Proud and colorful memories

It is a great project. An exhibition that opens tonight at the National Glyptotheque will showcase some of the costumes presented at the Athens 2004 opening ceremony, as a small show of gratitude to all the volunteers who contributed to the success of the Athens Olympic Games. So far, there has been much talk about the Greek capital’s post-Olympic Games heritage. We have been discussing the buildings, the road network and the entire infrastructure, but we keep forgetting something very important: All those people who rushed to help wherever there was a need to do so, from the stadiums and the sports halls to all the preparation and hospitality details, proved that when there is a vision, there is also response. This exhibition is a mental journey back to those unforgettable summer days in 2004. It is jointly organized by the Ministry of Culture’s General Secretariat for the Olympic Utilization, the Hellenic Culture Organization and the National Glyptotheque, with the aim of spreading some optimism in these difficult times. Surrounded by scandals and political ineptitude, pressured by high prices and the economic crisis, we can boost our spirits by remembering the pride we all felt during the Games’ opening ceremony. And the exhibits on display are an excellent reminder. It is impossible not to feel moved when standing in front of the large boat that floated across the man-made lake at the OAKA stadium, or not stand and stare at the copies of ancient Greek armor and beautiful dresses that made our hearts leap. There are 47 traditional costumes from different regions of Greece, six Byzantine costumes, four caryatids, 30 suits of armor and more. These are the props and costumes designed by Angelos Mentis and which volunteers wore at the colorful opening parade. What few of us perhaps know is that all these costumes and objects were made and painted by volunteers. This exhibition is dedicated to those 7,000 people who worked hard for the opening ceremony; their names have been written on a special board. The only problem is that the display seems rather small, considering the grandeur of the August 13, 2004 spectacle. Nonetheless, as curator Lili Pezanou pointed out, it was decided to only include certain aesthetically representative pieces. The maintenance of these objects is particularly expensive because they have been made out of fragile materials like papier-mache and gauze and are hand-painted. They do not have the clear-cut roughness that one encounters in theater costumes, which are meant to be seen from a distance, instead the tiniest detail has been attended to. Another important part of the exhibition includes the video recordings leading up to the ceremonies, and directed by Athina Tsagari. The exhibition will run to December 20 and admission costs 3 euros – and of course free for Olympic Games volunteers. National Glyptotheque, Goudi Military Park, tel 210.770.9855.

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