Various eye witness reports on this spectacular event, how some in the audience perceived the event.
Michael Tsiberopoulos, steadicam operator at the event:
Finally, the show is over, but the music and the images are still in my head. I feel like experiencing an overload of emotions and sounds. I hope you enjoyed the ceremony. I feel that the Greek dance parts were a bit slow, and I just wish there was more Vangelis performing. I was on the stage as he was on the keyboards, about 2 metres away from him, and I could see him smile excited, a sense of peacefulness and relaxation on his face as he was trying to feel and experience as much as possible from the momentum. You see, it was a unique moment for him as it was for us.
I took a more carefull look at the gear. Two "Roland Juno 106", a "Kurzeil K1200", one "Yamaha DX7 II", and the Korgs (T1, x3, i3 among them).
I think it was great. I am looking forward to the next one. And imagine what is gonna happen if Greece gets to host the 2004 Olympics!
Michael Tsiberopoulos, August 2/1997
Kazuhiko Imaki, spectator from the United Kingdom:
I'm just back from Athens, where of course I attended the Opening Ceremony of Athens 97.
As described in August 2nd update, Vangelis performed 4 songs live, two with
Montserrat. As far as I heard, his live playing was on the microphone on all
4 tunes, with tape music behind.
Yes, he did make mistakes (in fact he missed the first part of Chariots of Fire as many of the fans must have noticed), but it did not bother me at all because listening to him playing live was already a precious experience itself.
There were also choir made up of about 100 singers on the stage, all dressed in white tops and black bottoms as was Vangelis, with more than 10 timpanis playing live, though I was not able to see whether the sounds of timpanis came through.
Even before his apperance, the event was so magnificent with all the lightings and laser beams, videos on the huge screens that synchronised with the music (that is why I believe the music came from tape), played through PAs in such splendid and historic surroundings. Pity that my English is not good enough at all to describe how much I was moved by the event. It was worth sitting on the marble bench for over 5 hours including 2 hours of waiting.
On Conquest of Paradise, he turned to his set of synthesizers which was invisible from the stand, but as far as I heard he was still playing the piano part most of the time during the song, as I noticed some new piano lines (improvisations) which are not on the CD music.
Richard Varga, spectator from Hungary:
The show really was fantastic, but unfortunately I was sitting a bit too far from Vangelis and I could hardly recognize him. I only saw a figure in a white jacket, so that was a bit annoying.
The opening started at six o'clock and I had to wait to see and hear him till 9.30. I really liked the orchestra performing other Vangelis songs, like Voices for example, which was really good. The laser show was really spectacular, I don't know what it looked like on TV, but was very fascinating. There were three at monitors, but none of them were broadcasting pictures of Vangelis. They were showing scenes from Apocalypse des Animaux by Frederic Rossif.
There were only four songs performed by Vangelis. He played an improvised version of Chariots of Fire which I liked a lot, but when the original recording of it started, he made a mistake, by hitting the first key a quarter of a beat too late. I think everybody can forgive that. The version of 1492 he played was also a bit different from the one we know, but it was nice.
The two song performed by Montserrat and Vangelis were also good, though the first one, with Montserrat Marti was a bit boring. I find March With Me an excellent song, and it sounded great on 100000 watts. I don't know what Vangelis was doing during the song, because there wasn't a single piano sound in the song. I did some pictures as well, but the light was insufficient, so they are very poor.
I still believe the show was great, and I am really glad that I was there, because I might never see him performing live.
Diego Lugon, spectator from Greece:
This time it was not like the previous one when I went to see Vangelis for his concert in Athens in 1993 (Mythodia). I knew I was going to see a Vangelis' show a long time in advance. I took my tickets in June, even if we were not sure whether Vangelis would participate or not but we had 90% chances.
This day, August 1st, I was waiting. And the day came. I took this time with me a friend (Greek but he didn't really know the music of Vangelis). We went very early to the Stadium, at 5 PM, to be sure to get the best places.
All the streets around the stadium were closed from the morning and to get to the stadium you had to pass seven checking points to reach at the end your place. As we went closer we could here the music, Vangelis' music! What a feeling! I must tell, that at that time there were not too many people going to the stadium. People came around 7 PM.
The first reaction when you see the stadium is : "What have they done? I
didn't remember all these walls and statues."
In fact, as you go nearer you can see that they are in plastic and you say: "Oh! Oh! Strange - not bad, but why?"
Then you enter the stadium and you see the whole preparation and get used to it.
Just for the story, this Stadium was built in 1896 for the first modern Olympic games. The seats are in marble - it is nice to see but after 4 hours you are happy to stand up!
So, we went to take the "best places" (OK, not the best - because I am not a VIP and I only paid 7.000 GRD for my tickets and the best were 10.000 GRD). Then we waited until 8:30 PM for the beginning of the ceremony. It was hot and as I wanted to be near the piano. We were just under the sun - sweat! Sweat! What will we not do to be close to Vangelis! In fact, we sat just beside the journalists and this area was very empty and remained empty or so till the end. The rest of the stadium was well crowded and I think that they opened the doors free at a moment (I can't tell when exactly, I was too much absorbed by the show).
Hopefully, from the beginning, we could hear some Vangelis' music and it was just what we wanted to be in condition. During these first 3 hours I was looking every where to see something, to see someone, you know Mr. V., but he didn't appear. All the musicians took their places, a guy was cleaning and cleaning the lovely Yamaha Piano and then Yvan Cassar, the conductor, entered and all the musicians saluted him with applauds, but no one in the stadium cared about the musicians and people went on talking and waiting.
The first part of the ceremony began and it was official with words, flags
and athletes - but with the music of Vangelis played (live) by the
orchestra conducted by Yvan Cassar. Then when the flag of the IAAF rose
the speaker announced the new Anthem written by Vangelis for the IAAF.
Great piece of music!
During the defile of the flags you couldn't stop the Greeks from shouting and whistling when the FYROM (Macedonia) flag was passing. They didn't understood that this was not politics, it is just an Athlete coming to compete. Then all the flags didn't finish their march that everybody applauded for the Greek flag which just entered the stadium - you can not stop a Greek of being over nationalist. A small disturbances that didn't really effected the show anyway.
Then the second part begun - The show and what a show - impossible to describe, even the TV could not get what we were leaving there - the story of the world and sports by Vangelis. The past, the present and the future. The earth, the universe, the water and the fire. All this music, all these images. Five giant screens. A long scene flashed by lasers and lights and all the people handing a candle which was given at the entrance to everybody with the program. I cannot describe it. Everything was emotions and feelings. Even if there was a lot to see, your eyes could go from one point to the other you never missed something. It is like your are in, part of it!
Of course, the show ended with Vangelis on the piano and Montserrat mother and daughter singing (I know people will say: playback, but this is another story, and when you are in, I assure you this didn't disturb at all the show). Then followed the fireworks. What a nice picture, to see Vangelis and Montserrat Caballe chatting and smiling, watching the spectacle. Naturally, like all events, Vangelis finished the show playing the Greek National Anthem seated in front of his "high technology desk" and playing keyboards. Everybody stood up and then acclaim "HELLAS! HELLAS! HELLAS!", while everybody was going out.
As I saw Vangelis and Montserrat going out through the back door I told my friend: "Let's try to go there too!". Of course it was the artist entrance, but during a moment of inattention we passed through. It was a long corridor and a few people inside. We went out and suddenly a big car stops, just in front of me, a big Mercedes 600, and a very lovely lady seated in the back. I said: "WHOOO! That's a woman!" %-) but what I missed is that Vangelis was seated next to her. At that time a woman went to him asking for an autograph. I said to my self: "let's try it too!" but unfortunately I had nothing to write with. Anyway I asked him in French and he replied to me: "Vous n'avez pas un stylo?" I said "Non!" and he told me "Je suis presse, je dois partir!", I apologized and thanked him for his music. In the meanwhile someone gave me a pen and Vangelis took it to sign me the photo of the program. During this short time my friend asked a photographer to take a picture of us, and he did it.
I can tell you my emotions, for me it was a great night. I became a child again. What a nice feeling!