30 August, 2004
August’s full moon over the main Olympic stadium (OAKA) in Athens served as an ideal backdrop for the 2004 Games' finale on Sunday evening, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge declaring, "Dear Greek friends, you have won!"
"...You have magnificently achieved the difficult goal of hosting the Games," a beaming Rogge said from the floor of the main Olympic Stadium. Athens marked his first Olympic Games at the IOC’s helm.
“Efharisto Athena (thank you, Athens), efharisto Ellada (thank you, Greece),” he said, adding, now in English, that the 2004 Olympics were 'unforgettable, dream Games'.
Sunday's Closing Ceremony a decidedly Greek folk and pop theme replacing the elaborate and sensationally staged 3,500-year overview of Hellenic art, culture and history that characterized the Opening Ceremony 17 days earlier.
This time around, a spiral field of wheat replaced a miniature sea on the stadium floor for a celebration absolutely devoid of the Olympus-sized stress and anxiety that Greek organizers and the entire host-nation felt hours before the 28th Olympic Games commenced amid the shadow of a doping-related controversy.
Rogge declared the 2004 Games closed after receiving the Olympic flag from Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis and subsequently handing it to Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, thus officially ending Greece's seven-year Olympic odyssey. A performance by Chinese dancers followed.
On her part, Athens 2004 (ATHOC) chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki noted that the Olympic Games "came home, and we've shown the world the great things that we Greeks can do ... Athens was great for the athletes and Greece was great for the Games," she told a cheering crowd and tens of millions of television viewers across the world.
“The most athletes in (Olympic) history ... the most women in history, the most national teams … the first global torch relay. The first women to compete in (ancient) Olympia. Safe and secure Games, blessed by a climate of celebration and joy,” the high-profile Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said.
Hours earlier, and with several one-time Cassandras in attendance at a final 2004 Olympics press briefing, the Belgian IOC chief declared the Athens Games excellent in every way.
Folk dances and music from every province of the east Mediterranean country revolved around the theme of the harvest, along with traditional wedding processions, a wine-making scene replete with bacchic overtones, Greek isle imagery and, among others, youths leaping over open fires -- an ancient custom still practiced in contemporary times. The segments were capped off with dancing to composer Mikis Theodorakis' Oscar-winning and trademark score from the film "Zorba the Greek", as five Olympic rings formed from wheat bundles. A bevy of the country’s top performers, from seasoned veterans to the most popular pop stars, accompanied the segment, entitled “May the dances last forever”.
The final act of ceremony in Athens featured children carrying seed-shaped lanterns disseminating the flame from a lowered Olympic cauldron to athletes on the field and the fans in the stands, equipped with their own pendant lights. Moments later the flame atop the Olympic cauldron slowly diminished, with a child blowing out the remaining glimmer.
Source: Athens News Agency