Panathinaiko Stadium (aka Kalimarmaro)

If you are a fan of sports and/or the Olympic Games this is a sight you don’t want to miss. It is the stadium built for the very first modern Olympic Games that were hosted by Athens, in 1896.
Panathinaikon Stadium
Panathinaiko Stadio
It is located practically in the city center, at the start of Vassileos Konstantinou Ave., across Irodou Attikou St., within a few minutes walking distance from Syntagma Square, the Parliament, Zappion Megaro, the National Garden and the Presidential Mansion.

The site –right next to Ardittos Hill– was not randomly chosen. There was an ancient stadium sitting in the same place but there was almost no sign of it left by the 19th century, so works had to start almost from scratch to uncover the old ruins and to restore and rebuild a new stadium (mainly the stands) on top of the old one. Part of the new stands were initially wooden with only a small part being marble, but gradually the whole extent was covered by marble. Works had actually started in the 1870’s in preparation for the so-called “Zappas’ Olympics”; games organized by Greek state benefactor Evangelis Zappas which paved the way for the modern (International Olympic Committee) Games.
Further funds provided by Greek benefactor Georgios Averoff, paid for the construction of the marble stands, which was completed in 1900; after the 1st official Olympic Games but in time for the so-called “intercalated” Olympics of 1906 – a major success and a boost to the Olympic Games movement but no longer recognized by the IOC as an official event. A statue of Averoff is found outside the stadium, on your right hand side as you look towards the stadium.
[It’s worth mentioning that one of his descendants was a prominent Greek politician at the 2nd half of the 20th century, who also served as chair of the conservative New Democracy party in the 1980’s. The family’s origins are from Epirus and they were involved in wine-making, owning the Katogi-Averoff winery, which has now merged into the “Katogi-Strofilia” winery, with facilities in Epirus and south of Athens]

I haven’t been inside the stadium recently but judging from what I read in its website, the people running the facility seem to have a really forward-looking and open-minded approach. Not only is there an audio guide provided (in 10 languages!) but there’s also the opportunity for a range of activities, such as jogging early in the morning (07:30-9:00am) or having your picture taken on a pedestal with the stadium behind you. Organized groups may also rent one of the halls under the stands for a seminar or organize a mini-sporting event, between them, with awards ceremony and everything. This seems like a great idea for a group of students on a school visit as well!

Admission: You may catch a view of the stadium, from the entrance, all day and night for free but to gain access inside the track and up on the stands you need to pay a 3 Euro ticket (1.5 Euro reduced fare for isolated students, pupils and seniors over 65, free for school visits and children under 6).

Opening Hours: Mar-Oct: 08:00am–7:00pm, Nov-Feb: 08:00am–5:00pm 

Public Transit: Acropolis, Syntagma and Evangelismos Metro stations are the closest ones.
More Trivia
-The stadium takes the name Panathinaikon after the ancient stadium, constructed for the ancient “Pan-Athenian” athletic games that were held here since the 4th century B.C.
The nickname “Kalimarmaro” means “of beautiful marble”, as the stands are constructed entirely of marble from Mt. Penteli (north of Athens), that also provided the marble for the Parthenon on the Acropolis.
-According to current standards, the stadium holds 45,000 people. It used to hold many more according to previous standards (and waistlines...)
-It should not be confused with the soccer stadium hosting Panathinaikos Soccer Club!
-Up until 1950 the Illissos stream was flowing right outside the entrance of the stadium, but it was then covered and paved by what is currently Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue.
-From the entrance of the stadium you get a very nice view of the Southeastern corner of the Parthenon and the Acropolis.
View of the Acropolis from Panathinaiko Stadium
Major events that have taken place at Panathinaikon Stadium:
-1870 and 1875 Zappas’ Olympics.
-1896 1st Modern Olympic Games
-1906 Intercalated Olympic Games
-1968-04-04: European Cup Winners’ Cup Final: AEK Athens vs. Slavia Prague: 89-82 [This was the first time a Greek team ever reached the final of any sport. To get a glimpse of the atmosphere of that day take a look at this YouTube video, minutes 3:30-6:00. I am not an AEK fan but the sport-casting still sends chills down my spine! But maybe just because I'm Greek...:)]
-1996-08-06: Homecoming ceremony of Greek Olympic winners of the Atlanta Olympics (see pictures)
Panathinaikon Stadium, Welcoming ceremony for Greek Olympic winners (Atlanta 1996),  1996-08-06 

Panathinaikon Stadium, Welcoming ceremony for Greek Olympic winners (Atlanta 1996),  1996-08-06 

Panathinaikon Stadium, Welcoming ceremony for Greek Olympic winners (Atlanta 1996),  1996-08-06 

Panathinaiko Stadium-Welcoming ceremony for Greek Olympic winners (Atlanta 1996),  1996-08-06 
1997-08-01: Opening ceremony of the 6th IAAF Athletics World Championship. A fake Roman gate was constructed at the entrance, to house the TV crews covering the ceremony. Vangelis Papathanasiou provided the music and artistic direction for the event. There are currently segments of this ceremony uploaded on YouTube, worth checking out (here and here).
2004-07-05: Homecoming ceremony of the Greek national soccer team, winners of the 2004 European Soccer Championship (probably biggest sports surprise ever…)

-This is also the place where each city hosting the Olympic Games receives the flame from Olympia, to start its Olympic torch relay that culminates in the Olympics opening ceremony.

-Finally, this is the finish line of the Original Marathon Course, starting in the area of Marathon and finishing in the Panathinaic Stadium. The Athens Classic Marathon takes place each year at the end of October / beginning of November.

Don’t forget to check out the beautiful bronze statue of a discus thrower across the street (Irodou Attikou St. & Vas. Konstantinou Ave.), made by Greek sculptor Kostas Dimitriadis. The original was installed in New York’s Central Park in 1926 and this is a twin or replica, placed here in 1927.

When you’re done with the stadium you may climb the stairs on the left hand side (as you are watching towards the stadium) and take a walk in the neighbourhood of Pangrati, behind it. There’s a number of restaurants and tavernas and little curiosities like this one…

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