The Panathenaic Stadium or Panathinaiko (Greek: Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο, also known as the Kallimarmaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο, meaning the "beautifully marbled"),is the most ancient stadium in use in the world, is an athletic stadium in Athens that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, the Panathenaic is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble[CN] (from Mount Penteli) and is one of the oldest in the world.
In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honor of the Goddess Athena. During classical times, it had wooden seating. In 329 BC it was rebuilt in marble by the archon Lycurgus and in 140 AD was enlarged and renovated by Herodes Atticus, giving a seated capacity of 50,000.
The remnants of the ancient structure were excavated and refurbished, with funds provided by Evangelis Zappas, for the revival of the Olympic Games. Zappas sponsored the Olympic Games that were held there in 1870 and 1875. In 1895 the stadium was refurbished a second time for the 1896 Olympics, with completion funding provided by the Greek benefactor George Averoff, whose marble statue now stands at the entrance, based on designs by the architects Anastasios Metaxas and Ernst Ziller.
The stadium was built long before dimensions for athletics venues were standardized, and its track and layout follow the ancient hairpin-like model.
It could once seat about 80,000 spectators on fifty rows of marble steps and currently holds 45,000 spectators.
Archery matches in the stadium during the 2004 Olympics
The stadium is located in the central Athens district of Pangrati, to the east of the National Gardens and the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, to the west of the Pangrati residential district and between the twin pine-covered hills of Ardettos and Agra. Up to the 1950s, the Ilissos River (now covered by, and flowing underneath, Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue) ran in front of the stadium's entrance, and the spring of Kallirrhoe, the sanctuary of Pankrates (a local hero) and the Cynosarges public gymnasium were nearby.
The Fokianos sports facility lies across Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue, and adjacent to it are located the Athens tennis club, the Ethnikos athletics track, the Federation swimming pool, the remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Hadrian's Gate. Until the late 19th century and the containment of the Ilissos riverbed, the area was reedy and often flooded, and was called the "Vatrahonisi" (Frog Island).
In more recent years, the stadium has been often used to honour the homecoming of victorious Greek athletes, most notably the Greek national football team after its victory at the 2004 European Football Championship and the opening ceremony of the World Athletics Championships in 1997 on a concept by composer Vangelis Papathanasiou.
In the 2004 Olympic Games, the Panathinaiko Stadium hosted the archery competition and the finish of the Marathon.
On rare occasions, the stadium has also been used as a venue for select musical performances. Among those include Bob Dylan, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Black Sabbath and Sakis Rouvas.
On September 2008, the stadium hosted the MTV Greece launch party, with guests C;Real, REM and Gabriella Cilmi.
On July 1, 2009, recording artist Sakis Rouvas made history, with a sold-out benefit concert, for the environment (coinciding with the first day of the Greek public ban on smoking), with an audience of 50,000–the largest audience ever at the stadium, for a musical event and among the largest concert of all time, by a Greek artist.
Panorama of a U-shaped stadium of white marble
Panorama of the Panathenaic stadium from the entrance
Panathenaic Stadium at the first day of the 1896 Olympics
Panathenaic Stadium commemorative coin
The Panathenaic Stadium was recently selected as the main motif for a high value euro collectors' coin; the €100 Greek The Panathenaic Stadium commemorative coin, minted in 2003 to commemorate the 2004 Olympics. In the obverse of the coin, the stadium is depicted. It is shown on the obverse of all Olympic medals awarded in the 2004 Olympics, and it was also used for the following Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Other stadia of similar design
The never-completed Deutsches Stadion in Nuremburg, the largest stadium ever planned along similar architectural lines
Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Massachusetts
^ a b World Stadiums: Stadiums in Greece
^ a b David C. Young, The Modern Olympics – A Struggle for Revival, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 1996, ISBN 0-8018-5374-5
^ 1896 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. pp. 31–49.
^ 2004 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. pp. 237, 242, 244.
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