OAKA (Olympic Sports Center of Athens)
OAKA (Olympic Sports Center of Athens)
The construction of the Olympic Stadium started on January 8th, 1980 and the founding stone was laid by the former Prime Minister of Greece and later President of the Republic, Konstantinos Karamanlis. The vision that led him to the construction of the Olympic Stadium was to create all the appropriate structures so that the Olympic Games could be hosted again in Greece.
Two years later, on September 8th, 1982, the inauguration of the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens took place. The construction company was the German Weidleplan and the architects in charge of the construction site were H. Stalhout, F. Herre and Dimitrios Andrikopoulos. During the next few years the Olympic Velodrome (inaugurated in 1991), the Olympic Aquatic Center (1991), the Olympic Indoor Sports Team Games (1995), the Olympic Tennis Center (2004) and all other ancillary sports facilities were constructed around the main sports center.
The new Olympic Athletic Center of Athens was a structural and technological masterpiece, which even today, after the designs of Santiago Calatrava, is an integral part of the – still developing – northern suburbs of Athens. Santiago Calatrava himself, the famous architect that redesigned the Olympic Stadium for the 2004 Olympic games, claimed that "People perceive the Greek culture in terms of its classical architectural tradition, with columns, architraves, and pediments.
But there is also a Modern Greek tradition, the Byzantine, which is all about arches and domes. I had to choose how to express both traditions. For the coverage of long distances, which would house the Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome, I thought that the use of the Byzantine tradition was appropriate. However, the sequence space in the project - the centerline, the Agora, the Plaza, the galleries - is constructed in a manner that represents the classical tradition.
Of course, the Mediterranean-style was also integrated so to reflect the current Greek style in terms of architecture. The Mediterranean style is mostly used in the outer constructions, in the lighting and colors (with a preference for white, blue and ocher), and the use of materials such as the ceramic tile. So I would proudly declare that the design of the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens is classic, the facades are Byzantine, and its spirit is Mediterranean.”
Unfortunately, after the Olympic Games in 2004, the Sports center was deserted due to economic problems that led to difficulties in sustaining the stadiums appropriately. But what seems now deserted to the untrained eye, is a cultural and social gem for the residents of Athens who seek to train, take a stroll, skate, ride their bike or just socialize in a monumental place.
"We create in O.A.K.A. our own Central Park" is the motto of a group of people who have joined forces to give life back to the, abandoned after the 2004 Olympic Games, Stadium. We can happily report that 11 years after the Olympic Games, that luster, youth and older people fill the spaces of the Olympic Center. A few go jogging and many come with their bikes. But the most important is the presence of young children who ride with their parents. Skaters passing through bikes and walkers offering, even more, pulse to the vitality of the center.
Even tourists take an afternoon stroll amidst the stadiums. One can hear several languages being spoken while many of them marvel at the skills and tricks of the young skaters and riders. It is nice to welcome our international friends to Athens and show them the area that just a few years ago was in the Universal spotlight!
On Facebook, there are several groups of people that gather every Sunday in the Stadium, take care of trees, shrubs and improve the conditions of the constructions. One of the many of the aforementioned "Creating in O.A.K.A. our own Central Park", which anyone can join and enjoy the perks of working with other volunteers. All of these people appreciate the value of the environment in which they live and are joining forces to show it off and bring it back to its former glory.
Nowadays, the citizens of Athens, choose the Stadium's facilities for their Sunday walk, for entertaining their children by taking part in several sports, like cycling, skating, climbing, swimming or just marvel at the wonderful waterfalls that complete the scenery. There is also a course of Indoor Climbing, which is designed in such a way that children can attend and combine play with exercise. This is actually an ideal activity for the whole family. The O.A.K.A. Indoor Climbing area is the ideal place to entertain both the youth and the elderly! Do it with your children, or even with your grandchildren if you are feeling adventurous. Enter the world of fun and create a relationship of direct communication and trust.
Moreover few meters away from the O.A.K.A. complex, there is the Avenue Mall, The Mall Athens, and the Golden Hall. All 3 malls offer a wide range of facilities and shopping areas as well as restaurants and cafes. Inside The Mall Athens, you will find a multiplex cinema - where you can enjoy a movie and then a good meal all in 1 floor while experiencing the magnificent view of the a lighted by night, Olympic Stadium.
However, if you do not feel like visiting a busy mall after your stroll around OAKA, there are plenty other options around. All locals recommend making the perfect stop at the traffic lights, which intersect the Kifisias Avenue with Artemis Street. There you will find 2 culinary delights that you ought to check out after your walk, depending on your appetite. First stop is the Krepilateion that offers – hands down – the best Nutella-biscuit crepe you will ever taste. Salty crepes with bacon, cheddar cheese and salad are also a good option, if you do not feel like indulging in sweet sins. Right, next to Krepilateion you will see a restaurant that has a donkey as its sign. Please feel free to enter the world of quick, nonetheless delicious pasta. All locals share stories about the infamous spaghetti carbonara, made with fresh eggs, of this little restaurant. And fortunately, all stories are true. The pans are always on fire so to quickly cook any reasonable or unreasonable request for spaghetti. If the creamy carbonara is not what your appetite asks for, try pasta with spinach, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella. Simply, divine.
O.A.K.A. has everything to offer and a visit is a must for your next holidays in Athens. As long as you feel like walking and exercising before entertaining yourself with a movie, shopping, and heavenly bites. A visit in O.A.K.A. thus combines three unique elements: the Attica skyline (light), the energy of an outdoors sports center (vitality) and awe-inspiring architecture (aesthetic).