Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was selected by the Organizing Committee of Olympic Games of Athens 2004 and the Ministry of Culture of Greece to redesign the Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA). The principal architectural interventions included a new roof for the Olympic Stadium, a new roof and refurbishing of the Velodrome, entrance plazas and entrance canopies for the complex as a whole, a central Plaza of the Nations, tree-lined boulevards, a pair of arcade structures reminiscent of the ancient agora. The design of a central Olympic Icon, and a sculptural Nations’ Wall.
The architect explained that the project was his dream, to do something special and different from the headquarters buildings of the cities of the Games in the past, because Athens is the site of the beginning of the modern Olympic Games (1896) and Greece is the site where they were born and held in antiquity.
The work bears the unmistakable imprint of its architect, as can be seen in the bridges, especially the use of the famous “combs” made with bows and tensors.
The Olympic Stadium is covered with a roof of laminated glass, composed of a pair of bent “leaves”, capable of reflecting up to 90% of the sunlight.The Velodrome roof structure is composed of two 45 metre high arches, weighing 4,000 tons, from which the glass and steel roof is hanging.
Four entrance plazas provide ceremonial access to the Complex. Each entrance gate is roofed with a vaulted steel canopy, which provides the public with a clear identifying element for the complex. When illuminated at night, these canopies serve both as orientation devices and as attractions in themselves.
Two of the plazas are located at opposite ends of a central circulation spine, which runs between the Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome. Another two, on the north side of the complex, lead from the Irinis Electric Railway Station and the Neratziotissa pedestrian bridge to one of the two covered Agoras.
The Nations Wall is a tubular steel wall sculpture, designed to move in a wavelike motion, creating a pleasing effect of light and shadow over the central circulation spine and the Plaza of the Nations. The Nations Wall can also serve as a giant video screen.