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The pool at the Games
The Panathenean Stadium

Athens Olympic Guide

Thursday, July 15, 2004
As Athens takes is its mark, Natalie is discovering more than the Olympics, but a city steeped in history and romance.

Anyone who was in Australia — particularly Sydney — this time four years ago have some idea about what the Greeks — particularly Athenians — are going through right now: Preparing to host an Olympic Games where the eyes of the world are upon your city.

Being host to the big event is a huge responsibility, and there are always critics who say it will never be finished in time and it won't be as good as the last one. Add the unpredictable nature of the weather and workers' strikes and it's enough to give you a giant headache.

However, the Greeks are on a roll, and winning the world soccer championships a couple of weeks ago must have given their confidence and enthusiasm a huge lift.

Athens is in overdrive as it hasn't hosted the Olympics since 1896. In true Greek fashion and tradition, they promise they will be ready for the opening of the XXVIII Summer Olympic Games. And, being the birthplace of the Olympic Games, first staged in 776 BC, they have a particular pride to uphold.

Athens will be host to 10,500 fit and excited athletes, from 199 countries, involved in 28 disciplines at 38 venues. 301 medal ceremonies will take place and 3000 team officials will ensure everything runs smoothly.

The Greek version of the Olympic torch, which earlier this year journeyed to Australia, is 68cms long, weighs 700 grams and resembles an olive leaf. The emblem of the Olympic Games is an olive wreath and the olive tree is the sacred tree of Athens.

Most of the city's famous squares have been revamped and underground parking areas have been built. Restoration around the entrance to the Acropolis, Parthenon, Hadrian Library and Roman Agora has been completed, and classical buildings in the centre of the city have been renovated.

The Panathenean Stadium, built in the 4th century BC, has been amazingly preserved and was the focal point of the 1896 Games which were opened by King George 1 of Greece.

The crowning glory and final event of Modern Olympics is the Marathon, but this time it takes on another facet. It will follow the original course run 2500 years ago. Legend says the Athenian messenger Phiedippides ran 26.385 miles to take news of victory from the battlefield of Marathon. Participants will be in the very footsteps of the ancient gods and heroes who gave birth to western civilization. The finish line is in the Panathenean Stadium.

The Plaka is Athens' most ancient living quarters. The narrow streets are already filled with Olympic souvenir shops, amongst the fashion boutiques and cafes selling Greek delicacies and excellent coffee.

So the Metro is ready, the hotels are shiny and ready, The Athenians are ready and the excitement is spreading in anticipation of the opening on August 13.


Athens, the capital of Greece


The Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre has three-night packages, including twin share accommodation, breakfast each day, airport transfers and an Athens City tour starting at $322 per person. These prices do not apply during the Olympic Games period.
Qantas flies daily to London with British Airways connections to Athens starting at $2941 from Melbourne, $2957 from Sydney, $2984 from Brisbane, $3104 from Perth, $3107 from Adelaide and $3687 from Darwin, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre
646 Botany Road
Alexandria 2015
Ph: 1300 661 666
Fax: (02) 9313 4475

Qantas: 13 13 13

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