CULTURE

Kallimarmaro’s history goes into print as the marble stadium is readied for 2004

When history repeats itself and a fine book reminds us of the event: The Olympic Games’ general secretary at the Culture Ministry, Constantinos Kartalis, had the idea that a book should be written about the history of the Panathenaic Stadium, still known as the Kallimarmaro for the fine white marble it is made of. The task was assigned to the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece; the book was written by archaeologist Aristea Papanikolaou-Christensen and the volume was jointly published by the Culture Ministry, the Olympic Games General Secretariat and the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece, which sells the book exclusively from its office at the old Parliament building in Kolokotroni Square on Stadiou Street. The book is exceptional and it fills a gap. As Kartalis told Helbi, all the foreign officials he guides around Athens ask to see the stadium after visiting the Parthenon, which is what happened with Yoshiro Mori, former primer minister of Japan, and that was when Kartalis realized that there was no book about the history of the stadium through the ages. But when he acted as guide to the present prime minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, just a few days ago, he had the impressive volume at hand with all the information, genuine prints and paintings by foreign travelers, architects’ designs and period photographs of its reconstruction by Anastassis Metaxas on the eve of the 1896 Games. This is when the work of renovating the stadium in marble, according to a design by Ernst Ziller taken from the ancient marble stadium built by Herod Atticus in the middle of the second century AD, was done. The expenses were paid by the Greek benefactor Georgios Averoff, whose statue is now located outside the stadium. At the 2004 Olympic Games, the archery competition will be held in the Kallimarmaro and the most popular event, the marathon, will also have its finish line there, in keeping with tradition. In the book is a photograph of Spyros Louis winning the marathon in the packed stadium, with the crowd cheering wildly as he completes the distance of 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles), from Marathon to the stadium in two hours 58 minutes. Greek athletes won a total of 10 events at those Games, which began on March 25 and lasted till April 3, 1896. Athletes participated from the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Hungary, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile and Australia.