Greece is the cradle for several remarkable things that still have their impact on the world. One of the things making Athens famous, is that the very first modern Olympic Games were held here in 1896. While the Greeks built a completely new stadium for the 2004 Olympics, the ancient stadium is the Panathinaiko Stadium in the city. It is the only marble stadium in the world, and was originally built in ancient times. It was here that Panathenaic Games were held in ancient Greece - in honour of the Greek goddess Athena, goddess of wisdom and heroic endeavour. Originally built in wood, it was turned into a unique marble stadium in 329BCE, later expanded by Herodes Atticus to make the stadium's capacity an amazing 50.000. The Panatinaiko Stadium was excavated and reestablished for a first attempt to organize the Olympics again in 1870 and 1875, and was again refurbished in 1895 for the first modern Olympics in 1896.
The stadium is also called Kallimarmaron - beautiful marble. The marble was taken from the same quarry as the marble used for the Parthenon. Another feature that distinguishes this stadium from modern ones, is that one side of it is open: it is U-shaped, like a paper clip. It enables you to fully appreciate the size of the stadium. As you approach Panathinaiko Stadium, it is clear that the clever Greeks found a perfect place for it: between two low hills on either side, the Kallimarmaron fitted perfectly in a natural surrounding. It does not only function as a stadium - with the annual arrival of the Athens Marathon, and the archery discipline and finish of the marathon of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The Greeks also use it to honour their sport heroes: the Greek national football team was received here after winning the 2004 European Championship. Furthermore, the classic stadium is featured on Olympic medals starting those of 2004.
When I approached the Panathinaiko Stadium, i tried to imagine how it would feel to approach this stadium in a race, the stadium filled with cheering audience. Although difficult to conceive, with the traffic behind, and the empty marble in front of me - but it must be amazing. The black track, the creamy white marble, the odd shape unlike the oval ones of modern stadiums, everything seemed remarkable about the Kallimarmaron. The fence of the main entrance was closed, and so were the fences of the surrounding park. Since I wanted to get in anyway, I searched for a way by walking around it - and indeed, found an open gate at the other side. Here, locals were training for the lack of places to run in this polluted and runner-unfriendly city: one of them told me that running one way from one side to the other was almost exactly 500 metres. I climbed the stairs that were put here for the 2004 Olympics, and the view I had so much wanted to see, unfolded itself in front of my eyes. The enormous marble stadium, the track that suddenly seemed so small, the view over the city with Likavettos and Acropolis at a distance. And above me, 5 enormous Olympic rings.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Panathinaiko Stadium (Greece). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Panathinaiko Stadium.
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