Olympia set to host shot put in 2004

The world’s governing body for track and field has approved of a plan to hold the shot put events of next year’s Olympic Games in the stadium of Ancient Olympia, where the Games were born 2,780 years earlier. The International Amateur Athletic Federation gave its unanimous approval at its council meeting in Berlin on Saturday. The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Committee is to decide on the issue on December 4. Greece’s Culture Minister has already expressed support for the plan but archaeologists have warned they will not allow anything that will damage the stadium. Organizers have stressed there will be no intervention at the ancient site. Aside from taking part of the modern Games back to the Olympics’ birthplace, there will be an added bonus if the shot put is held there: It will be the first time that women athletes will participate in the stadium, as Athens 2004 head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki noted on Saturday. Greek organizers had proposed moving only the men’s event to Olympia but the IAAF insisted that the women’s event go too. «This will be a tremendous opportunity to show a worldwide audience the purity and excitement of athletics competition in a sacred setting,» IAAF President Lamine Diack said. «The shot put may now become one of the highlights of the Games.» Ancient Olympia is about 320 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Athens. The Games were held there from 776 BC to 394 AD, although the shot put was not competed there. The stadium there was built in the fourth century BC, replacing a smaller one. It could take up to 40,000 spectators who stood on earthen banks. Athens 2004 and the IAAF will propose that the shot put event is held on August 18 or 19. Heats and finals will be on the same day. «No changes will be made to the Ancient Stadium. There will be no temporary installations, there will be no grandstands for spectators, nor electronic information boards. The entry of spectators will be controlled,» Athens 2004 said in a statement on Saturday. «From today we can say the Games are returning, both symbolically and in reality, to their roots,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said.