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18 Aug 2004
IOC News

A first for Olympia

The Athens Games will go down in Olympic history with the holding of a competition in Olympia, site of the Ancient Games. For the first time, women were allowed to enter the Olympic competition arena as both athletes and spectators. America’s Kristin Heaston was the first female athlete to enter the stadium. “Great to go down in history like this”, she told the press before the event.

Great significance
But her historical role did not do her any favours: she failed to qualify for the final round. “I probably needed to think about what I was doing more in the ring than to think about the history”, she observed afterwards.

Sacred venue
Addressing the large crowd in a sober, undecorated stadium, without the visual identity of these Games, the announcer reminded everyone that they were sitting exactly where the spectators at the Ancient Games had sat, more than 28 centuries ago. He urged them to switch off their mobile phones and take no notice of all the cameras, but rather to “sit in silence and feel the mystical powers of this sacred place”.

No modern technology
In keeping with the historical aspect of the event, the organisers also kept the stadium bare of modern technology, with results handwritten and announced using a simple board.

Athletes with clothes on
There was one major difference compared to the Ancient Games: the men were wearing clothes. “We just put something on, and it was better like that”, announced Australian shot-putter Justin Anlezark, adding: “It all goes down in history.” But regardless of whether he finished “first, second, third or 15th”, he would “remember the day forever”.

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