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International Powerhouse Tenor & Classical-Crossover Artist MARIO FRANGOULIS performs live in Washington, DC on Friday, April 12, 2024 at Warner Theatre, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Hellenic Institute. Click here for details!
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International Powerhouse Tenor & Classical-Crossover Artist MARIO FRANGOULIS performs live in Washington, DC on Friday, April 12, 2024 at Warner Theatre, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Hellenic Institute. Click here for details!

DCGreeks.com's Athens 2004
Summer Olympic Log
A Review of the Opening Ceremonies

August 13, 2004

The goose bumps and chills started as James Earl Jones started his monologue of the Greek contributions to humanity with the music from Jurassic Park oddly playing in the background. The Opening Ceremonies had finally arrived for us stateside, watching what many of our friends had watched live in Greece or in Greek on satellite TV. In case you missed the broadcast, or even if you were watching, here are the highlights. 

Dueling drummers… Proving that even a good Greek-American has something to learn from NBC, I have to admit that I never knew or had forgotten that the zembekiko beat that the scores of drummers were playing is supposed to mimic a human heartbeat. Maybe I've been exposed to too many bad zembekiko mixes to recognize that beat than something other than arrhythmia. What was up with the scary solo drummer in Olympia? He looked like he'd been stranded alone there for years and like he hadn't eaten and he had a little of Bronze Age in him. "Me Kosta. Me beat drum. Me beat you silly if you right in front of me." 

You know the guy in Athens was going to lose that one when he resorted to kicking and splashing in the water. "Ha ha, Olympia guy, I have water and you're in a parched barren field by yourself." Game, set, match, Athens guy. 

Water, Water, Everywhere… The most unique part of these opening ceremonies had to be the huge pool of water in the middle of the stadium, which was amazingly drained before the start of the parade of nations. (Question: Where did all the water go? Answer: Athens Subway.) It was obviously deep enough to sustain the world's largest paper boat piloted by a cute token Greek boy, who although cute, was not as cute as that girl from the Sydney Games who got to fly around the stadium. Just imagine that kid in 20 years, being able to say, "I was the boy on the paper boat." That's something he won't be able to shake, like being known as the kid from the Life Cereal commercials or the kid from the Wonder Years. It was also large enough to absorb an entire comet that lit the Olympic Rings. Now combine the kid in the paper boat and the rings of fire, and that would have been something to watch. 

Above the Stadium and Over Our Heads… We were all treated to a Greek history lesson that inappropriately followed a scene reminiscent of a cologne ad, with a guy and girl running into the pool with the god of love, Eros, painted blue, not red, as you would have expected a love god to be painted, if he was to be painted at all. After this scene, Eros remains a flying fixture as Greek History processes by him. It is here where we learn that Ancient Minoan men spent way too much time at the tanning salon judging by their day-glow orange hue. I was glad to see that Greek History didn't stop at Alexander, that they actually acknowledged Greece's Christianity and the War of Independence. But why Eros didn't fly away much earlier is a mystery to me. During this procession there was a salute to Greek's contributions to math, sculpture, and other things that were way too cerebral for the average Olympic viewer. 

The whole point of the procession was supposed to symbolize man's evolution from the irrational to the rational, from the past and into the future. The lightshow depiction of a strand of DNA was supposed to symbolize that despite differences in race, culture, religion, etc., humanity shares one thing in common. On a related note, Greece showed it has mastered the art of cloning this same DNA about 25 years ago as evidenced by the homogeneity of the women on the team.

The highlight of the Opening Ceremony had to have been at the end of this segment when a stunningly radiant and very pregnant Greek woman started walking around. It was a tasteful and beautiful moment, until her stomach started glowing, like E.T.'s heart. We were all left wondering how this was going to end as she started walking into the water. I don't know about you, but in keeping with the Greek mythology theme running through the program with Eros and a centaur appearing earlier, I was rooting for her baby's daddy to be Zeus and for junior to have been a bouncing baby Minotaur.

Mixing up the Parade of Nations… Forcing the rest of the world to learn the Greek Alphabet by making them process in Greek alphabetical order made a usually long, drawn out, boring filler before the torch lighting, only slightly less long, drawn out, and boring. All the Z nations were happy that they weren't going last for once. There were some spots where we were wondering how some of these nations cut in line, like Cape Verde towards the beginning of the line.

Ti Kanies, Bob Costas?… It was four years ago during the Opening Ceremonies at Sydney when I knew that regardless where I was during the Athens Olympics, that I would have my VCR back home set to record the Opening Ceremonies, just to hear Bob Costas' commentary. Four years ago, he had me at the line, "You know the organizers of the Athens games are here and watching this, and given what the Australians have done here tonight, Zeus himself will have to come down from Mt. Olympus to light the Olympic Torch." Tonight's line when referring to one of the great Greek dramas, Oedipus Rex: "As you remember, Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother, a situation that seldom turns out well." Costas' commentary is excusable for these games because he's a Greek-American. What's inexcusable was his pronunciation of "Ti Kanies." 

Where was Zeus when we needed him?… The torch lighting was rather anticlimactic. It was expected that Kostas Kenderis, the world's fastest Greek, would have the honor of lighting the torch but he off and got himself in a motorcycle accident instead of failing, I mean, taking a drug test. So anyone else doing it was a disappointment. I thought the Olympic torch looked kind of skinny, and watching it kind of gave me the munchies. Leave it to the Greeks to make the torch lighting more convenient for the lighter, by having it dip down. Ever since I learned that Athens was awarded the games back in 1997, I had a thought of what the lighting of the Olympic Calderon should look like. I always pictured a big fireball or a lightening bolt originating from the Acropolis and streaking across the sky to light the torch, leaving even Bob Costas speechless. 

Read past feature articles