submitted by George Poulos on 15.12.2004
Robert Owen (Australia, b. 1937).
Artist Robert Owen has created a landscape that links the Homebush Bay site to the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, and celebrates the Greek origins of many Australians.
Within a grove of olive and cypress trees, the apparent remains of an ancient temple emerge, with five column drums - the number of Olympic rings. The large disc is embedded in the ground as though it has been hurled from Ancient Greece by a discus-thrower (discobolus). It has become a contemporary disc - a CD or CD-ROM.
Discobolus was funded by the Hellenic community of Australia, launched by the Hon Michael Knight MP, Minister for the Olympics, on 19 February 1999, and unveiled by His Excellency the Hon Sir William Deane, AC, KBE, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia on 13 August 2000.
Sporting Life involves more than relating the achievements of competitors at the highest levels. It can involve small children playing soccer, or Kytherians in Armidale competing in the Acropolis Cup, or even non-sportsmen and women carrying the Olympic flame through the streets of their city of origin.
In this case it involves the creation of a Greek-Australian sporting monument.
During the course of researching his Ph.D, Kevin Cork asked a number of Kytherian and Greek- Australian's "What do you consider to be the Greek landmarks in NSW?"
If I where asked that question in 2004, I would rate the Discobolus in my top 5.
Many Kytherians have contributed both directly, and through the auspices of a number of Hellenic bodies, in the creation and gifting of this important sporting and cultural icon, to Sydney and the world.
Web-information on the Discobolus:
Olympic Coordination Authority - Sydney 2000
Greek Origins of Games Recognised at Homebush Bay
21 December 1999
A tribute from Australia’s Hellenic community is the latest feature to be added to the unique collection of public art transforming Sydney’s Olympic venues.
The Australian Hellenic community has taken up an Australian Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA) initiative and chosen Sydney as the location for the second in a trilogy of major public art projects in Olympic cities to celebrate the Greek origins of the Games.
Hellenic Tribute Inc is funding the public art which will be located in Stockroute Park next to Olympic Park Station at Homebush Bay. AHEPA USA funded a comparable project in Atlanta and intends to complete the trilogy in Athens, the host of the 2004 Olympic Games.
Acclaimed Melbourne sculptor, Robert Owen, has been selected to design the art work which will sit amongst the gums trees of Stockroute Park, along with an olive grove and row of cypress trees that are intended to reflect the original Olympia.
Owen’s work, Discobolus, is based on Castor (the original discus thrower) who metaphorically throws the discus from Greece to Homebush Bay. A seven metre high metal discus will be used to symbolise a contemporary discus - the CD ROM, which refers to modern technology, information and culture.
Chair of Hellenic Tribute Inc, Tasha Vanos, said Robert Owen’s proposal helped capture the essence of Hellenic culture.
"The discus thrower (Discobolus) is a symbol of the Olympic Games and represents a synthesis of all the Hellenic virtues of a "sound mind and sound body," Mr Vanos said.
"It is this balance and perfection that Hellenic culture esteems greatly. The discus of Discobolus can be taken as a symbol of perfection."
Mr Vanos said that, to date, the Hellenic Tribute Inc had raised 90 percent of their target funds of $435,000 for the project which is scheduled to be completed in June 2000.
Robert Owen is among artists from throughout Australia and around the world who are creating up to 12 large scale, permanent outdoor public art projects at Homebush Bay and venues in Western Sydney.
Director General of the Olympic Co-ordination Authority, Mr David Richmond, said the $7.5 million public art program would create a lasting cultural legacy for Olympic venues. He said each piece of artwork provided a different interpretation of the site’s colourful history and its transformation into a world-class recreational precinct.
"We have done more than just build a magnificent array of sporting venues," Mr Richmond said. "This innovative program of public artwork leaves an imprint of culture on the sporting infrastructure which interprets the surrounding landscape and environment and tells a story about how the Olympic venues have evolved."
Nine public art projects are in varying stages of completion at Homebush Bay, with five of these located along Olympic Boulevard. Completed are:
Lost and Found at Sydney SuperDome by Elizabeth Gower. This public art project is a terrazzo version of a design by Elizabeth Gower which adorns the SuperDome foyer. It features bold broken line drawings of sports people and sporting motifs.
"Relay" at Fig Grove by Australian artists Paul Carter and Ruark Lewis. A prose poem celebrating Australia’s Olympic past and future and graffiti designs derived from Olympian autographs are engraved in granite seating at the water feature.
"Osmosis" at Haslams Pier by Australian sculptor Ari Purhonen which creates an optical effect that changes as visitors stroll along the pier.
"5,000 Calls" in the Urban Forest by Australian sound artists David Chesworth and Sonia Leber who recorded 5,000 different sounds of human activity including sporting cries and fragments of song. A customised computer program allows different sounds to interact with each other at different times, so that each visit to the Urban Forest provides a unique experience of "5,000 Calls".
Other projects underway at Homebush Bay include:
"Luminous Threshold" at the Holker Street busway by New York-based artist James Carpenter. A collection of masts will record the activities of the wind and sun, with each mast fitted with mist-emitting nozzles. A heliostat will direct golden light onto the mist creating ever changing abstract drawings in the sky. This is due for completion in June 2000.
"In the Shadow" at Southern Boulevard Terminus by Australian artist Janet Laurence which reflects the processes of remediation of the Homebush Bay site. Boundary Creek will feature 21 transparent wands inscribed with the chemical formulae of water remediation. The area will be framed with a dense planting of casuarinas bulrushes. Due to be completed in April 2000.
Overflow Park sculptures by Melbourne-based artists Peter Cripps and Terri Bird, which will reflect the abbattoir history of Homebush Bay. The 3 sculptures will be located on the western side of the Sydney Showground and will be completed post-Olympics.
"Feathers" and "Skies" at Stadium Australia by New Zealand artist Neil Dawson. This project features two sculptures, each 21 metres in diameter, at the eastern and western entries to Stadium Australia. Steelmesh rings will span the two central columns over the stadium entries and will include motifs of the birds and skies. The sculptures reflect the Western Sydney environment and the tradition of victory wreaths. These are due for completion by March 2000.
Forthcoming projects include public art for the Sydney International Shooting Centre and Millennium Parklands at Homebush Bay.
NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard 24 May 2000, (article 31)
Mr STEWART (Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.20 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House a magnificent story involving the Australian Hellenic Educational Progressive Association [AHEPA] which, during the past three years, has worked with the Olympic Co-ordination Authority [OCA] with the support of the Government to create a special sculptural tribute that is soon to be erected at the Homebush Bay Olympic Games site. This tribute will be an aesthetic interpretation of the famous ancient Greek sculpture Discobolus, a statue of a Greek discus thrower created by the ancient Greek artist Myron. The tribute has been created by the renowned sculptor Professor Robert Owen, who has been working on it for some time.
The tribute is a transformation of an ancient discus into a compact disc which has been thrown through the millennium—a great symbolism. The seven-metre discus will be inscribed with the history of the Olympics and a list of patrons, donors—at gold, silver and bronze levels—and a translation of the history of the Olympics in Greek on the bottom half of the discus. In the glass centre of the discus there will be inscribed a discus thrower going through the various stages of throwing, and this will be illuminated at night. It has cost AHEPA $486,000 to bring this project to fruition. That money has been raised entirely by the Australian-Greek community as its tribute to the Australian Olympic movement and affinity with the Australian way of life.
Last Sunday I was fortunate to attend the dedication of an olive grove at the site of the Hellenic tribute on Stockroute Park, Herb Elliott Avenue, Homebush Bay, just across the road from the stadium. It is an impressive sight. The many olive trees which have been planted there have progressed well. On the outskirts of the site there are some cypress pines. The olive trees symbolise peace, harmony and nationhood, which are also symbolised by the goddess Athena. The cypress pines symbolise immortality. On that important day hundreds of people were in attendance to see the progression of the tribute. Helen Katsaros, representing the Supreme President of AHEPA, and George Lianos, the Grand President of the New South Wales branch of AHEPA, were in attendance. Mr Peter Manettas, the Patron of the Hellenic Tribute Committee, also attended, and I thank him for working hard to get the committee together.
Tasha Vanos, the chairman of the committee, has been a tireless worker and deserves much acclaim. Vince Xuereb, the vice-chairman of the committee, has worked extremely hard and involved me in the cohesion of the project by communicating with the office of the Minister for the Olympics. The Minister has been involved in this exciting project. Bridget Smythe from the OCA is to be commended for the hard work she has put into this project. Initially Bridget was a little dubious about the project; to raise almost $500,000 was not an easy ask. This is a huge tribute; it has been done properly, so it will last forever. Bridget would be the first to admit that she was wrong. The Australian-Greek community has shown that it can work together to raise this money, because it has great meaning and symbolism not only for now but for future generations.
I also thank Ann Locksley, Director of the Public Art Advisory Committee of OCA. The team worked very hard and in partnership to bring this project to fruition. I am pleased to report that by the end of July or early August this project will be in place. The obelisk will be an impressive sight. All members of this Parliament will be proud of it, because it is a demonstration of the multicultural community that we have so long believed in. The symbolism of ancient Greece and the Olympic Games is harnessed on the Olympic site and the discus is thrown from the Olympic site, aimed at Olympia.
This is the html version of the file http://www.gg.gov.au/speeches/rtf/2000/sp000813.rtf.
ADDRESS BY SIR WILLIAM DEANE
GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE UNVEILING OF THE HELLENIC TRIBUTE
ART PIECE "DISCOBOLUS" AT STOCKROUTE PARK
HOMEBUSH BAY - SYDNEY
SUNDAY, 13 AUGUST 2000
This sculpture - "Discobolus" - is a visionary one. It evokes the spirit and the history of the Olympics, taking us all the way back to Ancient Olympia from which the sculpture's great disc - symbolically representing the ancient discus of Castor and the modern CD ROM - was conceptually flung. It is a Hellenic tribute to all the Olympians of Sydney 2000. And it eloquently symbolises the unique bond between Australia and Ancient and Modern Greece. I warmly congratulate the Sculptor, Robert Owen, on both the concept and the execution of a truly wonderful work.
The unveiling of Discobolus on this site at Homebush reminds us, of course, of the imminence of the Games. Sydney is now well prepared. The Stadium stands ready to welcome the huge crowds of athletes, officials, dignitaries, performers and others who will be attending the Opening Ceremony only a month and two days away. The first athletes - and even a few horses - from overseas have arrived. The Sydney 2000 Olympics Art Festival commences this week. And the Olympic Flame, which I was privileged to see carried from the Stadium at Ancient Olympia three months ago, has now journeyed through Greece itself, through the Olympic countries of Oceania and through most of Australia and will tomorrow for the first time enter New South Wales.
It is, of course, understandable that most of the excitement of the Olympics is focused upon sporting aspects of the Games. But the Olympics have never been concerned only with sport. From their inception, the Games have represented excellence, not only in the sporting arena, but also in a broad range of cultural endeavours. That being so, an essential aspect of the Sydney Olympics is the celebration of our national art and culture and the creation of a lasting cultural legacy. This great sculpture by the acclaimed Melbourne sculptor, Robert Owen, is an important part of that celebration and legacy. It will not only enrich this Olympic precinct in Australia's oldest and largest city. It will also, as I have said, remind us of the unique bonds that join Ancient and Modern Greece with Australia.
Those bonds include the immense contribution which the culture of Greece and its people have made to western civilisation on this, as much as the other, side of the world.
They also include the extraordinary links forged during the short, doomed Greek and Crete campaigns of World War II when the people of Greece risked ruthless reprisals to shelter and care for hundreds of our young Australian soldiers and to assist them in their attempts to escape. There are, in Greece today, no less than 606 graves of Australian soldiers who died there in two World Wars so far away from their families and their homeland. A further 329 who have no known graves are commemorated on Memorials. Last May, as the first Governor-General of this country to pay an official visit to Greece, I honoured and mourned them all as my wife and I placed a wreath at Phaleron Cemetery where 252 lie buried. I also, on behalf of the Australian people, paid tribute to Greece's war heroes at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the heart of Athens.
And of course, perhaps most important of all, there are the rich and strong bonds of kinship, of friendship and of personal achievement represented by our Australian nationals who claim Greek origins. In Australia today, there are over 140,000 people who were actually born in Greece. When you take into account the families and descendants of those who have come to this land from Greece, we have a Greek Australian community of some 700,000 people. That means that Australia is the second largest star in the Greek Diaspora, coming only after the United States. The positioning of this sculpture with its olive grove and cypress trees among our gum trees represents perfectly the way that our Greek community has become an integral and enriching part of our broader multicultural Australian community.
At a practical level, Discobolus is an enduring gift by our Hellenic community to the Australian nation. On behalf of all Australians, I sincerely thank that community for its great generosity in raising the more than one half million dollars necessary to complete the project.
I again congratulate Robert Owen on an inspiring work of art and all those individuals whose generosity and efforts have made this moment possible. Apart from members of the Hellenic community, I should single out for special mention the Olympic Co-ordination Authority and its staff, the members of the Public Art Team and the members of the Public Art Advisory Committee.
And now, with great pleasure, I will cut the ribbon to officially unveil Discobolus the Hellenic Tribute to the Year 2000 Olympians.
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