceremony media coverage:

"Athens 2004 starts with splendid ceremony" – ekathimerini.com…

"Welcome Home Olympic Games" – ERT (Greek public TV)…

"Games come home in ancient and modern glory" – Reuters…

"Olympics get global cheers" – Reuters…

 "Greek reunion with the past begins" – International Herald Tribune…

"Myth, Music and Majesty" – Washington Post…

"No Greek tragedy, just sheer triumph" – The Age…

"Opening ceremony 'a perfect 10'" – Herald Sun…

"Athens Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Was Mesmerizing" – GamesBids.com…

"Just magic, Opening ceremony helps to lift hearts and hopes" – The Calgary Sun…

Choreographing the Olympics:

"Dimitris Papaioannou biography" – Greece Now…

"Athens has a secret" – Cultureguide.gr…

"Opening Ceremony Image Gallery" – Athens 2004…

"Best of the Opening Ceremony" – Getty Images…