Athens gets ready for party of Olympic proportions

Tomorrow we move from the road marathon to a singing marathon at the closing ceremonies. The race concludes both the Games and our own marathon as a nation – the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the first since Spyros Louis entered the Panathenaic Stadium as the marathon winner in the 1896 Games. When the winner enters the same stadium tomorrow evening, people will head off to the main Olympic complex for the closing ceremonies, once again directed by Dimitris Papaioannou. «It will be a party like those we used to have up on the roof, with the record player going and us dancing, singing and falling in love under the stars,» said the director, describing the show. Only instead of records on the turntable, we will have before us all the great voices of Greece – from Domna Samiou, the golden voice of Greek folk song, to the singers of the greatest hits of all time: Marinella, Giorgos Dalaras, Haris Alexiou, Dimitra Galani and Yiannis Parios in the first half, directed by Stavros Xarhakos. Composer-singer Dionysis Savvopoulos takes over in the second half, with singers Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Anna Vissi, Alkistis Protopsalti, Antonis Remos, Michalis Hadziyiannis and the cherry on the cake – Sakis Rouvas, of Eurovision hit «Shake It» fame. A field of golden wheat in the center of the stadium where the lake was situated in the opening ceremony is where a typical Greek wedding is to take place, with bride and groom, music and traditional dances which will launch the party, followed by the victory ceremony for the marathon winners and another ceremony to honor the legendary Spyros Louis, whose name became synonymous in the Greek language for anyone who could run like the wind, an indication that the victory of this Greek man from a humble background, who defeated sporting heroes and experienced runners, has survived through successive generations. Then it will be the athletes’ turn to enter the stadium, led by a band this time, not a DJ, the farewell speeches by Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, IOC President Jacques Rogge and the handing over of the flag to Beijing, which is to stage the 2008 Olympics, and a farewell to the flame to music by Manos Hadjidakis. It is then that the spectators will be invited to join in and dance under a shower of balloons, lightning and fireworks – there are no trees in the Olympic Stadium, so no fear of fires! The show will be broadcast under the direction of Manolo Romero, who successfully filmed the opening ceremonies. After we extinguish the flame, no doubt a lively debate will begin in Athens and culprits sought for the Games’ huge cost. There is another apt phrase in Greek for situations such as these, loosely translated as: «Pay at the counter!»

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