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   Opening Ceremony: Olympic stadium to be flooded for opening


THE OLYMPIC stadium in Athens will be flooded with millions of gallons of water for the Games' spectacular opening ceremony.

A lake will fill the arena of the 55,000-seat stadium for a three-hour ceremony featuring state-of-the-art pyrotechnics, puppeteers and hundreds of dancers.

Other highlights will include a huge "comet" striking the lake to form the five Olympic rings in flames, a 50ft Greek sculpture emerging from the lake then exploding and a parade of floats carrying hundreds of Greek mythological figures.

Details of the ceremony, including who will light the Olympic flame, have been kept under wraps for months.

The ceremony starts at 8.45pm on Friday August 13 as 400 drummers make the sound of a human heart-beat across the stadium and a giant video screen counts down from 40 seconds.

As it hits zero there will be an explosion of white light and a flame will race across the stadium's 80-metre high roof. The "comet" will hit the lake and a giant "paper" boat carrying a small child will glide across the lake to a stage in the middle.

There, the child will be greeted by Greek president Constantine Stephanopoulos while the Greek flag is raised and the country's national anthem is played. Then, in one of the more bizarre parts of the show, a centaur - half-man, half horse - throws a javelin into the centre of the lake.

From the spot where it lands a 50ft high head similar to ancient sculptures found near Greek temples rises - then shatters to reveal two strange figures.

The centrepiece of the show will feature more than 400 ancient mythological figures, dancers and puppeteers in boats.

The final figure, a pregnant woman, will step into the water to spark off a cascade of tiny lights throughout the stadium followed by a giant projection of a strand of DNA. Athletes from 202 countries will then file eight abreast into the stadium via a spiral stairway and gather at the foot of a "mountain" rising from the centre of the lake from which an olive tree is growing.

The procession of teams, in Greek alphabetical order, will take 90 minutes and will end with a map of the world being unfolded over the heads of the assembled athletes.
Figures representing the 36 countries through which the Olympic flame has passed will fly through the air carrying illuminated batons. Then the last of seven torch bearers will light the Olympic cauldron with the torch.

After speeches, the games will finally be declared open. An Olympic insider said: "The ceremony has been planned for nearly four years and should be awesome."

But critics complain there will be a shortage of celebrities at the ceremony. One will be actress Irene Papas, who starred in Zorba the Greek and Captain Correlli's Mandolin.

About 40 construction workers have been killed, at least two Romanians among them (Dumnezeu Sa-i Odihneasca!/ "God Rest them in Peace!") while working on the dozens of Olympic sites throughout Greece. Just one worker died in the run-up to the Sydney games in 2000.


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