Panathenaic Stadium

The Panathenaic Stadium is located on the site of an ancient Greek stadium and for many centuries hosted games in which nude male athletes competed (gymnikoi agones) in athletics events, as we would call them today. The games, which since very ancient times had been held in a region far from the city, were included in the program of the Panathenaia festival celebrations in 566/565 BC.

In Roman times the city of Athens was no longer a political power. However, it enjoyed a new intellectual and artistic heyday in the reign of Emperor Hadrian, between AD 117 and 138. In this period, the orator and sophist Herodes son of Atticus spent part of his vast fortune on erecting splendid buildings in many sanctuaries and cities of the Roman Empire. Thanks to the generosity of Herodes, significant works were carried out in the Stadium between AD 139 and 144, which resulted in two main changes to the initial form: the conversion of the original rectilinear shape to horseshoe shape by adding the sphendone, characteristic form of Greek stadia in Roman times, and the installation in the space for spectators, the theatron, of rows of seats (edolia) of white Pentelic marble.

Among the first attempts to revive the idea of the Olympic Games were the games organized in the Panathenaic Stadium in 1870 and 1875, on the occasion of the Zappeian Olympiads, exhibitions of Greek products with sponsorship from the benefactor of the Nation, Evangelis Zappas. This idea was brought to fruition by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat with a sound classical education, who organized the International Olympic Conference in Paris, in 1894. President of the Conference and plenipotentiary of the Panhellenic Gymnastics Association was Demetrios Vikelas, who persuaded the delegates that the first International Olympic Games should be held in the Greek capital in 1896. The Panathenaic Stadium was chosen to host the International Games and was the epicentre of the city’s preparations for this major event. The enormous expense of reconstructing the Stadium was undertaken largely by another benefactor of the Nation, Georgios Averoff. His marble portrait statue, to the right of the Stadium entrance, was carved by the sculptor Georgios Vroutos.

The spectators’ area, with over 68.000 seats, is divided into two tiers by a diazoma at the level of the 24th row of seats. Stadium is the length of the competition area, measure of length in Antiquity, equivalent to 185m.

The first international Olympic Games commenced on 25 March and concluded on 3 April - according to the old style calendar - and were a resounding success. In 1930 officially began the Balkan athletics games that attracted the interest of the Greek sports fans for many years.

In 1968, the European Cup Winner’s Cup basketball final was held in the Panathenaic Stadium where the team of AEK Athens won the trophy beating Slavia Praha USK, under the presence of 70.000 spectators in the Stadium and 10.000 near its entrance.

In the Athens 2004 Olympic Games the Stadium experienced moments of suspense and emotion during the archery contests and as the finishing line of the Marathon race. In the same Stadium, the Ceremony of the Handing over of the Olympic Flame to the representatives of the Organising Committees takes place, a few days after its lighting in Ancient Olympia. The welcome ceremony of the Greek Olympic medalists, right after their arrival in Greece, is also held there.