- Google News
- Athens 2004 Official Site
- Get tickets for the Olympics
- A brief timetable of events from the BBC
- Athens Olympic Games Blog
- Frenchman in Athens Blog (in French)
- A count of the Last Place Finishes
This is an account of life in an Olympic city. Capturing the final preparations before the Opening Ceremony as well as the Games themselves.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
NBC: An open letter to the Greek people
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Athens Olympic Firsts
I have made a short list of Athens Olympic firsts, I will share it with you, they are listed with no particular order:
- Most money spent on security (although this will be broken on the next Olympics)
- Most countries participating
- Most women athletes participating
- First time a DJ was used in the parade of the athletes during the Opening Ceremony (DJ Tiesto)
- More hours of TV coverage with the best ratings for Olympic Games
- First time that stamps with Olympic medalists were on sale on the day after the corresponding medal ceremony, well done ELTA! (Greek postal service)
- Spectators went to all the Olympic sites exclusively by public transport since access by private cars was not allowed in a large area around each venue
- A truly amazing Opening Ceremony, that managed to receive the unanimous praise of the World
- For the first time the Olympic flame traveled to all 5 continents, even to places that it has not been before (i.e. South Africa, India and Brazil), reaching a total of 260 million people
- First time that the website of the Games was truly tri-lingual (Greek, English, French)
- First time that online and offline branding of materials related with the Games was in synch
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Paraolympics are still Olympics
This is not because I do not value it as high, but because I have started working again in September so I am quite busy!
I have been following their coverage on TV and I have some comments to make:
- The attendance in the Athens Paraolympics is beyond the wildest dreams reaching 750,000 tickets, compared to the empty stadia at Sydney 4 years ago.
- The support for the athletes has been really warm, not only for the winning athletes but the less succesful as well. I have watched a wheelchair basketball game between Greece and Japan, were the Greek team lost really badly to Japan, still the crowd cheered every attempt until the very end.
- For various reasons people with disabilities in Greece have been living in the shadows of society. These Games have provided a great opportunity for the people of Greece to realise the needs and capabilities of these people. I am glad to say that the response of the public has been very encouraging and can be easily seen by the large crowds in the Paraolympic Games. A whole new infrastructure has been developed for these people and although it is not as good as other developed nations, it is a good start.
- The sportscasters on NET (Greek State TV that covers the Games), have been the only underwhelming part of the puzzle. Most of them did not know how to handle the occasion and have made a number of unfortunate (in my opinion) comments about people with disabilities
- The Opening Ceremony was very good, I loved the massive tree in the middle of the arena, as well as the way the flame was lit.
What I do not know about is the coverage the Games are getting abroad, is TV showing anything of the Paraolympic Games? what are the comments like?
Thursday, September 02, 2004
The farewell of the volunteers
For me, the volunteers were one of the most impressive elements of this Olympiad, they always smiled and were willing to help but also extremely effective in their job.
I heard one of the crowd control volunteers bidding farewell to his post by saying something like:
"Ladies and gentlemen, in a few minutes I will have to say goodbye to my beloved loudspeaker. We had some great fun together but now I will have to let her go. Goodnight" :-))))
29th Aug, Closing Ceremony, Let the party begin
So lets start from the end and the Closing Ceremony.
The atmosphere on the way to the event was far different from the one in the Opening Ceremony. During the Opening Ceremony there was a big sense of anticipation and excitement on the one hand, but on the other there was some numbness on what is going to happen, will the stadium roof collapse? Are terrorists going to strike? And other similar worries.
16 days later, after an extremely successful Olympiad, with all their fears dispelled, their bellies full of souvlaki and their heads lighter from ouzo, the mood of the spectators walking to the main Olympic stadium was far different. They had a hangover of happiness and a sense of nostalgia that the Games were nearly over.
This time the goodies bag was given to us immediately after passing the 2nd ticket check at the stadium. I do not know why they chose this method this time. But afterwards I heard some people complaining that they did not get a bag because they were late.
The Closing Ceremony was radically different from the Opening one. My theory is that the Opening one was a statement to the World: We are Greeks and this is what we are capable of. A sign that we mean business after all the international criticism. It seems that it worked really well.
Having established a lot of credibility with the Opening Ceremony and the very successful games, the Closing Ceremony was a party for all the people involved. By speaking to people that saw it on TV, I believe that the amazing atmosphere at the stadium that night was not transmitted over the ether.
Everybody present at the stadium had an amazing Olympiad and did not want it to end. They wanted to party. The choice of music on the first part was very careful, so that it is familiar to all the visitors of the stadia during these Games. All these Greek songs were on the loudspeaker playlists of all the venues. They were ageless Greek classics (including damned Zorba) that visitors would have also heard in any tourist establishment of Athens. So everyone was clapping and dancing, the Greeks because of the ageless classics, the foreign visitors because these songs were associated with something really special.
I really enjoyed the first part of the ceremony, it had some really good touches, like the balloons with the snippets of Greek art hanging below them. I laughed at the gypsy half truck with the water melons. This is a classic image of Greek summer, gypsies selling water melons from Datsun half trucks. Papaioannou this time created snapshots of contemporary Greek life as opposed to the Greek history snapshots of the Opening Ceremony.
The whole theme of the Closing Ceremony was “partying” people having a good time.
When the rye was collected by the actors, they went to the lower tiers of the stands and started offering it to the people. I managed to get one, it is made of plastic and wire and will always remind me of that night. There were some people who managed to collect whole bunches of them, so expect them to show up on ebay at some point!
I have to admit that I found the Chinese contribution a bit boring and touristy. I am a big fan of Chinese culture and was expecting something more original…
The girl that blew out the flame was from the SOS Village of Athens, a charity that fosters orphan children.
The second part of the Ceremony, with the song medleys was the weakest link. Especially some of the songs chosen, which I think were not as appropriate.
Anna Vissy, the woman with the mini skirt, is around 50 years old (if not more), she did not copy J.Lo …she could be her grandma!
The Greek artists that were chosen to sing are the closest we have to international stars (except the old classics: Vangelis, Yanni, Nana Mousaka and Demis Rousos). You will probably find their CD’s in the World Music section of your local record store, or Amazon for that matter. If you need help with the names, drop me a line.
After the athletes entered, there were a lot of athlete groups that were doing a lap of honour around the stadium. I spotted a group of Russians, a group of Greeks with a large flag and few British.
Right in front of us there were some athletes with yellow t-shirts (probably Australians?) that were playing freesbee!
Unfortunately I could not see the fireworks very well from my seat but I could certainly hear the noise and smell the gunpowder!
My impression is that this time there were far more fireworks than in the Opening!
After the end of the Ceremony and as most people had left, there were “scavengers” trawling the stadium stands, looking for Olympic souvenirs… expect these to show up on ebay as well!
One unfortunate (?) potential spectator
As I have mentioned in my previous post (the one about ticket touts), one of touts' dirty tricks was to sell Accreditation Only tickets (that are meant only for people who are somehow associated with the Games, beyond the spectator function), to ordinary people. This ticket is useless without an accreditation photocard (the rectangle laminated thing dangling in front of athletes, coaches, volunteers, etc).
So you might ask, what do you care?
I have bought my Olympics tickets more than a year ago, at a time that most people in Greece were claiming that they will be on holiday and they have no interest in attending for X Y Z reasns. In the last few days of the Games there has been an amazing surge of interest by all these people who came back from their holidays or just suddenly realised that they will miss the Olympics and started frantically looking for a ticket, any ticket to any event. Because they are so “clever” they (offcourse) want the above mentioned ticket to be really cheap. If it was up to them they would have liked to be paid for attending.
Since they had no previous interest in the Olympics they had no clue what is going on, how the tickets look like, where they are sold, how much they cost etc.
At various occasions when I was outside a stadium to sell my spare tickets I always warned the above mentioned people to be very careful when someone was selling them half price tickets for soldout events…most of the times I was completely ignored or even laughed at (because I was selling my tickets at full/cost price).
Well I hope that lady learned her lesson. Unfortunately I do not know if she was allowed inside, I sincerely doubt so.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
The voice of the people...
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
A few words on "empty seats"
I think this is an extremely unfair thing to say on behalf of the international press.
First of all I do not think that there is anything wrong in wanting to see your own athletes/teams, especially if you have to pay €200-300 to see a final that your country does not compete in.
From personal experience I can say that most stadia were at least 1/2-3/4 full, with Athletics always packed. There is so much Greek people can afford...to pay for tickets, and believe me they have bought the majority of tickets sold in the last few weeks.
Okay some 9am Badminton qualifying games had few people in them, isn't that normal?
The football final at 10am on a Saturday morning had 41,000 people, I think this is an amazing crowd.
In general the Greek people had 3 strategies in buying tickets:
- See our own guys
- See sports that we will never see again, this is why Cayak slalom was completely soldout for all days (and I did not manage to see it...), same applies to Beach Volleyball but for different reasons
- See famous teams/athletes compete (i.e. football final)
So who was missing from the crowds? all the foreign tourists, mainly the US, who were scared for their lives. Why didn't they come? they were scared away by the very same journalists that now complain about empty seats...
So yes we accept the apology of all these journalists that they misjudged us, but please do not accuse us for the supposedly empty, thats your fault as well!
"Our dogs are not trained to read. They are trained to find bombs." A spokesman for the Athens organisers after a reporter from a British Sunday tabloid newspaper had planted a series of false packages in the Olympic Stadium that said: "Hello. I am a bomb."
Times Online - Olympics
If only they had Laura Peek publish an apology as well. For those who might not know the story, Laura Peek is the intrepid Times reporter who was caught entering the Olympic complex at night time, trying to prove that there was no security at the building site etc etc. After she was caught she tried to change her story so as not to embarass herself.
Athenians laughed at her for many days in early June. I am glad now her superiors at The Times did the right thing and apologise!