Skip navigation

Partying at the Olympic picks up steam

Associated Press

Athens — Everything in Athens is late. Even the party.

At the start of the Olympics, thousands of stadium seats stood empty and the capital's neighbourhoods were quiet. Many people feared the Games were destined to be an organizational success and an entertainment failure.

But as Sunday's closing ceremony approaches, the buzz is definitely back.

It's 3 a.m., and traffic is moving at a crawl on central Athens' Ermou Street.

Taxis barely have time to unload their passengers before being flagged down by others. Flag-waving sports fans rub shoulders with athletes, media and volunteers still dressed in their distinctive orange and blue uniforms, stopping to watch street jugglers and drummers performing in Monastiraki Square.

"Where did all these people come from?" said taxi driver Spyros Kefis. "All the foreigners are gathered in Monastiraki and Plaka. This is where it's all happening."

With open-air concerts, impromptu dance sessions and tavernas and bars overflowing, the city centre has rarely been this full in August, Greece's traditional holiday month when most locals escape to islands. Those who remain in the capital usually opt instead for the open-air seaside dance clubs.

"It's like carnival time," said Niki Ilia, who works in a snack bar in Plaka, Athens' historic neighbourhood at the foot of the Acropolis. "There's so many people out at night. I'm really enjoying it."

Last week, "it was dead and we were wondering where all the foreigners were," Ilia said. "But now, there's a very celebratory mood."

The party starts after midnight. Athenians, naturally nocturnal, meet with spectators returning from sports events staged in the evening to avoid the mid-day heat.

Eventually, Monastiraki Square is so full it's hard to walk from one side to the other.

Suddenly, everyone is in a good mood: British tourists burst into song on a subway to the Olympic Stadium; Greeks gasp at a roadside fire-eater; an eccentric German bodybuilder who will only give his name as Thorsten draws laughs with his impression of the ancient Greek mythological hero Achilles.

The city has organized scores of free mini-parties, outdoor concerts, art exhibitions and performances every night for the duration of the Olympics. Shops throughout Athens' historical district stay open, selling souvenirs and T-shirts. Customers at sidewalk cafes dance to the music of traditional Greek songs, and the beer and wine keep flowing.

While thousands flock to the city centre, with its antiquities, neoclassical buildings and traditional tavernas, some head toward the cooler seaside sports venues.

"There was a great party atmosphere, both inside the (venue) and outside," said Christina Paraskevopoulou, a financial administrator who watched a beach volleyball match.

"They have outdoor concerts and volleyball courts for spectators to play on. People were having a lot of fun. We had an amazing time."

Recommend this article? 0 votes

Back to top