Unveiling the Cultural Olympiad

The Cultural Olympiad is not a festival, its organizers and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos have often been heard stating. But as time goes by, it seems increasingly to be taking on the character of a super-festival, at sites around the country over a long period of time and composed of events as diverse as Karaghiozi shadow theater performances and street theater to events outside the country by Greek artists and events in the arts and archaeology, conferences, symposia, competitions, and much more. Be that as it may, the Cultural Olympiad promises many interesting (and some not so interesting) events in the buildup to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and the heads of the Olympic Committee have stated that they are impressed. Even more impressive than the program itself are the 40 billion drachmas pledged to the Olympiad by the government in an effort to outdo all other capitals – Sydney spent just 3 billion of its dollars on similar events. At a recent press conference, Venizelos presented few new additions to the program he had previously outlined in January and April, arguing that the committee remains open to ideas that are still in the formulation stage and to any proposals from the offices of the 2004 Games organizers.However, several of the events that were announced at the conference have still to receive the combined approval of the joint committee of the Ministry of Culture and the International Olympic Committee, who met only briefly before the press was invited in for the briefing. Among the issues that need to be discussed between the two bodies are whether these events will be part of the Cultural Olympiad or not, as well as the very important issue of the Olympic logo whose use by the Cultural Olympiad has not yet been assured. Venizelos and International Olympic Committee official Francois Carrard said that they have agreed to oblige all those involved with the organization of the Cultural Olympiad to sign a special contract stipulating the conditions under which they can use the Olympic Games symbols. Small Greek festivals New events added to the Cultural Olympiad schedule include several archaeological exhibitions, performances in 2002 at Epidaurus and the Herod Atticus Theater of Ancient Greek drama by national and foreign companies, tributes to Cavafy in 2003 (celebrating 140 years since his birth and 70 since his death) and Kazantzakis in 2004, a focus on modern Greek theater in 2003, a Theatrical Olympiad in 2003 and 2004, and a series of events in which Greek artists will stage mini festivals around the world to showcase Greek culture. Venizelos also announced that famous Greek singers Nana Mouschouri, Agni Baltsa and Maria Farandouri will tour several countries with combined shows, Thanos Mikroutsikos is scheduled to perform on all four continents, and Yiannis Markopoulos will stage a large musical/artistic extravaganza in cooperation with renowned painter Alekos Fasianos. The event is being held by Bios, an Athens-based promoter of music and multimedia arts in association with an Italian organizer, Link project, and Caipirinha Productions from the USA. It runs from tomorrow through Friday, 6 p.m-5 a.m., at the Foundation of the Hellenic World, 254 Pireos St, Gazi. Entrance is free on first two days, and 7,000 drachmas on Friday.

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