The home of the ancient Olympic Games and the setting for the first Olympic Games of the modern era, the unique position of Greece is acknowledged in the tradition that allows them to lead the parade of nations at every Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
Athens has hosted the Olympic Games twice, in 1896 and 2004, and also staged the 1906 Games, not generally considered part of the Olympic cycle.
The first Greek to win at the Athens 1896 Olympic Games was fencer Leon PYRGOS, who won the men's foil masters. Perhaps their most famous Olympic champion, however, is runner Spiridon LOUIS, a shepherd from the village of Maroussi who won the inaugural Olympic marathon at the 1896 Olympic Games.
The Olympic Stadium used for the 2004 Games was named in his honour. In the early days of the modern Olympic era, Kostas TSIKLITIRAS was a successful competitor in the now discontinued standing jumps. He won gold in standing high jump at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games, after taking silver in the standing high jump and long jump at the London 1908 Games. He also collected a bronze in the standing long jump to give him four medals in his career.
Paraskevi 'Voula' PATALIDOU's victory in the 100m hurdles at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games was one of the most dramatic races in Olympic history. She later carried the Olympic Flame at the Atlanta Olympic stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
Konstantinos KENDERIS won gold in the men's 200m at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 and Fanny KALKHIA delighted the home crowds in the women's 400m hurdles at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
As a sea-faring nation, it is little surprise that Greece has excelled in water sports. At the Rome 1960 Olympic Games, the heir to the Greek throne, Crown Prince Constantine, won gold in dragon class yachting.
Windsurfer Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS won gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and lit the cauldron in Athens in 2004.
Sofia BEKATOROU and Aimilia TSOULFA won gold on home waters in the women's 470 class.
Other popular sports in Greece are also reflected in their roll of honour. Greece's most prolific Olympian is weightlifter Pyrros DIMAS, who won three gold medals and claimed a bronze at light-heavyweight. Born in Albania, he is a naturalised Greek.
DIMAS was chosen to carry the Greek flag at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games. The first president of the International Olympic Committee, Dimetrios VIKELAS, was a Greek.