Completing the Olympic circle

Aug. 14, 2004, midnight | By Seema Kacker | 16 years, 10 months ago

Games return to birthplace of Greece

The 28th Olympiad of the modern era, officially commenced yesterday night at 11:15 p.m. in Athens, Greece, following a momentous 3-hour opening ceremony. The event was filled with expositions symbolic of Greek life and legends, and emphasized fire, water and the ancient Greek Gods.

The ceremony was held in a newly redesigned stadium that includes an ornately suspended arched roof. Approximately 73,000 spectators were seated. The floor of the stadium was filled with 500,000 gallons of water, covering nearly 104,000 square feet. The theme of water exemplified the Greek dependence on the Aegean Sea. No part of the country is more than 85 miles from the water.

The opening event began with hundreds of drummers descending into the water in the stadium, emitting a constant, solid heartbeat. A massive statue was then raised above the water and split into smaller pieces, representative of the islands of ancient Greece. The islands then floated down majestically, and were laid on the water's surface. Other highlights included Mihlas Patsapzis, a nine-year-old boy who sailed across the flooded stadium in a large paper boat while he smiled and waved a Greek flag. His youthful, energetic appeal delighted the audience. A man also danced on top of a cube above the water, symbolizing humans' intellectual curiosity and growth.

The Greeks presented a procession of ornate floats exhibiting different aspects of Greek life over time. Examples of float themes include the Greek Gods, theater, mathematics, the Church and government.

Athletes, adorned in national attire, then waved flags enthusiastically as they filled the stadium during the "Parade of Nations". The procession was slightly different than in previous years. Normally, Greece leads the parade as the original home of the Olympic games. However, custom also denotes that the host must be last. As a compromise, Greek weightlifter and national hero Pyrros Dimas began the line with the Greek flag, and the rest of the delegation marched at the end. Also different from previous years, countries were introduced in order of the Greek alphabet.

Other notable changes included the appearance of Iraq, who had not been to the games since 1992, and Afghanistan, who had not been present since 1999. Both delegations brought women to compete in the games for the first time. South and North Korea marched together as they did in the Sydney games. They will not, however, compete as a united country.

The ceremony concluded with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by Greek Olympic gold medallist sailor Nikolaos Kaklamanakis. Prior to reaching its destination, the torch traveled through every former summer games host city, passing over nearly 50,000 miles and 26 countries.

The Olympic games were created 28 centuries ago in Olympia, Greece. This past has made the Greeks particularly proud of hosting this year's games. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge emphasized this history, saying, "The world is honoring and thanking you tonight for the organization of the Olympic Games, which are coming back to their roots." Additionally, this year patched up the harsh disapointment the Greeks suffered as a result of not being allowed to host the Centennial 1996 Olympic games.

The games will consist of 11,000 athletes from 202 nations. This vast participation has set a new record. The estimated audience worldwide of last night's events was nearly 4 billion. This number is large but not surprising, as the Olympics have usually served as a world-unifying event. This year should not be any different.

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Seema Kacker. Seema is a senior in the magnet this year, and is thrilled to be a part of the Online senior staff. She also plays tennis. More »

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