For the 2004 Summer Olympics, a total of thirty-five sports venues were used. Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 that included venues such as Panathinaiko Stadium and the city of Marathon for whom the long-distance race would be named for. From the end of the 1896 Games until the late 1970s, Greece underwent numerous political changes that included the Balkan Wars, two World Wars, a civil war, and a military coup that resulted in a junta that lasted from 1967 to 1974. A change in democracy in 1975 resulted in Greece's admission into the European Economic Community (European Union since 1993) in 1979. Athens first bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics as part of the 100th anniversary of the Modern Olympics, but was upset by Atlanta, Georgia in the United States for the Games in 1990. Seven years later, Athens won the right to host the 2004 Summer Olympics. At the time of the award, 75% of competition and 92% of training venues were available though a massive construction and renovation program was taken to get the venues ready for the games. Accessibility and environmental issues were taken into account in venue design and construction. The marathon course used was the same one used for the 1896 Games though it was 2.195 km (1.36 mi) longer to the marathon not being standardized until 1924. Canoe slalom's venue at Ellinikon was the first using saltwater, having it pumped in from the Aegean Sea. After the Olympics, Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre was converted into a police training center while two other venues were converted into entertainment centers.
Greece served as home of the Ancient Olympic Games that ran from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D. in Olympia. Following the effort of Pierre de Coubertin to revive the Olympic Games, the first modern Olympics took place at Athens in 1896. The main stadium, Panathinaiko, served as host of the athletic, gymnastic, weightlifting, and wrestling events. The city of Marathon served the start point for the sport of the same name and the starting and finishing point of cycling's Individual road race.
Between the 1896 and 2004 Summer Olympics, Greece underwent a series of events that created political instability in the country. This included the Balkan Wars of 1912-3, World War I, the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), a creation of a Second Hellenic Republic of 1924-35, the Axis Occupation of Greece during World War II, and the Greek Civil War of 1946-49. By the 1950s, Greece reemerged as an "economic model" though a coup d'état in April 1967 forced the country into a military junta that lasted until 1974. It would take a change back to democracy in 1975 and an entrance into the European Economic Community in 1979 set Greece back to growth.
Athens first bid for the Summer Olympics took place in 1986 for the 1996 Olympics. They lost out to eventual winner Atlanta, Georgia in the United States at a 1990 International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Tokyo. Olympic Stadium in Athens served as host for the European Athletics Championships in 1982. This venue also served as host for the Mediterranean Games in 1991. In 1995, Athens submitted a bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics which it was awarded in September 1997. A month earlier, Olympic Stadium hosted the World Championships in Athletics.
At the time of the bid in 1997, the venues to be used for the 2004 Games were available for 75% of the competition and 92% of the training locations. Venue locations were settled between 1998 and 2003. Construction funding started in 1998 with laws passing in 1999 and 2000 to assist this along. A total of 37 contracts were issued for venue construction and renovation involving three different governmental ministries. Monthly reports were issues to the Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC) on venue project status, including the use of Gantt charts. Design drawings were completed by December 2002. Accessibility needs for the venues were taken into consideration into their design and construction. ATHOC hired consultants to review the venue design for accessibility. Among the needs considered are keeping corridors flat and free of obstacles, ramps and platforms longer than 10 m (33 ft) with a 5% incline, and larger elevators installed for all personnel involved with the 2004 Games.
Schinias Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre had to deal with the World Wildlife Fund and three Greek environmental organization during the construction phase of the venue. The biotope area where the venue would be constructed was declared a National Park in June 2000. Water quality was monitored once the venue was completed in 2003 with monitoring occurring in July–September 2003 and June–September 2004. Among the items monitored were temperature, salinity, biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), total bacteria, and residual bacteria. The water quality comintoring guidelines were done in cooperation with the International Rowing Federation (FISA).
Insect control at the venues had biological products used for pesticides sprayed with extreme precisions. A total of 70 man-months were required to sample, spray, and bait the 20,000 samples and 4,000 mosquito breeding sites. Maritime pollution, specifically with oil spills, had to be dealt with for Agios Kosmas (sailing) and Vouliameni (triathlon) in case a spill occurred. Recycling was used at all venues for the 2004 Games.
Prior to its use as a football stadium, the Karaiskakis Stadium had been a velodrome, and hosted the track cycling competition of the 1896 Olympics.
Panathinaiko Stadium hosted the modern Olympics-predecessor Zappas Olympics in 1870 and in 1875. The stadium hosted the athletics and ceremonies of the 1896 Olympics and the 1906 Intercalated Games. In the 2004 Olympiad the venue hosted archery and served as the marathon finish line.
The Games directly involved over 1,600 people in venue site operating services. Sixty-five percent of them were non-management in various capacities such as building mechanical personnel (electrician, plumbing, HVAC), 20% were construction foreman and unskilled personnel, and 5% were sound and light technicians. They chiefly worked in continuous shifts during the games and were on-call at all other operational times. Waste operation at the venues during those games involved 52 paid staff, 45 volunteers, and 2,800 contractors.
The marathon course was run on the route used for the 1896 Summer Olympics though the 1896 race was 40 km (25 mi) long while the 2004 race was 42.195 km (26.2 mi) long. For the first time since 369 AD, an athletic event took place at the Stadium at Olympia with American Kristin Heaston making the first in the shot put event. Although Heaston was the first woman to compete at Olympia, she did not make it the final. That event was won by Cuba's Yumileidi Cumbá, who moved up from silver after initial winner Irina Korzhanenko of Russia failed her doping test.
The canoeing slalom course at Ellinikon was the first one to use saltwater. This was pumped directly from the Aegean Sea. For the men's individual road cycling race held at Kotzia Square in downtown Athens, only 75 of the 144 cyclists completed the 224 km (139 mi) race held in 100 °F (38 °C) heat.
Women's trap shooting at the Markopoulo Shooting Range was held in blustery conditions. This event was won by Australia's Suzanne Balogh.
The OAKA area has hosted numerous events since the 2004 Games, including Pearl Jam and Shakira concerts in 2006 and basketball's Euroleague Final Four, won by home team Panathinaikos, in 2007.
HOC has hosted numerous events as well including the European Rowing Championships at Schinias in 2008, blues guitarist Gary Moore in 2008, and ART-ATHINA in 2010.
In the Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex, the Faliro Sports Pavilion is known as Athens International Convention Center, Peace and Friendship Stadium is a multipurpose venue, and the Beach Volleyball Centre is an outdoor conference venue.
Goudi Olympic Hall after the Olympics was converted into a theater. Known as the Badminton Theater, in honor of the sport it hosted for the 2004 Games, it opened in 2007.
Markopoulo Shooting Centre has all but one of its sections turned over to the Hellenic Police. The Passport Office and Special Forces are scheduled to relocated there as well.
Ano Liosia Arena was converted into an arts and entertainment facility after the Olympics.