The Panathinaiko or Panathenaic
Stadium (Greek: Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο), also known as the
Kallimarmaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο, i.e. the "beautifully
marbled"), is an athletic stadium in Athens that
hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Reconstructed
from the remains of the ancient Greek stadium, the Panathinaiko
is the only major stadium in the world built entirely
of white marble (from Mount Penteli)
In ancient times, it was used to host the athletic portion
of the Panathenaic Games, in honour of the Goddess Athena.
During classical times, the stadium had wooden seating.
It was remade in marble, by the archon Lycurgus, in 329
BC and was enlarged and renovated by Herodes Atticus,
in 140 AD, to a seated capacity of 50,000. The remnants
of the ancient structure were excavated and refurbished,
with funds provided by Evangelis Zappas for the revival
of the Olympic Games. Evangelis Zappas sponsored the
Olympic Games that were held there in 1870 and 1875.
The stadium was refurbished a second time in 1895 for
the 1896 Olympics, with completion funding provided by
the Greek benefactor George Averoff (whose marble statue
now stands at the entrance), based on designs by architects
Anastasios Metaxas and Ernst Ziller
The stadium was built long before dimensions for
athletics venues were standardized and its track and layout
the ancient hairpin-like model.
It could seat about 80,000 spectators on 50 rows of marble
steps and currently holds 45,000 spectators.
It is located in downtown Athens, at the district of Pangrati
east of the National Gardens and the Zappeion Exhibition
Hall, west of the Pangrati residential district and between
the twin pine-covered hills of Ardettos and Agra. Up to
the 1950s, the Ilissos River (now covered by, and flowing
underneath, Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue) ran in front
of the stadium's entrance, and the spring of Kallirrhoe,
the sanctuary of Pankrates (a local hero) and the Cynosarges
public gymnasium were nearby.
The Fokianos sports facility lies across Vasileos Konstantinou
Avenue, and adjacent to it are located the Athens tennis
club, the Ethnikos athletics track, the Federation swimming
pool, the remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and
Hadrian's Gate. Until the late 19th century and the containment
of the Ilissos riverbed, the area was reedy and often flooded,
and was called the "Vatrahonisi" (Frog Island).
In more recent years, the stadium has
been often used to honour the homecoming of victorious Greek
notably the Greek national football team, after its victory
at the 2004 European Football Championship and also the
opening ceremony of the World Athletics Championships in
1997, on a concept by composer Vangelis Papathanasiou.
In the 2004 Olympic Games, the Panathinaiko Stadium hosted
the archery competition, and the finish of the Marathon.
On rare occasions, the stadium has also been used as a venue
for select musical performances. Among those include Bob
Dylan, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Metallica & Sakis Rouvas.
On September 2008, the stadium hosted the MTV Greece launch
party, with quests C;Real, REM and Gabriella Cilmi.
On July 1, 2009, recording artist Sakis Rouvas made history,
with a sold-out benefit concert, for the environment (coinciding
with the first day of the Greek public ban on smoking), with
an audience of 50,000–the largest audience ever at the stadium,
for a musical event and among the largest concert of all
time, by a Greek artist.