By Patrick Butler & Tad Bogielski
Our first full day in Athens, Greece started off with some very informational lectures. The first lecture was from Mike Argyris. Mike was the Race Director of the very first Ironman Greece. This specific Ironman took place in Peloponnese and was a ½ Ironman or an Ironman 70.3. Peloponnese is a peninsula located in southern Greece. The Ironman Greece is a ½ Triathlon which consists of a 2km swim in the ocean, a 90km bike ride, and a ½ marathon all together. Last year was the very first Ironman Greece and in that first year of the race there were 1500 participants from 62 different countries. With such a high volume of participants the race required 1000 people working, 650 were volunteers and 350 were paid workers. In total the Ironman Greece was 700,000 Euros to put on, or about $800,000. On top of the background knowledge, we were learned about the importance of a brand association. Many people around the world understand the amazing feat it is to complete an Ironman or a ½ Ironman. Thus the association of companies with the Ironman Brand have improved their value, and their perception to the public. Brand association is something that can be extremely influential to a company’s success.
The 2nd lecture was from Tota Golfinopoulou and Eleftheria Petrides who work as event managers for the Athens Marathon. Our lecture covered a lot of the great history that is associated with the Athens Marathon. It is called “The Authentic” because Athens is the birthplace of the very first Marathon. In ancient times Grigoris Lobrakis ran from the city Marathon to Athens to inform the Athenians they had won the Persian War. The Authentic Marathon starts in Marathon and ends at the Panathenaic Stadium, which was the location of the 1st modern Olympic Games. This distance from Marathon to Athens is what is used for today’s race distances. In the past 10 years the race has increased its participants from 10,750 to 60,000+ registered for the 2019 race. With this exponential growth the race ranks 14th in the world in participants, as well as Top 5 in Europe. We also learned about the Marathon Flame that The Authentic Marathon created. This flame is lit before the Athens Marathon at the opening ceremony each year at the Marathon Tomb. The Marathon Tomb is the location of Athenians graves after the Persian war. The course is one of the most historic courses in the world and is a must run course that most marathon runners have on their bucket list.
The 3rd lecture was from Panthinaikos BC, a very well-known basketball team in Greece. The lecture was from the General Manager, Themistocles Karvountzis. Panthinaikos BC is a professional team in Greece that competes in the Euroleague, The Greek League and The Greek Cup. They have a very rich history, and are one of the most successful European teams of the last 100 years. Due to this success they have been able to regularly fill their 18.5k capacity stadium and average around 10,000 season tickets sold in recent years. On top of ticket sales they attract big name players to their team; they have featured many former NBA Players like Dominque Wilkins, Kosta Koufos and Kostas Antetokounmpo. The team is currently coached by former Louisville head coach, Rick Pitino. On top of being a very successful team Panthinaikos is doing amazing things for the city. They recently started an Autism Spectrum Disorder Program. This program allows for local children with ASD to come together to learn sport, be active and have fun.
After our speakers, we headed over to the site of the 2004 Olympics. It was a massive complex full of the stadiums used for the games. The first arena we visited with our tour guide was the Main Olympic Stadium. Events like Track and Field and Soccer were the main use of this stadium. This is also the location used for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2004 Olympic Games. Our tour guide told us how the stadium’s roof was made, 25,000 square meters with a capacity of 72,000 seats. Now, after the games are said and done, the stadium is used primarily for soccer games for AEK Athens and the Panathinaikos F.C. She also stated how it is a great venue for concerts.
Our next stop was the indoor and outdoor swimming pools used for the games. The bleacher seats used for the outdoor pool looked to be a little run down and not in use. However, the outdoor pool is used daily! Adults like to use the pool for recreational swimming. On the inside, the pool is always busy with action. The indoor facility receives 60,000 swimmers annually and the ages range from 6 months old all they way into older adults. After the non-permanent seating for the Olympics was removed, the stands can fill an audience of 5,506. This indoor stadium is also the home of where Michael Phelps broke and set the Olympic Record.
We ended our day with a bike tour around the city center of Athens. The big group split into two smaller ones, however, we received the same tour. One group set off going clockwise around the Acropolis why the other group went counterclockwise. The first stop on the tour was atop the Filopappou Hill. It is a park within the city limit where you can get a fantastic view of the Parthenon and the rest of the Acropolis. The hill is about the same height as the Acropolis so you are able to take in all its glory from afar before visiting the Acropolis itself. The word “acropolis” comes from “acro” and “polis” which translates to “high or heights” and “city.” Most Greek city-states have their own acropolis but this is the most famous one. The Parthenon was an important temple to the ancient Athenians since it was dedicated to the Greek Goddess Athena, who is their patron. Unfortunately we were not able to make it atop the Acropolis by bike so we are climbing the hill Sunday.
Later in the tour we visited the first stadium of the modern Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium. It is here where the events of the 1896 Summer Olympics were held. The stadium is shaped similarly to that of an amphitheater. It is completely made out of marble and when it was created it held 50,000 spectators. Due to erosion, it has lost 5,000 seats over the course of time but it is still quite impressive for being built in the 6th century B.C. Today, the stadium is the finish point for the Athens Marathon (which starts in Marathon Town). Marathon Town is a small city outside of Athens which is exactly 42.2 km away.