Also known as “Kalimarmaro” (I’ll tell you why), the Panathinaic stadium is a must-see if you travel to Athens. However, most of the tourists don’t know the importance of this place, something that will NOT happen to you…
A bit of history, a curious legend and information about the stadium (prices, schedules, discounts…).
First of all I want to clarify that I am NOT referring to the stadium of the soccer team also called Panathinaikos, but to the amazing Olympic stadium located in the center of Athens. Let’s get to it!
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History of the Panathinaic Olympic Stadium
The stadium that we can appreciate today was built in the second half of the 19th century in order to hold the first Olympic Games in modern history – PLUS! – Many people don’t know it, but before the first Olympic Games, the Zappas Games were held here…
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This little-known sports celebration was repeated up to 4 times, and marked the revival of the ancient Olympian games. With it, the cousins Evangelos Zappas and Konstantinos Zappas wanted to return Athens and the new country (Greece) to its former glory. That’s right, the original idea was that the Olympics would always be held in Athens.
Then the famous Baron Pierre de Coubertin would arrive to create the International Olympic Committee and thus officially start the first modern games. The first (official) Olympics in modern history were held in the Panathinaic stadium in 1896, with the participation of 311 athletes from 14 different countries. Subsequently, they would be held every 4 years and changing place, thus “frustrating” the original plan of the Hellenes…
Meaning of Kalimarmaro
The Panathinaic Stadium is also known by the name “Kalimarmaro”, which means “good marble”. If you have already visited it, I am sure you will understand the reason for this name. If not, take a look at the photos below.
Kalimarmaro Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held.
That’s right, the stadium is entirely built with this material, specifically Pentelic marble was used. About 20 km from Athens and very close to the airport, there is one of the most important marble quarries in the country (on Mount Penteli).
What is so special about this marble?
Well, you see… All, absolutely ALL the monuments that the ancient Hellenes left us, were built with this same marble (including the Acropolis of Athens). More than 2,000 years later the Greeks are still quarrying this material from the same quarry, and with quite amazing results.
Panathinaic Stadium opening hours
As in all tourist sites in Athens, there are two types of opening hours:
- High season opening hours ( March – October ): Every day from 8:00 to 19:00.
- Opening hours in low season ( November – February ): Every day from 8:00 to 17:00
Ticket prices and tickets to the stadium grounds
- Normal ticket: 5 euros
- Reduced ticket: 2,5 euros. Applicable for children under 25 and over 65, I also advise you to ask at the ticket office in case you are a journalist, work in a museum and / or be any kind of pensioner.
- Free admission, applies to children under 6 years old.
In addition, admission is free for ALL the public on the following dates:
- March 6
- April 18th
- May 18th
- Last weekend of September
- October 28th
- Every first Sunday of the month in low season (November 1 – March 31)
The legend of Marathon:
This is the legend, along with the stadium, that explains the origin of the Marathon race. Surely you have heard about the famous medical wars (war between Hellenes and Persians), because this story that I am going to tell you takes place in the first medical war (490 BC):
King Darius embarked with an army of 100,000 Persians and headed for the ancient coastal city of Marathon, but his objective was to conquer the great Athens at a later date. The Greeks, being at a clear numerical disadvantage, decided that their best defense would be a good attack: that is how 10,000 Athenian soldiers and 1,000 Plataeans decided to set course for Marathon to confront their enemy there.
The Greeks bet everything on one card, the battle of Marathon, and how could it be otherwise either… THEY WON! However here another complication arose: the Athenians (who remained in the city) were prepared to take a very desperate measure in the face of an apparently imminent defeat, it was to burn all their belongings and kill their own children so that they would not fall into Persian hands.
This is where our beloved Philippides comes in, that soldier/runner who was sent from Marathon to Athens. His goal was to inform the Athenian people as soon as possible about their victory against the Persians, in order to avoid the aforementioned catastrophe.
Question: What is the distance between Marathon and Athens?
Well, the same distance that is run in the Marathon race, 42 kms. Although to be exact… The official distance of 42.195 kms of the race was established at the London Olympics in 1908, as the distance run by Philippides would be a little bit less (around 40 kms).
Very nice story! But what does all this have to do with the PanathinaicStadium?
Philippides, after battling in Marathon and running the almost 42 kms, arrived in Athens to shout “Victory!” (thus giving the best news of the time) and collapsed from exhaustion. The place where it is believed that our dear Philippides died, is the point where the current Olympic Stadium was built. Although I can not guarantee the veracity of this story, I hope you liked it 😉.
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Curiosities of the Kalimarmaro:
- When you enter don’t overlook that, at the far left of the stadium, there is a “cave” of sorts. Take it, as this will lead you to a mini-museum of the site and a conference room where you will find: all the Olympic torches used in the modern games and a replica of the apparatus used to light the sacred flame.
- The Kalimarmaro stadium was built on top of the ancient Panathinaic stadium, that’s right; before this huge semicircular marble construction, there was a smaller wooden stadium where the Panathinaikos games were held during ancient Greece.
- Depending on the source, this Olympic stadium has a capacity of between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. In any case this is a noteworthy figure.