Tuesday | 30 Nov 2021

Athens: the ‘magic’ of the Acropolis street stage

Bringing the heart of a major capital city to a shutdown to host flat-out FIA World Rally Championship competition is no task for the faint-hearted.

Not since Mexico City’s Zócalo square hosted a pulsating speed test in 2017 had the WRC experienced anything similar until EKO Acropolis Rally Greece celebrated its championship return with a spectacular Athens prologue in September.

After the start ceremony beneath the famous Acropolis, Thursday’s evening’s Cosmote 5G Athens Stage witnessed the WRC’s superstars blasting around the city’s Syntagma Square.

The backdrop was stupendous. It is the city’s most important square, overlooked by the 19th century Old Royal Palace which has housed the Hellenic Parliament since 1934.

Along with the rally organising team, one of the driving forces behind the preparation of the remarkable stage was Athens mayor Kostas Bakoyannis.

Video: EKO Acropolis Rally in Athens

“The Acropolis Rally was a great opportunity to promote Athens, and of course it was challenging because it was the first time since the start of the pandemic that we had a major event taking over much of central Athens,” he explained.

“It was important for us to make sure the event was flawless, and that required many months to prepare the route. That’s not only about planning for road closures and communications, because we also wanted to prepare for the impact of the event and address safety and clean-up.

“We wanted everyone to have fun without needing to set aside our goals for building a healthy and sustainable city. I think we are proving that we can do that work during a major event without missing a beat.”

Bakoyannis said the rally mirrored the optimism and excitement prevalent in the capital.

“This is the moment for Athens, there is no doubt, and the rally was particularly meaningful because of the way it connects the past to the future of the city. Many of us felt that magic during the rally and it was unforgettable,” he added.

“We saw thousands of people enjoying themselves because it was a great opportunity for Athenians to connect with our urban outdoors and the public spaces we are fighting to protect.”

Dimitris Fragakis, secretary general of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, highlighted how the rally’s WRC return for the first time since 2013 provided a huge boost to Greece.

“After eight years, the emblematic EKO Acropolis Rally returned to Greece. The Rally of Gods! A very important moment not only for motorsports but also for our country,” he said.

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