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Myths, technology welcome Olympics back to Greece
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Athens, August 13
A spectacular mix of ancient and modern that explored universal themes on a human scale, with profound depth of thought and joy of life that has characterised Greek civilization marked the three-hour opening ceremony as the first Olympic Games of the new millennium got underway in its ancient birthplace here tonight.

The ceremony not only used images derived from the rich history and diversity of Greek art but also focused on the athletes who embody the ideals that unite supporters and competitors around the world in pursuit of excellence. The ceremony told the story of early Greece and the birth of the Olympic Games through music, dance and pageantry and provided insight into modern games that were revived here 108 years ago.

It all started with a pre-show with the iconic Greek composer Marcos Hatzidakis's composition "Never on Sunday" presented after "Pass the Flame" composed by Trevor Horn with Greek lyrics and "Breathless" by award winning singer Michalis Hatzigiannis.

Running and heartbeat , characteristics of an athlete, and which also represents the theme of these games — "unique games on a human scale" — provided a glimpse of what was to follow for pulsating 180 minutes.

As many as 400 percussionists flew down the aisles of the stadium to welcome the games back home while 50 musicians appeared on the choir stage. Before they stopped playing, a super fast journey to the ancient stadium at Olympia was screened on the huge video screens.

It was at this stage that formalities of introduction of the President of the International Olympic Committee and the Athens games organising Committee were introduced. Then came the President of the Hellenic Republic. The Greek flag was raised with the national anthem of the host country played.

A paper boat appeared sailing across with a boy on board. Then came the navy band as the boy waved the Greek flag and the two — the gamesband and the boat —meet in middle.

The allegory that followed sequences to a journey through time using three iconic periods of Greek sculpture to symbolise the growth and evolution of Greek civilisation and human consciousness. Revealing of a woman standing at the water, a centaur, a Cycladic head that broke into eight pieces to give the figure of a Kouros, an eighth century sculpture.

The Kouros too broke into eight pieces to a classical statue which again dismantled into four pieces that travelled outwards in the air.

Clepsydra was a dream like colorful parade depicting stylised figures that looked as though they had been bought to life from Greek frescos, mosaics, sculptures and paintings. It was a chronological procession of images ranging from prehistoric to modern times.

A pregnant woman — a symbol of new life and hope for the future —entered the water as the next item —the Book of Life took the audience with yet another surprise. The Clepsydra performers shed their costumes and followed the pregnant woman into water as the image of a spiraling strand of DNA — from which we all are made — came up.

The olive tree, symbolic of Athens, was the next. It was at this stage that the teams, with India placed at NO 58, trooped in. The Greek flag was ushered in ahead though the Greek contingent walked in last. The Greek flag opened and closed the opening ceremony.

Tiesto, who won ever dance related award, including being voted number one DJ in the world, was cynosure of all eyes. Standing much taller than her height, Iceland-born Bjork sang a song dedicated to the athletes. Then came the story revealing the history of the Olympics, showing glimpses of all previous editions of the games. At the end of the video show came a runner on the protocol stage on which the olive tree was planted . A pyrotechnics burst punctuated the moment as the Games were formally declared open.

The five bells behind the choir were rung and the solemn flag ceremony followed as children carrying olive branches entered the stadium and Olympic hymn was sung as the flag was hoisted. Olympic oaths and the entry of the flame into stadium followed. Once the cauldron had been lit, it was pyrotechnics all the way. All those who could not make it to the main stadium in Athens were out in streets to watch the fireworks display.
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