Dear President of the Hellenic Republic
Madam Minister, Ministers
Regional Governor, Mr Mayor
Ladies and Gentlemen
21 months ago -in January 2020 – just before the pandemic knocked on the door of the planet, I met for the first time with Mr Brad Smith, the President of Microsoft, in the Economic Forum of Davos.
Back then, we discussed a lot. We talked about the company’s capacity to invest in our country and create major data input centers, an investment that moves forward and is materialized at a fast pace. Back then I suggested the idea of a cooperation with Microsoft in the context of an emblematic project, which had been in my mind for many years. How can we use modern technology in order to highlight our cultural heritage in a new way?
Microsoft was immediately on board, it embraced this idea and, of course, Mr Mayor, the place that we jointly chose was – at least in my mind – self-evident. Olympia, the global symbol of the pan-human values that the classic Hellenism stands for, values that were imparted 25 centuries later in modern humanity. A space of worship, a place of collective meeting, a place where differences are transcended, a place where the sense of Greek identity was sculpted more than anywhere else. This is where city states would come, overcoming their local differences, in order to compete mentally and physically and to contribute significantly in ancient Greek culture.
So we started and we worked very methodically and I am seizing the opportunity to thank, on one hand, the Microsoft team in Greece, but mostly the services of the Ministry of Culture for the willingness they showed in embracing this very innovative idea.
Indeed, as it has been stressed by the previous speakers, in this project archeology meets technology. Because, on one hand, technology enables us to create virtual and augmented realities, which is very important. But equally important is the contribution of our archeologists and historians in the definition of the reality we are urged to create again through the digital world.
Without the cooperation of the archeologists of the Ministry of Culture, without their zeal, the energy with which I think they returned to the sources and thought over in every detail what it means to digitally recreate 27 different monuments, I think that this project could not have been materialized.
I am truly happy, in fact, I am moved that today in Olympia we are taking the first step – not just a Greek step, but a global one – to show that the ancient civilization, any civilisation, can meet with technology and finally enable the visitor a totally different opportunity to understand what really went on in this sacred place so many centuries ago.
I had the chance to wander, along with Madam President and all of you, in this archeological space. What I will mainly remember from today’s visit has not been that much the power of technology, as the enthusiasm in the eyes of young pupils in Ancient Olympia. Their capacity to realize what was really going on in this place 25 centuries ago, to revive the force of Ancient Olympia before their eyes.
In this way, I think that we create and we open up new horizons in terms of how we impart knowledge to the young generation. We often say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. And I think that this applies to today’s circumstance more than ever. The visualization of this experience is what makes it literally so unique and this connection of our culture with modern technology, what we call “Common Grounds”, I think it creates new avenues, Madam Minister, on how we can highlight even more our cultural heritage.
Because what we are seeing today is something that everyone can experience through his computer, from Beijing to San Francisco. And if somebody gets to see it, he will feel the need, a need twice as big, Mr Mayor, to visit this place and spend more time, and as a result support the local economy and the overall economy of the country.
My vision is to initiate relevant experiences for all major archaeological spaces. Now that we have proven that this vision can be materialized, now that we have bridged the gap, which may have in the past divided the world of classical studies from the world of technology. This challenge lies ahead and I can assure you that we will embrace it with warmth. Olympia and “Common Grounds” are just the beginning of what we can do.
And of course technology is the tool that will not only facilitate our life – besides we have proven that through the gov.gr applications- not only can it cut down on red tape, boost the ease with which citizens and businesses may interact with the state. Technology is also a major educational tool. Technology finally unites and does not divide, when used properly.
So, we will remain on this path that we opened today in Olympia, but we will always remember that the first step was made where it was supposed to be made. Here, in Ancient Olympia, we are launching a new beginning for this sacred place, our cultural heritage overall, while also projecting our country’s image to the world. A country that is not just proud of its glorious past, a country that embraces, with boldness and confidence, the challenges of the future and a world that is radically changing.
Congratulations to everyone. Thank you very much.
The identity of the project
“Common grounds”, thanks to the cooperation of archeology and technology
This project hosted in the birthplace of the Olympic Games, entitled “Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds” is the outcome of the cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and Sports and Microsoft, with the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies.
It allows spectators all over the world to explore Ancient Olympia, as it used to be more than 2000 years ago, through interactive applications on mobile phones, via an online tour in the digital form of a historic space, as well as the Microsoft HoloLens 2 exhibition, hosted at the Athens Olympic Museum.
The project digitally restores 27 monuments. Among them the Stadium, the temples of Zeus and Hera, the Phidias workshop, while it allows visitors to walk around the paths of the sanctuary in one of the most important periods of History.