Replica of ship to be featured

Updated: July 15, 2004, 6:23 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- The opening ceremony of the Athens Games apparently will feature a life-size replica of a ship, and the Olympic flame will burn in a giant copy of the torch used in the global relay, The Associated Press has learned.

Photographs obtained by the AP on Thursday show two pieces cut into the shape of a ship's hull being lowered into a hole in the middle of the main Olympic stadium.

Olympic organizers refused to comment or give details about the Aug. 13 opening ceremony, which is a closely guarded secret. But they have not denied repeated reports that the stadium field will be flooded in a spectacle to recreate Greece's interplay of sea and land.

Earlier this month, officials in the central Greek city of Volos told the AP they plan a ceremony next month built around the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, raising speculation that it also could be part of the Athens extravaganza. Volos is one of four cities outside Athens hosting Olympic soccer matches.

In the Jason myth, the hero and his crew hunt for the legendary golden fleece. A Volos-based journalist recently wrote a book theorizing that Jason's companions were athletes who took part in games that were forerunners of the ancient Olympics.

In Athens, the Olympic flame will burn atop a 100-foot tapered column resembling the torch used in the worldwide relay, the photographs showed. The structure, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is fitted with a hinged base, suggesting it could be tipped over to be lit and then repositioned upright.

Calatrava also designed the glass-and-steel roof being installed over the 75,000-seat stadium.

Organizers have promised to finish work on the main stadium complex by Tuesday, but landscaping and other touches are expected to continue until just days before the Olympics.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press