The U-shaped stadium, in which was held the re-birth of the Olympic Games in 1896, is set between two natural hills in the Mets section of Athens and is just a 20 - 30 minute walk from Syntagma Sq. through the National & Zappeion Gardens. Its semi-circular section is formed at the south end by an artifical embankment and holds 60,000 spectators. It was faithfully restored in 1896-1906 by Anastasios Metaxas and has the normal plan of a Greek stadium as was reported by Pausanius.
A statue of George Averof (1867-1930), the cities benefactor who financed the restoration, stands in the square at the entrance way.
In 330 BC the Athenian Archon Lycurgos had the stadium errected to hold contests for the Panthenaic Festivel. One thousand wild beasts were baited to commemorate the Emperor Hadrian at a later date. Subsequently, Herodes Atticus had the stadium reseated in marble for the games of 144 AD.
Over the centuries much of the marble was pillaged for building other structures. In 1870 Ernst Ziller cleard the site at his own expense and later with the financial help of King George I.
In the period leading to the revivial of the Olympic Games the wealthy Alexandrian Greek, George Averof paid for the seating in white Pendelic marble.
The arena is in the shape of an elongated horse-shoe and is 204 m long by 33m wide. Until recently it was a modern running track with provisions for other events to be held in the center. It was renovated again in 2003-2004.
The SE east entrance of the Zappeion Gardens is across the street where stand a large statue of the Discus Thrower (1927) and an equestrian statue of General Karaiskakis by Michael Tombros. These National gardens are highly recommended as a short cut from the stadium to Syntagma Square or return. See below!