15,000 seats for Olympia event

Some 15,000 spectators will be offered the singular experience of watching modern Olympic athletes competing in the 2,800-year-old venue for the ancient Games, Athens 2004 organizers said yesterday. Tickets for the August 18 shot-put event will be distributed free of charge, with 2,500 being reserved for officials and sponsors, Athens 2004 executive director Spyros Capralos told a press conference. On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee approved the Athens 2004 organizing committee’s late proposal for the men’s shot-put to be conducted in the ancient stadium among the ruins of Olympia – stipulating, however, that female athletes must also be allowed to compete. In the ancient Games, held from 776 BC to the late fourth century AD, women were banned on pain of death from even watching the Olympics, in which athletes competed naked. The shot-put was not included in the ancient Games. Seeking to reassure edgy archaeologists, Capralos insisted the stadium – whose present form dates to the fourth century BC – will not suffer. «There will be no visual intervention,» he said. «Not even light structures or spectators’ stands, electronic boards or artificial lighting. We will make use of the installations with full respect for the environment and the site’s historic character.» The project must still be approved by Culture Ministry archaeologists. Athletes with their coaches and escorts, judges and officials will arrive at Olympia on August 16, and will stay at the International Olympic Academy hostel near the site. Some 7,500 people who reserved tickets for the event at the Athens Olympic stadium will have preferential access to the Olympia contest. The shot put involves throwing a cast-iron ball of 16 pounds for men and 8.8 pounds for women.