The Panathinaiko or Panathenaic Stadium (Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο), also known as the Kallimarmaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο, i.e. the "beautifully marbled"), is an athletic stadium in Athens that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Reconstructed from the remains of the ancient Greek stadium, the Panathinaiko is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble (from Mount Penteli) and one of the oldest stadiums in the world. In ancient times, the stadium was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honour of the Goddess Athena.
During classical times, it had wooden seating. It was remade in marble, by the archon Lycurgus, in 329 BC and was enlarged and renovated by Herodes Atticus, in 140 AD, to a seated capacity of 50,000. The remnants of the ancient structure were excavated and refurbished, with funds provided by Evangelis Zappas for the revival of the Olympic Games. Evangelis Zappas sponsored the Olympic Games that were held there in 1870 and 1875. The stadium was refurbished a second time in 1895 for the 1896 Olympics, with completion funding provided by the Greek benefactor George Averoff (whose marble statue now stands at the entrance), based on designs by architects Anastasios Metaxas and Ernst Ziller.
The stadium was built long before dimensions for athletics venues were standardized and its track and layout follow the ancient hairpin-like model. It could seat about 80,000 spectators on 50 rows of marble steps and currently holds 45,000 spectators. It is located in downtown Athens, at the district of Pangrati east of the National Gardens and the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, west of the Pangrati residential district and between the twin pine-covered hills of Ardettos and Agra. Up to the 1950s, the Ilissos River (now covered by, and flowing underneath, Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue) ran in front of the stadium's entrance, and the spring of Kallirrhoe, the sanctuary of Pankrates (a local hero) and the Cynosarges public gymnasium were nearby.
The Fokianos sports facility lies across Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue, and adjacent to it are located the Athens tennis club, the Ethnikos athletics track, the Federation swimming pool, the remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Hadrian's Gate. Until the late 19th century and the containment of the Ilissos riverbed, the area was reedy and often flooded, and was called the "Vatrahonisi" (Frog Island). In more recent years, the stadium has been often used to honour the homecoming of victorious Greek athletes, most notably the Greek national football team, after its victory at the 2004 European Football Championship and also the opening ceremony of the World Athletics Championships in 1997, on a concept by composer Vangelis Papathanasiou.
In the 2004 Olympic Games, the Panathinaiko Stadium hosted the archery competition, and the finish of the Marathon. On rare occasions, the stadium has also been used as a venue for select musical performances. Among those include Bob Dylan, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Black Sabbath and Sakis Rouvas. On September 2008, the stadium hosted the MTV Greece launch party, with quests C;Real, REM and Gabriella Cilmi. On July 1, 2009, recording artist Sakis Rouvas made history, with a sold-out benefit concert, for the environment (coinciding with the first day of the Greek public ban on smoking), with an audience of 50,000–the largest audience ever at the stadium, for a musical event and among the largest concert of all time, by a Greek artist.
The Panathenaic Stadium was recently selected as the main motif for a high value euro collectors' coin; the €100 Greek The Panathenaic Stadium commemorative coin, minted in 2003 to commemorate the 2004 Olympics. In the obverse of the coin, the stadium is depicted. It is also shown on the obverse of all Olympic medals that have been awarded for the 2004 Olympics and was also used for the following Summer Olympics in Beijing.