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Ancient Olympic Stadium (Kallimármaro)

Ancient Olympic Stadium (Kallimármaro) (43)

A little tip will help you not to be confused when you ask for the stadium, if you have lost your map. And you have to be very careful: if you ask for the Olympic Stadium, they will send you to the new facilities north of the city, if you ask for the stadium of Panathinaikos, you will end up watching a game with the popular Greek Soccer Team. Play it safe, forget about the official names in small towns, where everyone knows them by their nicknames. So ask for Kallimármaro, and you cannot go wrong.

Did you bring your sportswear? Then take some strides out on the track. Admission is free and open to everyone. You are at the stadium that hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern history, on April 5, 1896.

This huge U-shaped stadium in a boasts such an immense size and quality in materials that would surely would be the envy of many contemporary stadiums. And it is from the whiteness and nobility of marble which was built in 1896 that it earned the nickname Kallimármaro, loosely meaning "excellent-made marble." 

Its forms seduce every amateur photographer, who spends hours trying to get that perfect shot with the curved lines of the stands, which are lost in the distance, or the views of the Acropolis from the top row. However, if the architectural forms are not what seduces you, try discovering the history. 

While the stadium dates from the late 19th century and is designed by Anastasios Metaxas, it cannot be said that this is its origin; but its story begins a few centuries ago.

It was architect Ernst Ziller who conducted the excavations in the modern era that led him to find impressive sculptural remains as well as the two-headed statue of Apollo and Dionysus, and, the foundations of the Roman stadium were also found here. The 19th-century reconstruction was made possible thanks to the millions of drachmas in gold that the wealthy Geórgios Avérof donated so that the new era of the Olympic Games could begin here. 

But let's go back, because, what exactly is the reconstruction stage you see before your eyes? To find out, you have to take a look, as did the modern architect, at the writings of Pausanias, which define, in the book "Description of Greece", features Herodes Atticus' stadium, dating from the mid-2nd century. 

However, you can look further back and discover that Lycurgus, the original architect, conceived this great stadium around 330 BC to host the Panathinaikos Games. These, like the Olympic Games, on the one hand included the arts and a torch race to the Parthenon, reserved only for Athenians and on the other, the part dedicated to all Greeks, including wrestling, boxing, pentathlon and chariot races, among others. 

In Roman times, prior to the era of benefactor Herodes Atticus, the Panathinaikos Stadium was also used as an arena in which the gladiators fought terrible fights to the death, which have been recreated in movies over and over again.

Back on the current stage, it can be said that the clear, curved and harmonic lines are the main aesthetic features, but some of the figures are also very interesting: 204 metres long, 83 metres wide and with a capacity for about 70,000 people. The 2004 Summer Olympics marathon ended here. And as you can see, it is a unique environment for sport.

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