Athens Sights – Kallimarmaro Stadium or the Ancient Olympic Stadium
The world over, people are familiar with the Olympic Games and every four years many spend a few weeks glued to television sets, watching their favourite sports and willing their home team to win. It’s therefore imperative on any visit to Athens, that we visit the Kallimarmaro Stadium, also known as the Panathinaiko Stadium for this is where the modern games began.
This giant marble structure is located downtown, just south of the National Garden. The first time we saw it was before the 2004 Athens Games. We were lucky to have been able to go into the Stadium and climbed up to the top to test the hard marble seat. We wondered how comfortable it would be sitting on the hard surface for long stretches of time and were subsequently assured that cushions are placed on the steps.
The stadium occupies the very site of the original Panathenaic Stadium built by Lykourgos in 330 BC and was reconstructed for gladiatorial contests during Hadrian’s time. The reconstruction into white marble was done by the very wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus for the Panathenaic Games in AD 144. After many years of neglect, the marble was quarried and used for building works – what sacrilege! Luckily, in 1895 a very generous benefactor gave 4 million drachmas for its restoration in time for the first modern Olympic Games on 5th April 1896. The current structure is a replica of the one built by Herodes Atticus. Everything else is history ….
Of course the Greeks have built newer and more high tech stadiums for various sports for the 2004 games and the Kallimarmaro is now frequently used to host the homecoming of victorious Greek atheletes.