My Favorite Olympic Opening Ceremony: The 2004 Athens Summer Olympics

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As a first generation Greek-American, I was thrilled when in 1997, Greece was finally selected as the country to host the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. Although the first Olympics originated in Olympia, Greece, the last time the Olympics were actually held in Hellas, the Greek name for Greece, was in 1896, in Athens, the capital of Greece.

On the evening of August 13, 2004, when the Opening Ceremony finally began, we held our breath and hoped that Greece would perform under pressure. We were not disappointed! The ceremony began with a score of drummers walking into the Athens Olympic Stadium, alongside a huge body of water that engulfed the middle of the stadium. Meanwhile, one side, dozens of bouzouki players played their traditional Greek instruments until all of the drummers arrived at their places.

Music is at the soul of the Hellenic people. Tears were in my eyes as I heard the bittersweet sounds of the bouzouki. As I saw the faces of these musicians proudly playing their instruments, I remembered that Greece is a very small country of only 11 million people. Greece is one of the most beautiful and storied places in the world and over the past 100 years, since the last Olympics, the Greek people have fought hard to defend their beloved country. They also worked hard to earn the right and respect to once again host these Olympic Games.

After all of the musicians arrived to their places, the music stopped. Then all eyes were on the big screen as we saw the Greek countryside and then we arrived to the ancient Olympia stadium, where the Games were originally held. I have been at this historic stadium before and seeing the lone drummer there gave me tingles. He began to play his drum and then a drummer in the Athens stadium responded. And soon, the two were simultaneously playing, as the heartbeat of the original Olympics was passed onto Athens, like the torch is passed on throughout the world. This was the heartbeat of Greece and to me, the heartbeat of the roots of our own American democracy. This is where American ideals originally began.

The rest of the ceremony beautifully showed the old culture and flowed into a modern Greece through beautiful dance, choreography and music. The costumes were amazing. This was an absolutely mesmerizing and meaningful ceremony for me.

Times have been tough in Greece since these beautiful Olympics were held, yet I still believe that Greece will rise up once again and show that they may be a small country, but they compensate for it with a lot of heart.

Georgia Makitalo is has been hooked on the Olympics since the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

Georgia Makitalo's other Olympic related articles:

10 Places to Visit During the London Olympics

2012 Summer Olympics Profile: Neymar, Brazilian Soccer Star

Tony Martin: Profile of the German Olympic Cyclist

How to Make the Most of Your Olympic Experience
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