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  • I was riding my bike when I received the phone call asking me to visit the Athens 2004 Organising Committee (ATHOC). I was asked to make a proposal for an OPENING CEREMONY. It was 2001. I requested four months, three collaborators, and some money for the production. The day of the presentation was the first day I met the ATHOC President, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. There was a very negative vibe at the meeting. We had a fight. I started smoking again (I had quit for a year). That same afternoon she requested a second presentation. I gave it a week later. I was then asked to give the presentation again on an incognito trip to Salt Lake City, where the 2002 Winter Olympics were being held, so that the International Olympic Committee could attend. They were enthused. Two months later I received an invitation to see the ATHOC President, and I got the job.
    The first thing I did was put together a creative team. The name of the game was for Greek artists to create a ceremony realised by a foreign production company. This was a groundbreaking approach to the production of an enormous show; artists are usually the employees of the production company. In this way, I, as the head of the artistic team, was given absolute authority to approve or reject anything that was produced by the production company. I answered only to the ATHOC President. We owed this excellent arrangement to Gianna.
    Having gone through this life-changing experience, I am glad to have seen that it really is possible for a group of people who really believe in what they are doing not to lose their faith, and to insist on their artistic integrity throughout a nightmarish journey involving government agencies, multinational companies, huge vested interests, the clashes of enormous egos, money-grubbing, international and local political interests, and delays, delays, delays, delays. We were able to survive the process and deliver a work in which we truly believed. It would seem faith is one of the most effective of human capabilities (no wonder it is so eagerly manipulated by the world’s many religious denominations).
    The ceremony I dreamt of creating had clarity of form and economy of colour, focused exclusively on art history, took a sensual approach to Greek identity, and bore an underlying sexuality that would make it engaging on a visceral level. I sought to create intimacy on a grand, spectacular scale, and to appeal to archetypal emotions and images in order for the ceremony to work on both a spiritual and emotional level. The ceremony could not be a story – it could only be the unfolding of a dream sequence.

    I studied all the ceremonies staged thus far and followed the form that had been established, but filling it with elements of a completely different mood, philosophy and style. A style I felt was most becoming for a civilisation such as the Greek, that is ancient, and of great importance for the development of the Western world and the evolution of human thought. A style inspired by a civilisation that is so very sexy. Nudity was unfortunately not appropriate in this context, out of respect for international religious sensibilities – such a pity for a civilisation that was not at all ashamed of the human body.

    Having seen the international appeal of the OPENING CEREMONY, it seems that mainstream notions of producing large-scale shows with the lowest common denominator in mind, and the overrated rule that a show must be logically understood rather than emotionally experienced need to be reconsidered. The entire advertising industry premise of researching what the audience wants in order deliver to it to them should be overturned; creative vision should be the only guide. As for me, I am grateful to have gambled in such a way and to have survived the experience.

  • Kostas Georgoussopoulos – "Ta Nea" newspaper, 14 August 2004
    A Worthy Endeavour

    …Ideological and moral objections one may have regarding the debasement and commercialisation of the Olympics aside, when the Games return to their historic birthplace, we have a duty to remind the entire world of the logical, ethical, political and aesthetic thought that bore them.
    The decision to entrust this great educational, historical and aesthetic sentiment to a contemporary Greek amateur of genius was inspired. I use the word "amateur" here in its original, ancient sense: just like Makriyannis, Theofilos, Tsitsanis, Koon, the craftsmen of Pyrsoyanni, and the mantinada bards of Karpathos before him, Dimitris Papaioannou is, literally speaking, an untrained autodidact. He combines good taste with humbleness, and his reflections on life are devoid of inanity.

    And last night, this ingenious renaissance artist proved himself a poet and a mystic.

    He grasped the overarching spirit of uninterrupted Greek history, honouring the deeply-rooted structure of Greek thought...

    In three-quarters of an hour, Papaioannou managed to narrate the bold endeavour that was the Greek discovery of the world through the use of recognisable symbols and ideas, and values made tangible...

    Last night, before an international audience, Papaioannou solved the riddles of the Sphinx, the Sibyl and Gorgias with the simplicity of a sigh, and with the divine naïveté of a folk fable: humankind, these small beings, so great...*

    …I will limit myself to expressing my gratitude, and the great honour I feel to be a compatriot of this artist, who announced to all the world that Greece not only was. Greece is.

    *A play on a line from the poem The Axion Esti by Odysseus Elytis.

    Kostas Georgoussopoulos is a theatre critic, translator of theatrical texts, poet, essayist, and professor emeritus of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.


    Nikos G. Xydakis – "I Kathimerini" newspaper, 22 August 2004
    An Image of Ourselves We Liked

    We glimpsed an image of ourselves in the lucid watery mirror of the athletics stadium, and we liked what we saw. There was no sourness, no whining, no fault-finding. Just smiles and optimism. The reflection was aware of its inconsistencies; it brought them within itself, where they stirred in its viscera, but they could not hold it back. The road ahead was calling. An image of middle Greece, pure and sensual, was reflected out there. We liked what we saw...

    ...I remember the first flutterings in my stomach, the instantaneous lump in my throat as the lights, the people, the video projections and the music revealed something of who we are – or, at least, of who I think we are. And once this wave of emotion had ebbed, I thought things over more calmly and looked behind the aesthetic shell to feel the symbolic charge of the ceremony. They had dared to make something partial seem universal, but not indeterminate; the personal was shown to be communal, fragility was made a virtue, transformation became faith. They dared to show what is, and at once we felt that it related to us, it represented us...

    ...We discuss the ceremony precisely because its symbolic charge was discharged into a land thirsting for self-recognition. And because this primal symbolism, which was sucked in so greedily by the parched local earth, innately and supplely managed to electrify others too. Europeans, Africans and Asians recognised the universal tessera set into the mosaic, elements that have been so intensely mythologised, saw them in the transition from myth to the word and from the local to the global, in the eternal return and the mysteries of humankind, and all this without the burden of superficial humanism. It was these elements that were recognised by the classically educated Italian Eugenio Scalfari, which made him remember with emotion the dialogues between Socrates and Alcibiades he had read as a youth. That is really something...

    ...Water and light encircle me. I end with the words of Jean Grenier: “Torrents of light and joy flooded in from all around, forming little pools and finally falling to find rest in an endless ocean… At that very moment, on all the coasts of the Mediterranean, on the heights of Palermo and Ravello, of Ragusa and Amalfi, of Algeria and Alexandria, of Patras and Istanbul, of İzmir and Barcelona, thousands of people stood just like me: holding their breath and murmuring, 'Yes.'”

Commissioned by the Athens 2004 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (ATHOC)
Won an Emmy in 2005 for «Outstanding Lighting Direction: Robert A. Dickinson, Eleftheria Deko, Ted Wells, Andy O’ Reilly, and Theodore Tsevas)

Conceived, Visualised and Directed by Dimitris Papaioannou
Co-Creation, Music Concept Creator: Yorgos Koumendakis
Set Designer: Lili Pezanou
Lighting Designer & Director: Eleftheria Deko
Choreographer: Angeliki Stellatou
Costume Designer: Sofia Kokossalaki
Video Director & Producer: Athina Tsangari
Ceremonies Texts: Lina Nikolakopoulou
Pyrotechnic Design: Christophe Berthonneau
Artistic Segment ‘Clepsydra’ Visual Concept and Direction: Angelos Mendis

Coordinator of the Creative – Associate Director: Tina Papanikolaou
Associate Director: Yorgos Matskaris
Creative Production Assistant: Kali Kavvatha

Music Associate: Maria Metaxaki

Associate Set Designer: Konstantinos Kypriotakis
Assistant Set Designer: Eliza Paraskeva

Co-Lighting Designer & Director: Robert A. Dickinson
Associate Lighting Designer: Theodore Tsevas
Lighting Director: Ted Wells
Moving Light Director: Andy O’Reilly

Associate Choreographer: Fotis Nikolaou
Assistant Choreographers: Vanessa Andrikopoulou, Titi Antonopoulou, Panayiotis Argyropoulos, Spyros Bertsatos, Nikos Dragonas, Yianna Filippopoulou, Fedra Fourouli, Ermira Goro, Altin Huta, Giorgia Kalantzi, Nikos Klaogerakis, Martha Kloukina, Roula Koutroumbeli, Nikos Lagousakos, Olia Lydaki, Mendi Mega, Stathis Mermiggis, Hamilton Monteiro, Christos Papadopoulos, Rena Papandoniou, Natalia Partheniou, Gogo Petrali, Euaggelia Randou, Katerina Skiada, Theodossia Sourelou, Daphni Stefanou, Vasso Yiannakopoulou, Alexandros Yiannis, Yiannis Yiaples

Field Choreographer & Chartist: Wanda Rokicki
Chartist & Associate  Field Choreographer: Bryn Walters
Assistant Field Choreographers: Vassiliki Kolovou, Nikos Lagousakos, Gina Martinez, Roxana ‘Rocky’ Smith
Mass Choreographer - Parade of Athletes: Doug Jack
Assistant Field Choreographers - Parade of Athletes: Claire Terri, Paul Winkelman

Associate Costume Designer: Theofilos Yessios-Geskos

Video Production Manager: Costas Kephalas
1st Assistant Video Director: Dimtiris Birbilis
2nd Assistant Video Director: Manos Gasteratos
Assistant Video Production Manager: Margarita Manda
Animation Designer - Chief Editor: Matt Johnson
Assistant Animator: Yiannis Anagnostou
Text Animation: Bios
Editing: Leah Bowers, Sandrine Cheyrol
Video Cinematographer: Isaac Mathes

Director-Narration Workshop: Roula Pateraki
Narrators: Olia Lazaridou, Amalia Moutoussi, Aglaia Pappa

Hair Designer: Alexandris Balabanis
Make up Designer: Petros Petrohilos

Artistic Segment ‘Clepsydra’
Costume & Set Supervisor: Eleni Manolopoulou
Associate to the Costume Supervisor: Marialena Lapata
Associate to the Set Supervisor: Myrto Anastasopoulou
Painting Designer & Supervisor: Maria Ilia
Research: Antonis Galeos