Revival of ancient customs prominent in Olympic festivities

The Municipality of Athens has asked British director Peter Greenaway (whose films include «The Belly of an Architect» and «The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover») to organize the highlight of the celebrations scheduled to take place all over Athens during the Olympic Games this summer. The celebration will be broadcast worldwide. The theme of the ambitious project, in which about 700 volunteers will participate, is a modern revival of the ancient Panathenaic procession and of the legendary birth of the marathon race, namely the arrival of the messenger Pheidippides in Athens to announce the victory of the Greeks over the Persians at the battle of Marathon, before falling down dead. Greenaway has made frequent visits to Athens during the past few months to discuss organizational details with Mayor Dora Bakoyannis. Along with his colleagues, he has also visited all the places the procession will pass by, before ending up at the Panathenaic Stadium where the celebration will reach its peak. Greenaway’s proposal consists of three things: a procession, a projection and a performance. Six 100-member groups will take part in the procession; each group will have its own band and color representing the hues of the Olympic flag. Each group will also have its own theme, which will be manifested in the participants’ clothes and actions. The first group, dressed in white and titled «Democracy and the Ancient World,» will set off from the Kerameikos archaeological site. The second group, dressed in green and depicting «Philosophy,» will join the procession at the Stoa of Attalos at the Ancient Agora, while the third group, «Architecture,» dressed in black, will set off from the Acropolis. The fourth group, clad in blue and depicting «Arts,» will meet at the Herod Atticus Theater, the fifth group,«Theater,» dressed in red, at the Ancient Theater of Dionysus and the sixth and final group, «Games,» all in yellow, at the Temple of Olympian Zeus. All groups will then proceed to the stadium. When the procession reaches the Acropolis, Greenaway’s film representing the modern marathon will be projected on the southern side of the Sacred Rock. In the film, which depicts contemporary man’s agonized struggle for world peace, different people will alternate in the role of Pheidippides, men and women, white and colored people, young and old. «Pheidippides» will show cities, industrial areas, the countryside, deserts, the sea and war fronts. The projection will continue at the Panethenaic Stadium, where a large celebration with musical games and digital effects will follow the arrival of the the procession. World-renowned designer Vivienne Westwood is in charge of the procession costumes. Organization of the event is almost complete, but, according to information, some contracts have yet to be signed, a delay which has caused Greenaway considerable concern and dissatisfaction, expressed in a recent letter to Bakoyannis.

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