CULTURE

Antiquity meets modernity at the 2004 opening and closing ceremonies

The common belief that the opening (and closing) ceremonies of the Olympic Games are where a country wins or loses 50 percent of the kudos is well-founded. There are other important factors of course: the way the Games unravel harmoniously, and security measures or proper accommodation for guests and athletes. The primary issue, however, remains the symbolic raising of the curtain, ceremonies which are witnessed not only by the hundreds of thousands present in the stadium, but by billions of viewers around the globe. Well aware of this crucial issue – and despite having to deal with a number of other problems – the Athens 2004 organizers have already defined the Games’ general guidelines for the opening and closing ceremonies and are also handling a number of separate issues. Furthermore, they have found the right man for the job. This is the multifaceted and highly creative choreographer, director and artist, Dimitris Papaioannou, the founder, and heart and soul, of the dance-theater troupe Omada Edafous. Papaioannou, one of Greece’s leading artists of the last 15 years, had already met with Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, before the latter’s departure for the Salt Lake Winter Games, while sources say his nomination as concept creator for the ceremonies is imminent. Greek proposal Previously, Athens 2004 executives had extensively studied various proposed themes for the ceremonies, concluding in a proposal defined as «essentially Greek.» Well-informed sources say this means that the concept will not solely be based on antiquity, while, at the same time, not copying those of recent Olympics – Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Salt Lake – which tended to follow a similar logic and aesthetics by copying one another. In defining the central idea and the framework of the ceremonies – issues to which Papaioannou has also contributed – the organizers had to take into account various rules set out by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), as well as a great number of often conflicting demands: The ceremonies are aimed not only at those present, but at viewers worldwide, therefore, they must be comprehensible and visually satisfying for all. They have to be sensational, but also elegant; a welcoming feast with substance, characterized by originality in relation to previous events, while, at the same time, they have to be warm and touching; they have to showcase an image of Greece which combines its history with its contemporary creative side. Through his work so far, Papaioannou has proved his ability to combine fun and substance with good taste and originality, while maintaining an international outlook and a Greek conscience. His nomination as creative head, however, does not exclude the participation of many more artists in the ceremonies, quite the contrary: Musicians, composers, stage and set directors, choreographers, dancers and other artists will all be asked to pitch in. It is hoped that the Athens 2004 organizing committee will make its final decision soon on the matter, in order for preparations to get going. Only in this way will we avoid last- minute solutions such as dressing everybody in togas.