On this day, August 29, 2004, the Olympic Summer Games ended in the heart of Athens, at the Olympic Stadium. It was a remarkable year, as the Olympic Games had returned to Greece, the home of both the ancient Olympics and the first modern Olympics.
The President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, said at the closing ceremony of what is officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, that “these have been unforgettable dream Games. These Games were held in peace and brotherhood.”
There were approximately 70,000 attendees gathered in the stadium to watch the closing ceremony, which had lots of Greek music, dancing, and a fireworks display. Not just the closing ceremony, but Athens 2004 Olympic Games highlighted the Greek pride in culture and country for the world to see.
The closing ceremony converted the stage of the stadium into a huge wheat field that began with a mock Greek wedding, which incorporated local traditional celebrations from different regions of Greece, followed by a variety of folk music.
One of the most memorable moments though was when ten-year-old Fotini Papaleonidopoulou blew out the flame, marking the ending of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games.
Costas Karamanlis, Prime Minister at the time, said in his closing ceremony speech that with the Olympics coming home “we’ve shown the world the great things Greeks can do!…What a remarkable 17 days!…the world discovered a New Greece. These Games broke records.”
He continued to say “I ask our foreign guests: did you enjoy yourselves in Greece? We loved having you here. You wave your national flags. You stood for every anthem. You danced to our music. We even heard you speak your first words of Greek. To you, we say, thank you… Because of you, the Olympic Games are the most powerful source of inspiration and hope to humanity. Athletes of the world – thank you. Athletes of Greece – we thank you for the magical moments you gave us. Congratulations! There is one more gold medal to award tonight. This gold medal belongs to all Greeks.”
It was victory enough for the Greeks that their country had managed to pull off a smoothly run Olympics, an effort that required the care and help of more than 16,000 athletes and team officials from nearly 200 countries, 30,000 journalists, uncounted dignitaries and members of the International Olympic Committee accompanies by their bodyguards.
The 2004 Games have also been remembered by the improvement in drug testing which allowed honest athletes to prevail.