The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Greece was received with great excitement around the world, however, there was also great anxiety because the existing facilities was far from adequate and the city lacked experience with constructing such large-scale projects. Calatrava only received the commission on October 2001 and in addition to these difficulties and delays, rumors of catastrophic failures, including fears of a terrorist attack persisted throughout the construction and continued until the last days leading up to the opening ceremonies. This turned the Athens Olympics into the most costly and security-conscious games in modern history. On August 13, 2004, however, anxiety gave way to celebration when the Olympic torch reached the Olympic Stadium, designed by Calatrava, and the 2004 Games officially began with an athletes’ parade and a jubilant gala opening ceremony under Calatrava’s arched structure. The return of the Olympics to Athens, and the most successful Paralympic Games that followed it, were unanimously declared a success, and a major contribution to this success was Calatrava’s architecture.
The program asked Calatrava to integrate all structures aesthetically and provide a common identity using both built and landscape elements. In addition, Calatrava needed to accommodate the visitors’ requirements, provide an efficient solution to waste management and other ecological concerns and maintain local vegetation, olive trees, and cypresses. The Athens Olympic Sports Complex was comprised of 199,000 square meters (2,142,020 ft²) of plazas; 94,000 square meters (1,011,810 ft²) of pedestrian pathways; 61,000 square meters (656,599 ft²) of green areas; 29,000 square meters (312,153 ft²) of water elements; 130,000 square meters (1,399,310 ft²) of service facilities; and 178,000 square meters (1,915,980 ft²) of parking and roads, In addition, the project required 2,500 new trees; 600 replanted trees; 160,000 shrubs; 8,500 fencing trees; and 400,000 cubic meters (14,125,867 ft³) of landfill.
Calatrava reorganized the existing 100-hectare area and designed a new roof for the Olympic Stadium; a new roof and refurbishing of the Velodrome; entrance plazas; and entrance canopies for the entire complex. Additionally, and on his own initiative, he designed the Agora complex; a central Plaza of the Nations, including tree-lined boulevards; a pair of arcade structures; his own version of an Olympic cauldron — a giant torch; a sculptural Nations Wall; a new warm-up area for athletes: pedestrian bridges and connections to public transportation; parking areas; bus terminals; and installations for all service elements. He also conceived for the common area to include circulation spines. The central circulation spine for the complex runs in an east-west direction, connecting the Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome, Perpendicular to this spine is a wide boulevard of trees that links the tennis courts, the new warm-up areas, and the logistics center.
2001 - 2004
Λεωφ. Ολυμπιονίκου Σπύρου Λούη
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