Unsung stars of Games opening
“My neighbors, in my apartment building, with whom I never really got on that well, sent me flowers with a card saying: ‘Thank you for giving us the opportunity to see the beauty of life again through your eyes.’ Isn’t that really moving? One of the greatest things that is happening ever since the opening ceremony [of the Olympic Games, on August 13] is that we have become emotional. It is the strength of the love we put into it… I think the feeling made its way out into the world.» Similar expressions of admiration and affection were also made to Dimitris Papaioannou, the talented orchestrator of the opening ceremony, during Kathimerini’s interview with him. We were sitting at a cafe in Koukaki and every so often someone would stop at our table, not just to congratulate, but thank him and tell him how he restored in them a sense of pride, made them feel they were «a part of the world.» There were housewives with children, elderly passers-by, young men and women, waiters, even the man who ran the souvlaki shop across the street came over to convey his wife’s blessings, while the cafe owner wouldn’t hear of taking money. «It makes me so happy. I love it,» said Papaioannou, his face beaming. «But I would like people to know that it must be equally attributed to all the people who worked and toiled to make the ceremony happen.» Do you feel the need to share the credit with everyone involved? Did you know that the narrative during the ceremony was performed by Olia Lazardiou in Greek, Amalia Moutousi in English and Aglaia Pappa in French, and that it was directed by Roula Pateraki. You see, there are a lot of things people don’t know, such as, for example, that the part of the ceremony titled «Clepsydra» [Hourglass], which was a parade of scenes from Greek mythology and history, was, in its entirety, the work of Angelos Mendis. He created, directed and executed that entire part of the show. We thought Mendis was responsible only for the very impressive body makeup in that section. The fantastic body makeup was all his, but Mendis is not simply a makeup artist. He is a great artist. I know because I have worked with him for years, but now we know what he really is and how much he can achieve. «Clepsydra» is his brain child. So, it was not your idea? It was my idea, but what counts is the manner in which it was done. I asked him to bring me some images of Greek art through the centuries and to find a way of bringing them to life. Angelos found an ingenious way of doing it. It was tasteful, moving and even fun. The figures looked like sugared candy! It reflected great sensitivity and artistry – and on a subject, furthermore, that we usually find too daunting to touch and thus make it academic and boring. Did he select the scenes that composed the parade? He chose what to keep and what to scrap from each historical period. I commissioned him to show us, within three months, what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. To our enormous surprise he brought us a full model of «Clepsydra,» complete with little models of people, plus four samples of real costumes. We were speechless! Dumbfounded! And the result you saw last week was much better than the model. What Mendis did to get it up and running was awesome. But he insisted that everything was done exactly as he wanted it. You saw how elegant, noble and sensual the atmosphere was. Who did he work with on «Clepsydra»? The movement was by Angeliki Stellatou, who was responsible for the choreography of the ceremony in general, and Fotis Nikolaou. The music was composed by Constantinos Vita, and the costumes and sets organized by Eleni Manolopoulou, except for the Geometric period, whose costumes were by Yiannis Mourikis. It was, of course, all under the supervision of Mendis, who also had the brilliant idea of the costumes being solid, like sculptures. You saw how they wore them, especially in the procession on the Classical period with the figures in relief. There was some confusion about the costumes. The general conception was that they were designed by Sophia Kokosalaki. Sophia was the costume director for the entire performance and designed all the other costumes; from the dress worn by Bjork to the vase costumes worn by the girls escorting each team in the parade of nations. So, to recap: Your personal assistants in the production and direction of the show were Tina Papanikolaou, Giorgos Matskaris and Kali Kavatha, while the overall stage design was by Lili Pezanou. Who succeeded in giving the feel of a theater to an enormous stadium. Lena Nikolakopoulou was responsible for the narrative texts. And she selected the beautiful verse of Seferis that was read by Lydia Koniordou. Athina Tsangari did the video presentations. We owe her the greeting from the astronauts as well. She made it all possible, she managed to contact the astronauts. A very difficult task. Giorgos Panousopoulos was the director of photography in the other videos and he was also invaluable in many other parts of the ceremony. What about the lighting for the stadium generally and for the show? Was it all done by Elfetheria Deko? She not only designed it, but also ran the show from the console. It was a Gargantuan effort – and she didn’t make a single slip-up. She had Thodoris Tsevas by her side at all times, as well as a lighting magician, Bob Dickinson, whom she brought on board, with great difficulty I might add. He is a very well-known lighting designer who has done many previous Olympics ceremonies as well as the Oscars. He is a marvelous man, who came not just to oversee our work, but to work with us. He never tried to interfere, and he was very generous in sharing his knowledge and experience.