Greece’s beautified capital city prepares for a magical Olympic Games

And Athens suddenly looks different, with wide avenues, bridges, the metro, trams, the suburban railway and the smooth flow of traffic downtown. Multicolored banners flutter from posts on the main roads. Prewar apartment blocks have been painted, while canvas covers neglected facades. Long lines in the sun for tickets show the visitors that Athenians, who usually leave town in the summer for the seaside, are determined to stay here and see the events live, not watch them on television from their sofas. The only tickets that were snapped up quickly were those for the opening and closing ceremonies, designed by the multi-talented director, dancer and painter Dimitris Papaioannou. His concept and the work of his dedicated colleagues – using music, dance, the human body, dreams and the memories we all have in our DNA – will be the theme of the ceremonies, which has been a carefully kept secret. The fact that the Sunday Mirror supposedly revealed moments from the phantasmagoric opening ceremony did not worry those who have faith in the climate Papaioannou has created. At 39, he has already won acclaim at home and abroad with performances by his Omada Edafous group. The original plan he proposed immediately won the approval of ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, and ever since the creator of «Medea» and «Forever» has devoted himself to the two ceremonies that will set the artistic tone of the Greek Olympiad. Another ace up the sleeve of the Greek Games are the three women in the officials stand: Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who has led the preparation and who welcomed IOC President Jacques Rogge in an Olympic outfit with shorts. Rogge said: «Greece is ready for very, very good Games.» Along with Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, and behind the Greek president, will be Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis and Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia. Beside the prime minister will be his wife Natassa, leaving the TV cameras with the dilemma of who is the fairest of them all. As for the Greeks, especially the Athenians, they are moving at an Olympic pace – the phrase of the moment – just as their ancient predecessors ran, as seen in the painting by Petros Zoumboulakis which is in the Athens Municipality’s «City Games» exhibition at the Technopolis complex in Gazi. Always timely, llias Lalaounis, who has made jewelry that is known in the great capitals abroad, has created a souvenir of another Athens, where sculpted runners, gold in the Greek light, run around a rock crystal sphere.

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