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31.08.04: Toronto Star: That's one big fat Greek goodbye

Farewll, Athina! (Photo IOC: Getty Images/Stuart Hannagan)
ATHENS—Greece said goodbye to the XXVIII Olympiad last night, staging an uproarious farewell pageant under the glow of a full moon (...)

It was joyous enough that Athens readied itself for the Games on time, more joyous still that the 17-day festival of the humanly possible passed to its climactic conclusion without so much as a misplaced firecracker, let alone a hint of the kind of large-scale terror attacks dreaded by all.

In celebration, last night's finale was a uniquely Greek mosaic of song, dance and colour, drawing more than a dozen of the country's best-loved contemporary and traditional folk artists into a program that exploded energetically from a spiral wheat field on the stadium's floor.

Hundreds of dancers interlaced between harvesters with scythes, waving white scarves, a wave answered in turn by 70,000 attendees in the stadium, coached to be part of the program just minutes before the event was beamed live around the world.

Symbolic tables of bounty came next, a gang of grape harvesters pressed wine, and then, inevitably, a very brief but nevertheless big fat Greek wedding procession.

There were Testos dancers, Tsamikos dancers, Tsifteteli dancers and Tsakonikos dancers, each spicing the medley with regional flavour. There were fire dancers, rembetico groups, refugee processions and caricatures of Greek presidential guardsmen, circling on bicycles.

As the dances unfolded throughout the stadium floor, the scythes continued swinging through the spirals of wheat.

With the harvest complete, the harvesters, too, began to dance, holding their wheat bundles skyward as they moved to that most recognizable of all Greek sounds — composer Mikis Theodorakis' "Zorba."

And when the dance was over, the wheat spiral had taken new shape, morphing into the five Olympic rings.

Mitch Potter - Toronto Star (excerptsI

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