CULTURE

A celebration of humanity

“In the opening ceremony, we looked at an ancient statue straight in the eye, while in the closing ceremony, we will gaze upon a human face when it is dancing and celebrating. It won’t be just the spectators dancing but the athletes as well and there will also be lots of fireworks.» Dimitris Papaioannou tried to convey the atmosphere of the end to the Olympic festivities, as he has conceived it and the way it will be staged tomorrow at the Olympic stadium. «It will be a celebration of humanity, full of music and songs. We will dance in the Greek way and we will have a mosaic of musical pieces from all over Greece which will flow constantly, like a river of energy,» he added. In the first part of the ceremony, vocalists Chronis Aidonidis, Domna Samiou, Marinella, Giorgos Dalaras, Haris Alexiou, Dimitra Galani and Yiannis Parios will participate, under the direction of Stavros Xarchakos. The second part, directed by Dionysis Savvopoulos, will feature singers Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Anna Vissi, Alkistis Protopsalti, Antonis Remos, Michalis Hadziyiannis, Sakis Rouvas and Dionysis Savvopoulos himself. For a few minutes, the stadium’s arena will turn into a huge granary which will replace the striking lake of the opening ceremony. On this field of 14,000 stalks of wheat, groups that are «a powerful part of Greek tradition» will dance. «Participants will include 100 bell-carriers (koudounatoi), who date back to ancient times, and 60 Pontian dancers.» For the first time, the award ceremony for the men’s marathon race has been incorporated into the closing ceremony, to honor Spyros Louis who won the marathon race in 1896. The race itself will also take place tomorrow. After the award ceremony, the parade of the athletes will start to the sounds of a percussion band. Speeches by Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis and IOC President Jacques Rogge will follow and then, in an eight-minute ceremony, the Olympic Flame will be handed over to Beijing, which will host the 2008 Olympic Games. Eight volunteers who were chosen by lot will take the Olympic Flag down and then we will bid farewell to the flame, accompanied by Manos Hadjidakis’s music. «At that point, the party with all the Greek singers will start. We will invite everyone to dance and 250,000 balloons will be let loose.» The lyrical, dreamy and poetic atmosphere of the opening ceremony will give way to an explosive and festive atmosphere, which will overcome the sadness of goodbye and of the return to impersonal daily routine. The feast seems perfectly suitable to an Olympiad hailed as successful and will also stamp on it the character of the country, its traditions and its people. When asked whether he feared comparison with the much-praised opening ceremony, Papaioannou said that this is «something else» and he seemed satisfied with the way the opening ceremony had been broadcast on television: «Television coverage outdid itself. I had a very close collaboration with those responsible for months. Manolo Romero did a very good job. The moral standards and style arising from a different mentality came across.»