THE trip to Athens was rounded off yesterday by achieving something that Paula Radcliffe couldn't manage - making it to the original Olympic Stadium.

The "Panathenaic Stadium" hosted the archery events at last summer's Games, and was also the finishing point for the marathon.

Radcliffe didn't reach it of course - collapsing in floods of tears at the side of an Athenian street - and, by failing to finish, she missed out on one of the most awe-inspiring sporting venues in the world.

The site of the stadium was first used for athletic pursuits in the fourth century BC. But in Roman times emperor Hadrian commandeered the venue to host an orgy of blood sports that saw thousands of wild animals slaughtered.

The Roman senator Herodes Atticus was responsible for the modern look of the stadium, installing 60,000 marble seats that were later quarried and turned into many of the prominent government buildings that are scattered across the city.

The venue was revived in 1896 and provided the focal point for the modern revival of the Olympic Games.

Local athletes still use the venue for their club events but, sadly, I was unable to take to the track and complete a few laps.

I can still claim I got nearer than Paula though.

Our hotel stands opposite Syntagma Square in the centre of Athens and, right in the middle of the square, you can find one of the most amazing underground stations in the world.

When the Greek authorities were digging deep to build the station, they uncovered a forgotten world that had been buried some 20 feet below ground level.

It obviously had to be preserved, but the building work was so far advanced that it would have cost millions to simply abandon the construction of the station.

The result has been an astounding compromise in which a ten-foot cross-section of the excavation has been retained behind glass to the right of the main ticket booth.

You can see the remains of pottery, water channels and even, thanks to the desire to keep things exactly as they were found, a fully-formed human skeleton.

The pre-match press conference is generally good value on a foreign trip, and Wednesday night's was certainly no exception.

After being told that his job was on the line in Tel Aviv - despite just having taken over at Newcastle three weeks earlier - Graeme Souness is no doubt wary of foreign journalists and their interpreters, and with good reason.

A Greek writer asked a long-winded question on Wednesday that saw the interpreter sitting next to Souness take a deep breath before providing the translation.

"Mr Souness," he said. "You are remembered for being a good player in a good team. I have watched Newcastle recently and they are not a good team. Do you not care about the quality of football any more because there is no quality that I have seen."

Let's just say that both interpreter and journalist got the kind of stare that must have made opponents freeze throughout the 1970s and '80s