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The Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens: The first Olympic Games began in 776 BC in Olympia. Their importance was mainly related to religious issues and the contests used to do sacrifices and ceremonies to honor god Zeus and King Pelops, who was said to be the founder of the Games. As the competition gained popularity, the number of events increased to twenty and the celebration was extended for several days. The winners were greatly admired, were represented in statues and glorified in poems. The Games were abolished in 393 A.D., in the Byzantine times, as an idolatrous custom.
The interest in reviving the Olympic Games was firstly shown by the Greek writer Dimitrios Vikelas at the end of the 19th century. He, along with Pierre de Coubertin, a French historian, managed to revive the Olympic Games and the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896 at the Kallimarmaro Stadium, attracted worldwide attention.
Today, the Olympic Games are an international sports event, divided into summer and winter periods. Each Summer and Winter Olympiad takes place every four years and is separated from each other by two years. In 2004, the Greeks experienced the return of this beloved celebration once again in their country, since Athens was chosen to organize the Summer Olympic Games, which took place from August 13th to August 29th. This fact provoked a great sense of pride for the population of the city and the rest of Greece.
The Olympic Stadium was designated for the opening and closing ceremonies. High telecommunication technology was provided in order to successfully deliver the event. In fact, about 4 billion people had access to television coverage.
Regarding the official mascots, this time the sister and brother Athena and Phoebus were chosen. The mascot Athena was named after the goddess of wisdom, strategy, and war and the mascot Phoebos was named after her brother, the god of light and music. Their appearance was based on some clay statues displayed at the National Archaeological Museum.
The Opening Ceremony counted on performances of important artists, such as DJ Tiesto and Bjork. Then, the contestants entered the stadium, according to the Greek alphabet. There were 10,625 athletes, belonging to 201 different nations, each one with its banner. The event finished with the entrance of the Olympic Flame into the Stadium, after making its journey all around Greece and almost all the countries of the world.
Apart from the regular sports, the Athens Olympic Games 2004 also included a wheelchair race as a demonstration sport. This was actually a joint between the Olympics and the Paralympics Games that is a multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities. It was the first time that a Paralympics competition occurred within the Olympics. The 2004 Summer Paralympics were also held in Athens, from September 20th to 28th.
Moreover, another important event of these Games was that the women discus throwing was held in the ancient stadium of Olympia, which had been properly set for hosting this race without causing any damage to the valuable historical monuments of the area.
Regarding the Closing Ceremony, it gathered 70,000 spectators in the stadium. It counted on the performances of various Greek singers and featured traditional Greek dance performances. The idea was to show the entire world the Greek culture and their pride to have hosted the Olympic Games back in their birth land.