The Opening Ceremony of the 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture took place on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 February, marking a great success for Elefsina, Greece and Europe. A multidimensional production conceived by General Artistic Director Michail Marmarinos and directed by Chris Baldwin, the ceremony attracted more than 15,000 visitors from Elefsina, Attica and all over the world, as well as 3,000,000 viewers who watched via satellite broadcast by the National Television network (ERT).
The Opening Ceremony began on Saturday 4 February with the arrival of the Processions in the car park of the Old Oil Mill Theatre. The Eleusinian Movement included more than 700 people flooding the streets of the city with music and dance from their places of origin. TimeCircus arrived from Belgium, having travelled 3,000 km on their Landship over nine months. The 21 km Runners, bringing together people with and without disabilities, crossed the Sacred Route starting from Kerameikos. The experience will remain indelibly written in our memory.
With Rena Morphi as Host of the Ceremony, welcome remarks were delivered at the Old Oil Mill Theatre by the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Promotion of the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas, the Minister of Culture & Sports Lina Mendoni, the Regional Governor of Attica Giorgos Patoulis, the Deputy Minister of Culture & Sports Nikolas Giatromanolakis, the Mayor of Elefsina Argyris Oikonomou, the President of 2023 Eleusis Despina Geroulanou and the Managing Director of 2023 Eleusis Nana Spyropoulou, in the presence of institutional bodies, representatives of artistic organisations, embassies and other European Capitals of Culture. Finally, Jack Lang, who, along with Melina Mercouri, envisioned the establishment of the European Capital of Culture initiative, sent a short video greeting.
“It takes time to be able to see some things that cannot be seen.”
It was with this phrase that the Opening Ceremony, entitled Mysteries of Transition, began. The emergence of a mythical entity from the depths of the sea – a metal sculpture 22 metres long, six metres high and weighing 10 tons, and decorated with the iconic poppy from the archaeological site of Eleusis, designed by Philippe Geoffrey – was accompanied by lighting and mapping by Petko Tanchev and the evocative narration of Vangelis Liggos, President of the West Attica Labour Union Building. The melodies of 122 CHÓRES under the artistic direction of Marina Satti, with costumes designed by Paris Mexis and original music by Angelos Triantaphyllou, made an essential contribution to the rich, immersive atmosphere. A sea choreography was presented in the bay of Elefsina, with 16 boats and a floating crane as a stage for 30 musicians of the Athens State Orchestra, while boats and ships in the harbour, carrying 17 captains and 11 assistant captains, joined in with their horns.
After the Opening Ceremony, visitors toured an original cultural route along the waterfront, which included 19 different activities, such as experimental projects, performances, sound installations, Pontian lyre recitals and culinary events in unexpected places such as rooftops, yards, car repair shops, tavernas, balconies and penthouses. Nymphs appeared unexpectedly throughout the city streets, under the choreographic direction of Konstantinos Rigos and with costume designs by Olga Karaververis.
Immediately after the completion of the cultural route, 5,000 spectators gathered at the former IRIS factory, to watch the historic reunion of electronic music pioneers Stereo Nova, which was also broadcast live. The programme continued into the early morning hours with a party in Warehouse 1 of the Old Oil Mill with female DJs from Elefsina and other European Capitals of Culture: Mini Zucchini (Timisoara, Romania), DJs ENIKŐ (Vesprem, Hungary), MOTERIS (Kaunas, Lithuania), Fo aka Fofi Tsesmeli (Elefsina, Greece) and Amii Watson (Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg).
On Sunday 5 February, due to inclement weather, only the indoor events took place, with the opening of the art installation Mystery 44 Heiner Goebbels 7 Columns and the exhibition Mystery 17 Melina. The events were hosted in Warehouses 2 and 3, respectively, of the Old Oil Mill Theatre.
The two-day programme would not have been possible without the support of 200 volunteers from the Greek Scout Corps of the Regional Ephorate of Western Attica, the Volunteers Association of Thriassio Pedio, the Paneleusinian Athletics, the Athenian Runners, the Volunteer Group of Megarites of Attica, the Hellenic Guiding Society and the Health Runners Association of Elefsina, as well as the 14 Local Associations of Elefsina.
Five buildings were activated for the Opening Ceremony: Warehouses 1, 2 and 3 of the Old Oil Mill, the Old Canteen on the coast and the former IRIS factory, which will remain as a landmark in the city of Elefsina.
More than 270 specialised professionals worked intensively to realise this demanding production, while a total of 28 cameras, 3 film cranes, 2 drones, 200 lights and projectors, 100 concert speakers and 8 giant LED screens were used to cover the event.