World Olympic Collectors Fair in Athens (Greece), from 05/17 to 05/20/2012
It’s Tuesday, May 15th that I arrive at the airport of Athens where I find some of my traveling companions. We reach the center of Athens by bus together. After settling into our respective hotels, we join us for dinner together. The next day, we go to the Acropolis where the flame, after having traveled a large part of Greece, will stop for the night. Previously, we find a restaurant nearby to restore us. Then we begin the ascent of the Acropolis. The Parthenon is under renovation, we enter the site thanks to our accreditation previously used for Olympia. We come across a basin connected to a gas cylinder, which should be used to keep the flame during the night. The guards evacuate the site, before it is again invaded by the personalities who will attend the arrival of the flame. Outside, we find other collectors waiting for the arrival of the flame. Preceding the flame, the personalities arrive, Spyros Capralos, President of the Greek Olympic Committee, Princess Anne of England, Sebastian Coe, President of LOCOG (London Organization Olympic Games Committee) and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. These people are heading up to the Acropolis where the ceremony will unfold. We finally get to see the flame preceded by bikers and police vehicles. The athlete carrying the flame passes it on to another of his colleagues, Petros GALAKTOPOULOS, bronze medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling in Mexico City in 1968 and silver in Munich in 1972. He climbs to the Acropolis, we lose sight of him afterwards, not having the right to follow him on the site. A little later, the ceremony finished, we see everyone come back down. We also leave the place and go down to the city to find members of AFCOS with whom we dine.
The next day begins the collectors fair, we leave to settle in Zappeion which hosts the event. A little later, in the afternoon, we are happy to see the convoy of the flame pass the Zappeion, stop there and come greet the collectors inside. After the opening of the fair and the usual speeches, we are invited to go to the Panathinaiko stadium where will be held the ceremony of transmission of the flame, given to the English organizing committee. It’s raining more and more intensely. We will settle on the VIP side, close to the rostrum. The presidential guard enters the stadium, in front of us the symphonic orchestra. Then come the various personalities, Princess Anne, surrounded by Spyros Capralos, president of the COH and Sebastian Coe, president of LOCOG, followed a little further by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson and David Beckham. They are placed a few meters from us. Spyros Capralos accompanies Károlos Papoúlias, President of the Hellenic Republic at the official tribune. The ceremony starts. Different hymns are played, the Olympic, followed by the “God save the Queen”, then that of Greece sung by a tenor and taken up by all the spectators. The flame arrives at the stadium, brought by the last torchbearers, Christina Giatzitzidou, rowing world champion who passes it on to Vassilis Tsolakidis, world champion in gymnastics. The last relay is made up of 2 athletes, Li Ning, Chinese athlete triple gold medalist in gymnastics in Los Angeles 1984 and Pyrros Dimas, Greek athlete gold medalist in weightlifting in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. They carry the torch together, make a last stadium turn before lighting the basin together. That’s when the priestesses come in, preceded by young Greek warriors. The high priestess, carrying a torch advances towards the cauldron and stops at the foot of it. Priestesses and warriors start a dance. Greek and English teenagers exchange an olive branch symbol of peace and Olympic truce. Then they drop doves. Spyros Capralos and Sebastian Coe follow one another in the rostrum for official speeches. The high priestess lights the torch cauldronand present it to the assembly before giving it to Spyros Capralos who hands it over to Princess Anne. The princess then gives it to the assistants who, from the flame, light a miner’s lamp. It was with this miner’s lamp that Princess Anne, surrounded by Spyros Capralos and Sebastian Coe, followed by the rest of the English delegation, including David Beckham and Boris Johnson. It is the turn of President Károlos Papoúlias to leave the stadium, followed by the presidential guard. The ceremony is over.
The following days are devoted to trades and sales on the Olympic fair. A banquet was organized and offered to participants by the COH / CIO.