Greece to be ‘star’ of Olympic ceremonies

Greece will be the star of the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, and its art and sculpture will help illustrate a fairy tale of its history from antiquity, organizers said yesterday. «We will see what Greece has achieved through its art history, through sculpture, mosaic and painting. We will see a fairy tale about the essence of the history of the country,» said Dimitris Papaioannou, artistic director of the ceremonies. In a first hint of the main theme that is to dominate the ceremonies, Papaioannou said Greece will be the central attraction. «The substance is very Greek. The aim is to see the essence of Greece through very modern, updated eyes – and modern eyes are international eyes,» he said. «We are aiming to have one great star in our opening ceremony… and it is Greece.» Greece’s distinctive landscape of craggy rocks and blue seas will also be used, Papaioannou said. «The look of Greece will be there and Greece has the look of the sea and rocks. With some scenery changes, you find in there the beauty of our country,» Papaioannou said. He made the comments during a rehearsal for one of the last groups of volunteers that are to participate in both ceremonies. Volunteers will be recruited until February 15. Chief organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said 6,000 people have been chosen to participate and organizers are still looking for another 2,000. Of the total, about 2,000 will be used as support staff. Papaioannou said the opening ceremony will draw from the myths of the ancient Greek god Apollo, best known as the mythical deity of the bow, music and for his connection with oracles. The closing ceremony will represent ideas from Bacchus, the mythical god of wine and revelry but also associated with wild sexual frenzies. «If we remember ancient civilization, we see the opening is the Apollo element, the element of memory, light and thought, and the closing is the Bacchus element, something that only we the Greeks can do, of celebration, dance and sharing,» Papaioannou said. He added that the cast will start practicing in the main Olympic stadium approximately one month before the August 13-29 Games. Papaioannou said organization of the ceremonies had progressed substantially. «All the designs are 90 percent finished and production is starting,» Papaioannou said. «I am working with Greek and international artists… the original music has already begun being composed. The choreography is finished.» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said the ceremonies will be shorter than at past Olympics, with the opening ceremony lasting three hours and the closing two-and-a-half hours, including the parade of nations. «I was waiting to join from the moment I heard we got the Games,» said Despina Illiopoulou, a university student cast in the ceremonies. «I will remember it my whole life.»