Dave and Gerry's Alonissos Island Information Site

Olympic Games Football

August saw Greece host the 2004 Olympic Games and we organised our holiday so that the games took place during our stay at Villa Aliki.  We didn't know anyone who had seen an Olympic event and neither of us had been to an Olympic event so it was too good an opportunity to pass over.  From the Olympic Games website we discovered the the preliminary heats of the Olympic football were taking place at the Panthessaliko stadium on the outskirts on Volos.  So after consultation with Nikos at the Hotel Roussas we booked tickets for the mens game on Wednesday 18th August and a room for the Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  We had no idea at the time who we were going to see play and only when the schedule went up on the Internet did we discover we would be watching Japan v Ghana.

The tickets were 10, 15 or 20 euro each and we splashed out and bought a pair of the most expensive tickets which gave us seats with an excellent view almost exactly opposite the half-way line.  Tickets were delivered in July by courier who phoned Dave at work to make an appointment to deliver that evening.  Delivery, we were reminded, could only be effected on production of a passport.  Tickets arrived in an envelope from Athens with an information booklet and other useful bits and pieces.  All went exactly as expected from the many e-mails sent by the Athens Olympic organisers.

The stadium is a few kilometers north of Volos town centre and we had no idea how to get there.  We found a ticket kiosk in the middle of Volos and the helpful staff advised us to get a No. 2 bus from the next street and said that our tickets gave us a free ride.  When we arrived at the stadium we were met by Olympic volunteers who guided us to the entrance.  This was a security area with armed police and army conspicuously in evidence and our bags were put through a scanner and we had to walk through a body scanner.  The thoroughness of their systems meant that even the labels on our bottles of water were torn off to show they came into the ground from outside.

Panthessaliko is a 21,000 capacity all-seater stadium which looked in very good condition even to the point that all the toilets had been newly refurbished.  There were more Olympic volunteers inside the stadium offering help and advice and more police.  Along the upper walkway Kantina's sold baguettes as well as soft drinks, water and beer from the Olympic sponsor companies Coca Cola, Avra and Heineken.  We took our seats early and as kick-off approached the teams came onto the pitch for a warm-up, the tannoy system started announcements in Greek, French and English and the stadium started to fill with people.  Around us were mainly Japanese and Greeks, opposite were a couple of hundred Ghanean supporters and behind the goal to our right were were a group of Japanese fans with traditional drums.

After the announcements of the teams and the formalities of the national anthems the game got under way at 8.30pm with Ghana kicking off playing left to right as we were looking at the pitch.  The game pattern was set early on with Japan playing as a team and Ghana playing as individuals in a team.  The highlight of the first half was the goal scored by Yoshito Okubo in the 37th minute with a good header for a right-wing cross.  Ghana started strongly at the start of the second half but without a goal for their efforts they were eventually contained by the Japanese team who ran out 1-0 winners.

After the game we left the Panthessaliko stadium wondering how we were going to get back to the centre of Volos.  The Olympic organisers had that well under control and tannoy announcements directed travellers to three pairs of buses parked along the road.  Behind these buses were a fleet of empty buses and as each bus filled and left it was replaced by an empty bus.  Each pair of buses were going to a different area of Volos and we got onto one of the second pair of buses which was going along the No. 2 bus route.  We arrived back in the centre of Volos very quickly because the police had closed some of the roads to facilitate the movement of traffic.

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