The 2004 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, were celebrated in Athens, Greece, from August 13 to August 29, 2004.
11,099 athletes competed, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team officials from 202 countries. Athens 2004 marked the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance. There were 301 medal events in 28 different sports.
Athens was chosen as the host city during the 106th IOC Session held in Lausanne in 05 September 1997, after surprisingly losing the bid to organize the 1996 Summer Olympics to Atlanta nearly seven years before, on 18 September 1990, during the 96th IOC Session in Tokyo. Athens, under the direction of Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, pursued another bid, this time for the right to organize the 2004 games. The success of Athens in securing the 2004 Games was based largely on Athens’ appeal to Olympic history and the emphasis that it placed on the pivotal role that Greece and Athens played in the promotion of the Olympic Movement. After leading all voting rounds, Athens easily defeated Rome in the 5th and final vote. Cape Town, Stockholm, and Buenos Aires, the three other cities that made the IOC shortlist, were eliminated in prior rounds of voting. Six other cities submitted applications, but their bids were dropped by the IOC in 1996. These cities were Istanbul, Lille, Rio de Janeiro, San Juan, Seville, and Saint Petersburg.
NBC Universal paid the IOC $793 million for U.S. broadcast rights,the most paid by any country. NBC made it possible for the network to broadcast over 1200 hours of coverage during the games, triple what was broadcast in the U.S. four years earlier. Between all the NBC Universal networks (NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA Network & Telemundo) the games were on television 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, concerns about terrorism were much higher. Greece increased the budget for security at the Olympics to €970 million (US$1.2 billion). Approximately 70,000 police officers patrolled Athens and the Olympic venues during the Olympics.
A new Organizing Committee was formed in 2000 under President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. In the years leading up to the Games, Athens was transformed into a city that uses state-of-the-art technology in transportation and urban development. Some of the most modern sporting venues in the world at the time were built to host the 2004 Olympic Games.
One of them, the main Olympic Stadium, the designated facility for the opening and closing ceremonies, with the sliding over of a futuristic glass roof designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The same architect also designed the Velodrome and other facilities.
During the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2004, the strictest «judges» were accommodated on the site of the Olympic Village (see photos): some 17,500 and 4,500 athletes and members of the Olympic and Paralympic family respectively. It succeeded in gaining global recognition for its exemplary hospitality and mode of operation. With a strong combination of contemporary residential development and respect for the environment, it proved to be one of the most essential factors in the success of the Games.
By July/August 2004, all venues were delivered: in August, the Olympic Stadium was officially completed and opened, joined or preceded by the official completion and openings of other venues within the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA), and the sports complexes in Faliro and Helliniko.
In July the Athens Tram and Light Rail become operational, and these two systems finally connected Athens with its waterfront communities along the Saronic Gulf, such as its port city of Piraeus, Agios Kosmas (site of the sailing venue), Helliniko (the site of the old international airport which now contained the fencing venue, the canoe/kayak slalom course, the 14,500-seater indoor basketball arena, and the softball and baseball stadia), and Faliro (site of the taekwondo, handball, indoor volleyball, and beach volleyball venues, as well as the newly-reconstructed Karaiskaki Stadium for football). The upgrades to the Athens Ring Road were also delivered in time, as were the expressway upgrades connecting Athens proper with peripheral areas such as Markopoulo (site of the shooting and equestrian venues), the newly constructed Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, Schinias (site of the rowing venue), Maroussi (site of the OAKA), Parnitha (site of the Olympic Village), Galatsi (site of the rhythmic gymnastics and table tennis venue), and Vouliagmeni (site of the triathlon venue). The upgrades to the Athens Metro were also completed, and the new lines became operational by mid-summer.
As with any enterprise, the Organizing Committee and everyone involved with it rely heavily on technology in order to deliver a successful event. ATHOC maintained two separate data networks, one for the preparation of the Games (known as the Administrative network) and one for the Games themselves (Games Network). The technical infrastructure involved more than 11,000 computers, over 600 servers, 2,000 printers, 23,000 fixed-line telephone devices, 9,000 mobile phones, 12,000 TETRA devices, 16,000 TV and video devices and 17 Video Walls interconnected by more than 6,000 kilometers of cabling (both optical fiber and twisted pair).
This infrastructure was created and maintained to serve directly more than 150,000 ATHOC Staff, Volunteers, Olympic family members (IOC, NOCs, Federations), Partners & Sponsors and Media. It also kept the information flowing for all spectators, TV viewers, Website visitors and news readers around the world, prior and during the Games. Between June and August 2004, the technology staff worked in the Technology Operations Center (TOC) from where it could centrally monitor and manage all the devices and flow of information, as well as handle any problems that occurred during the Games. The TOC was organized in teams (e.g. Systems, Telecommunications, Information Security, Data Network, Staffing, etc.) under a TOC Director and corresponding team leaders (Shift Managers). The TOC operated on a 24×7 basis with personnel organized into 12-hour shifts.
The lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame took place on March 25 in Ancient Olympia. For the first time ever, the flame travelled around the world in a relay to former Olympic cities and other large cities, before returning to Greece.
The Opening Ceremony culminated in the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by 1996 Gold Medalist Windsurfer Nikolaos Kaklamanakis.
The widely praised Opening Ceremony held on August 13, 2004 began with a twenty eight (the number of the Olympiads up to then) second countdown paced by the sounds of an amplified heartbeat. As the countdown was completed, fireworks rumbled and illuminated the skies overhead. After a drum corp and bouzouki players joined in an opening march, the video screen showed images of flight, crossing southwest from Athens over the Greek countryside to ancient Olympia. Then, a single drummer in the ancient stadium joined in a drum duel with a single drummer in the main stadium in Athens, joining the original ancient Olympic games with the modern ones in symbolism. At the end of the drum duet, a single flaming arrow was launched from the video screen (symbolically from ancient Olympia) and into the reflecting pool, which resulted in fire erupting in the middle of the stadium creating a burning image of the Olympic rings rising from the pool.
The Opening Ceremony was a pageant of traditional Greek culture and history hearkening back to its mythological beginnings.
The gigantic cauldron, which was styled after the Athens 2004 Olympic Torch, pivoted down to be lit by the athlete, before slowly swinging up and lifting the flame high above the stadium. Following this, the stadium found itself at the centre of a rousing fireworks spectacular.
The sports featured at the 2004 Summer Olympics were: Archery * Athletics * Badminton * Baseball Basketball * Boxing * Canoeing * Cycling * Diving Equestrian * Fencing * Field Hockey * Football/Soccer * Gymnastics * Handball * Judo * Modern pentathlon * Rowing * Sailing * Shooting * Softball * Swimming * Synchronized swimming * Table tennis * Taekwondo * Tennis * Triathlon * Volleyball * Water polo * Weightlifting * Wheelchair Racing * Wrestling.
Officially there were 28 sports as swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo are classified by the IOC as disciplines within the sport of aquatics, and wheelchair racing was a demonstration sport. For the first time, the wrestling category featured women’s wrestling and in the fencing competition women competed in the sabre.
The demonstration sport of wheelchair racing was a joint Olympic/Paralympic event, allowing a Paralympic event to occur within the Olympics, and for the future, opening up the wheelchair race to the able-bodied. The 2004 Summer Paralympics were also held in Athens, from September 20 to 28.
All National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated in the Athens Games, as was the case in 1996. Two new NOCs had been created since 1996, and made their debut at these Games (Kiribati, and Timor-Leste), therefore along with the re-appearance of Afghanistan (missing the 2000 Summer Olympics) the total number of participating nations increased from 199 to 202. Yugoslavia competed in 2004 as Serbia and Montenegro (code changed from YUG to SCG) and Hong Kong as Hong Kong, China.
The Games were concluded on August 29, 2004. The closing ceremony was held at the Athens Olympic Stadium, where the Games had been opened 16 days earlier. Around 70,000 people gathered in the stadium to watch the ceremony.
The initial part of the ceremony interspersed the performances of various Greek singers, and featured traditional Greek dance performances from various regions of Greece (Crete, Pontos, Thessaly, etc). The event was meant to highlight the pride of the Greeks in their culture and country for the world to see.
The national anthems of Greece and China were played in a handover ceremony as both nations’ flags were raised. The Mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyianni, passed the Olympic Flag to the Mayor of Beijing, Wang Qishan.
A young Greek girl, Fotini Papaleonidopoulou, lit a symbolic lantern with the Olympic Flame and passed it on to other children before «extinguishing» the flame in the cauldron by blowing a puff of air.