CULTURE

World saw Greece’s face and recognized itself

At the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Greece showed its face to the world, and the world looked and recognized itself. Once again, the little country – that some in the IOC said a month before the Olympics should not hold the Games because it couldn’t get ready on time – has performed a miracle. Not only did it present Athens looking unrecognizable, completely modern, with new fast traffic lanes, flyovers and a full public transport system, but Greeks have responded to official requests to leave their cars at home and use public transport and to respect the dedicated Olympic family traffic lanes if driving. Then came the high-quality spectacle, showing what moves the Greek spirit – its heritage and history which it shares with the West. With the XXVIII Olympiad, Athens has shown the meaning of moderation and simplicity. It put wings on music and feeling and sent a message of love to the whole world from the floodlit stadium. Eros flying with his bow and arrow, the olive tree, symbol of Athens and gift of the wise goddess Athena, rose up from the water. In its shadow, IOC President Jacques Rogge and ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, in an unadorned white Valentino dress, spoke and formally welcomed the guests and athletes. Then came the unique vision of art director Dimitris Papaioannou, who made a superhuman effort and encouraged everyone to give their best. The procession through time, through mythology, antiquity, Byzantium, the struggle of 1821 till today, with the musicians on a lamplit stage, the sailors and soldiers of the great artist Yiannis Tsarouchis drinking to our health, made the Greeks proud and touched the visitors. «I’m not important,» Papaioannou, who is now 40, told K magazine. «What I’ve been asked to do is important.» With the closing ceremony to come, which will be «like a party on the terrace with friends» says the director, the Games are going peacefully and well, and everyone hopes they will conclude that way. The Greeks have raised our expectations for the next Games, commented foreign journalists, and TIME magazine devoted its centerfold to magical moments from the opening ceremonies. Here are some of the officials who were there, as spectators on this occasion.