Saturday, August 14, 2004
Manorama Online, Malaysia > Colourful opening to Athens games
Athens: The Athens Games were declared open here on Friday night by Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos in a lavish and colourful pageant that brought to life the long history and culture of the country which gave the world the quadrennial celebration of sports.
It was a spectacular homecoming ceremony commencing with the flaming rings formed inside a man-made sea in the middle of the Olympic Stadium and culminating with fireworks that lit up the night sky above the Greek capital.
Among the several highlights of the magnificent tableaux was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, which bent its neck like a giraffe to enable 1996 Greek windsurfing champion Nikolaos Kaklamanakis to light it from the Games torch after it was relayed inside the stadium.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, in his address to the gathering of athletes from around the world, entreated them to "give us reasons to believe in sports by refusing dopes and by respecting fair play."
"We need peace, we need tolerance, we need brotherhood", was his message to the 72,000 spectators and the large number of athletes present at the opening ceremony which was also watched by a huge global TV audience of four billion.
"You athletes from 202 countries, show us that sports unites by overriding national, political, religious and language barriers. May the Games bring Olympic truce that was created here", was his fervent wish in his speech during the opening extravaganza.
Just prior to his address, Athens Games organising committee chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki welcomed all "to a unique Olympic homecoming". "For the second time in 108 years Greece stands before you in celebration of humanity. Olympic Games, welcome home", she declared to the thundering cheer of the spectators assembled inside th