The Olympics come back homeThe modern Olympic Games began in Athens in the first week of April 1896, in the Panathenaic Stadium, originally built in 330 B.C. But Olympic history is centuries older than even that venue.
The first Olympics for which records exist were held in 776 B.C., and the Games are known to date back even farther than that. Part of a religious festival, the original Olympic tradition was carried on for more than 1,000 years; in ancient times, even wars paused for the Olympics.
The 2004 Olympics will be held in six different cities in Greece: Athens, Thessaloniki, Ancient Olympia, Volos, Patras and Heraklion (on the island of Crete). Track and field events will be staged at the Athens Olympic Stadium, with the exception of the marathon, the road walk events and the shotput, which will be held in the Ancient Olympia Stadium. The Athens Olympic Stadium, situated in the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, accomodates 72,000 spectators; besides the track and field events, it will host the gold medal soccer match, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
Athens is home to 4 million people; Greece itself has a population of 11 million, most of whom are Greek Orthodox. The country depends largely on service industries, including tourism and shipping; the service sector accounts for 70 percent of its gross domestic product, which was 153 billion euros ($187 billion) in 2003.
With its strong shipping industry, the country happens to be the biggest buyer of Korean-made container ships in the world. Greece imported $1.8 billion worth of goods from Korea in 2003, and exported $104 million worth. Culturally, the most notable exchange between the two countries, at least in recent decades, may have been the popularity in Korea of the Greek singer Nana Mouskouri.
The official relationship between Korea and Greece dates back to 1949, when Greece first recognized Korea diplomatically. Greece sent 5,219 soldiers to fight in the Korean War; 194 died and 610 were injured. There is a Korean War veterans’ association in Greece; in June, a memorial was built for the country’s Korean War veterans.
A total of 270 Koreans live in Greece; about 100 Greeks, most of whom work for Greek shipping companies, live in Korea. The Greek ambassador to Korea since March has been Constantine Drakakis. Greece established diplomatic ties with North Korea in 2001.
by Limb Jae-un