Olympic Movement


Olympic Rings return to historic Athens stadium

Olympic Rings return to historic Athens stadium
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Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) President and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Spyros Capralos has welcomed the return of giant Olympic Rings to the stadium in Athens which staged the first Olympic Games of the modern era.

They have returned to Panathenaic Stadium after an absence of almost 12 years. "It is a great moment for the Hellenic Olympic Committee and I cannot hide my joy but also my emotion, because the symbol of the Olympic Games has returned after many years," Capralos said.

Now all Greeks and foreigners who visit the Panathenaic Stadium will remember the presence of the Olympic Circles and the historic sporting events that took place there

The Rings have once again been installed above the bend of the track at the far end of the Stadium from the main entrance.

"We had to overcome many obstacles for the placement of the Olympic Rings and I have to thank the Ministry of Culture for issuing the relevant permits," Capralos said.

He also paid tribute to Hellenic Archery Federation President and HOC member Petros Synadinos.

"He personally dealt with the issue and had a decisive contribution to their placement," Capralos added.

The project was carried out with the backing of HOC gold sponsor Mytilineos.SA. and  supporters Sidenor.SA.

The Olympic Rings were first flown in 1914 so they were not present for the first Olympic Games of the modern era, held in Athens in 1896.

The Stadium, originally built some 2,500 years old, had been excavated and renovated for the occasion with support of Georgios Averoff, an expatriate Greek businessman.

Athletics, gymnastics, weightlifting and wrestling were all held there during the Games.

Arguably the greatest moment came when Spiridon Louis, a Greek shepherd entered the stadium to win the Marathon.

It was also used for the 1906 Olympian Games which held to mark the 10th anniversary of the first Olympics.

In 1936, the Olympic Flame also arrived there from Ancient Olympia for a Ceremony to entrust it to representatives of the host city, a tradition which has continued at most Olympic Games since then.

The Rings were illuminated for a commemorative event in 1996 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Olympics attended by then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

A re-enactment of the original athletics events from 1896 was held before the Olympic Flame for Atlanta completed its journey around Greece.

Within the Stadium, a symbolic Torch Relay included representatives of all previous host cities of the Games.

The Opening Ceremony of the 1997 World Athletics Championships was also held there with specially composed music from Vangelis and a light show.

The Panathenaic Stadium hosted the finish of the Olympic marathons during Athens 2004 ©Getty Images
The Panathenaic Stadium hosted the finish of the Olympic marathons during Athens 2004 ©Getty Images

During the 2004 Olympics, archery was held in the venue and both marathons also finished on the historic track.

In 2021, it did not prove possible to hold the  IOC Session in Athens as scheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead it was held was held online but Capralos made the opening declaration from the precincts of the Stadium.

Later in the year a new floodlighting system was inaugurated at the Stadium with IOC President Thomas Bach amongst those attending.

The Handover Ceremony for the Paris 2024 Olympic Flame is expected to take place in spring next year before it begins its sea voyage to Marseille.
Photo: Artemis Ignatiou
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