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Mayor of Marathon, Greece Lights Marathon Flame to Kick Off Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in GreekTown on the Danforth

TORONTO, October 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Yes, marathons actually began in the City of Marathon. The first ever marathon run took place from Marathon, Greece to Athens in 490 B.C. and is retold in the legend of Pheidippides. The first organized marathon race took place at the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. For further information on the history of the marathon and the Olympics, see below.

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For the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, it began yesterday in GreekTown when the Mayor of Marathon, Greece -- Iordanis Louizos -- participated in a symbolic Torch Relay and Flame Lighting. Guests were also treated to classical Greek dance as well as music performances.

The event was hosted by The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA and its Chair Constantine Voidonicolas, as well as Councillor Mary Fragedakis. Also in attendance were Consul General of Greece:  The Hon. Dimitris Azemopoulos, Mr. Andonis Artemakis:  President, Greek Community of Toronto, Mr. Alan Brookes:  Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Director, and Mr. Kyle McNamara:  Senior Vice President, Scotiabank.

This year, the Marathon Flame celebrates the 2,504th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon. In 2007, the 'Marathon Flame' was established to burn as a symbol of world peace and to spread the ideals of the Marathon around the world - the spirit of fair competition and the promotion of participation in sports as a way of life. As guardians, SEGAS (The Hellenic Athletics Federation), the Municipality of Marathon and the Association of International Marathons established a 'Marathon Flame' exchange program with other cities that organized major international marathons. Toronto is proud to be one of the designated partner cities. The Flame brings the spirit, the values, and the ideals of the Marathon Movement to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, taking place on Sunday, October 20, 2013.  

Seen in the attached photo are Mr. Iordanis Louizos, Mayor of Marathon, Greece; Ms. Mary Fragedakis, Councillor for Ward 29 in Toronto; and Mr. Constantine Voidonicolas, Chair of the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA.  Photo credit:  John Narvali

The Marathon and the Legend of Pheidippides

A brave Athenian soldier-messenger named Pheidippides ran the first-ever "Marathon run" in 490 BC. He ran 40 kilometres from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens, carrying news of the famous Greek victory. It was a historic victory against insurmountable odds, where 10,000 heroic Athenians defeated a Persian Army of 150,000. Legend has it that Pheidippides reached Athens, exclaimed "Nenikčkamen" ("We are victorious"), then died from exhaustion.

The Battle of Marathon is one of the proudest moments in the history of ancient Greece. The Athenian and Plataeans forces beat the Persians for the first time on land. The victory endowed them with faith in their destiny to endure for three centuries, during which time western culture was born. It is said that a defeat of the Athenians in this battle could easily have changed the tide of history.

Twenty four centuries later, poets, artists, and the founding of the Modern Olympics built the legend of Pheidippides and the marathon, and began its transformation into one of the most important mass movements in the world today. In 1869, French painter and illustrator, Luc-Olivier Merson dramatized Pheidippides' arrival in Athens and his proclamation of victory in a powerful, romantic painting. Ten years later, England's Robert Browning continued to build the heroic legend in his poem, "Pheidippides":

The establishment of the "Marathon" event and the Pheidippides legend was completed with the creation of the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. According to the Association of International Marathons, French historian Michele Breal proposed re-enacting Pheidippides legendary run in an event that would test man's powers of endurance. He even offered to put up a silver trophy for the winner. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the driving force behind the creation of the Modern Olympic Games, and Dimitris Vikelas, the Greek scholar and first president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1894 to 1896, embraced the idea with enthusiasm. The legend of the Athenian soldier-runner-messenger was therefore honoured by a 40 kilometre foot race from the Marathon bridge to the Marble Olympic Stadium in Athens.

This first-organized Marathon race took place on April 10th, as the "final, climactic event" of the first modern Olympic Games. The host nation was ecstatic when a Greek water carrier, Spyridon Louis, crossed the line victorious in 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 50 seconds - and the marathon event was indelibly set as the signature athletics event of the modern era. The distance was tweaked to 42.195 km at the 1908 Olympics and it took until the 1920s for this to become firmly set as the precise, only "marathon race" distance. Inspired by Athens, the Boston Marathon was established on the third Monday of April in 1897, and the race was on!

The Marathon Flame and What it Represents

In 2007, the "Marathon Flame" was established to burn as a symbol of world peace, and to spread the ideals of the Marathon around the world - the spirit of fair competition and the promotion of participation in sports as a way of life. It was created by the Athens Classic Marathon Organizing Committee, the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS), and the Municipality of Marathon, and was immediately adopted by AIMS [The Association of International Marathons and the road running affiliate of IAAF] and of the Marathon Movement worldwide. The "Marathon Flame" is lit every October/November, on the eve of the Athens Classic Marathon, during a special international ceremony that takes place inside the sacred archaeological site of the Battle of Marathon Warriors' Tomb. The "Flame" is kept in the Marathon Run Museum in the Municipality of Marathon, throughout the year after its Lighting Ceremony.

As guardians, SEGAS, the Municipality of Marathon, and AIMS have established a "Marathon Flame" exchange program with other cities that organize major international marathons. This exchange program is meant not only to promote the goals of the Marathon Movement and the ideals of the "Marathon Flame", but also to create a network of cities connected with the birthplace of this unique race. Toronto is proud to be one of the designated "partner" cities.

About the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA  

GreekTown is the largest Greek neighbourhood in North America and one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Toronto! Toronto is home to approximately 250,000 Greeks and the GreekTown on the Danforth is where the people of Toronto continue to enjoy Greek heritage and cuisine.  The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA is a not-for-profit organization, run by a volunteer Board, chaired by Mr. Constantine Voidonicolas. The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA runs Canada's largest street Festival with approximately 1.5 million attendees. The Festival combines exquisite food, culture and music with extraordinary philanthropy to benefit the local community. Over the years, GreekTown has donated more than $1.5 million to the Toronto East General Hospital. GreekTown has made a further commitment of $250,000 to enhance pediatric care. GreekTown donates to a number of other local charities, which recently included two $5,000 Smart Boards given to two local schools for use by children with special needs. A 2013 Economic Impact Study indicates that the Festival contributed $64 million to the economy.

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