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Professor axed from sailing ancient Greek warship in Olympic opening ceremony

Posted on 20/04/2012
Olympias at Sea - © Alexandra Guest/Trireme Trust

Olympias at sea - © Alexandra Guest/Trireme Trust

Plans for an academic from Royal Holloway, University of London to operate a 170-oared ancient Greek warship carrying the Olympic Torch on its final journey down the River Thames has been scrapped due to safety fears.

Professor Boris Rankov, from the Department of Classics and Philosophy, was due to row the trireme Olympias, a reconstruction of an ancient Greek warship, on its journey from City Hall, through Tower Bridge, past the O2 Arena to Trinity Buoy Wharf where the torch was due to make the final journey to Stratford Stadium to light the main Olympic flame.

But the plans for the dramatic final leg of the Olympic torch relay are reportedly being scrapped by LOCOG following fears that it would attract large crowds along the River Thames that would be difficult to control and could pose security threats.

Professor Rankov is Chairman of the UK-based Trireme Trust and his extensive research assisted with the reconstruction of the ancient ship.

He said: “No trireme or other ancient warship wrecks have yet been found in the Mediterranean. The reconstruction was based on literary, epigraphic and iconographic evidence, as well as the archaeological evidence from the surviving sheds in which the ships were housed, especially those at Zea harbour in the Piraeus, which provided crucial indications of dimensions.”  

Professor Rankov was involved in operational, performance and physiological experiments during sea trials during 1987 and 2004 with the Hellenic Navy. Since its launch in 1987, the Olympias trireme has appeared extensively in films and TV as a symbol of Greece’s maritime heritage. It was due to be the only official Greek contribution to the London 2012 Games.

“It is devastating to learn that LOCOG intend to axe the Olympias from the torch procession,” Professor Rankov said. “With LOCOG’s promises of London producing an opening ceremony to remember, the trireme would have been a spectacular sight making its journey along the Thames. A lot of work has gone in to preparing the Olympias for its role in the Olympics but unfortunately the trireme will now remain sitting at the Hellenic Maritime Museum in Piraeus.”  


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