The Panathenaic Stadium
Back in the summer of 2012, just as people were preparing to witness Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony to the London 2012 Olympic Games (or, as it’s officially known, Games of the XXX Olympiad), I found myself standing in the middle of a stadium that played host to the first ever modern Olympic Games in the centre of Athens, Greece.
The Panathenaic Stadium (Greek: Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο) hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. In ancient times, the stadium was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honour of the Goddess Athena. Many modifications were made over time, including being fully remade in marble by the archon Lycurgus in 329 BC and then being renovated and enlarged to a seated capacity of 50,000 by Herodes Atticus, in 140 AD. The remnants of the ancient structure were excavated and refurbished for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896.
It felt really strange to be standing in the stadium that hosted the first ever Olympiads. It was a scorching 40 degrees Centigrade when we were there, so there weren’t many people around. And we didn’t spend too long in direct sunlight either, though I did take a few minutes to capture the ambiance. The stadium faces a main road and is surrounded by trees that were host to thousands of cicadas.
Located in the centre of Athens directly in front of the Hellenic Parliament, Syntagma Square has recently seen a lot of media attention as it was the epicentre of anti-austerity demonstrations. During our visit, however, all was calm. Many of the locals we spoke to seemed to be of the opinion that people have all but given up and the number of demonstrations has heavily subsided. Many of the surrounding buildings still show signs of damage after recent riots, but the atmosphere was very relaxed.
With Summer being so hot here, the locals drink a lot of iced coffee, with the most popular drinks being the Cappuccino Freddo (iced cappuccino) or Espresso Freddo (iced espresso). A visit to Athens, therefore, wouldn’t be complete without heading to a cafe and doing as the locals do.
And of course, the most famous site to visit when in Athens is the Acropolis, an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the city of Athens. Whilst looking for shade, I stumbled across a forested section of the grounds surrounding the Acropolis.
It was mid-afternoon and the cicadas were singing at an incredible level. I didn’t move the recorder at all during this recording but there were regular changes in intensity of the chorus. An example of this can be heard at around 0.33 secs.
During my visit to Greece, I met some of the kindest people I’ve ever met in Europe. Warm and welcoming to foreigners as well as towards their fellow countrymen. It was a fairly short trip so I only had limited recording time, but after Athens we did visit the island of Aegina so watch out for some further recordings that I made over there.