Friday, 31 July 2009

A Journey to the Birthplace of the Olympics

Jules and I were quite excited about visiting the ancient site of Olympia during our Mediterranean cruise. For many years we had viewed scenes on TV of maidens in classical Greek garb catching the rays of the sun to light the famed Olympic torch. Having been the site of the original Olympic games in ancient times, by tradition this location has always been the place where this global sporting event was launched every four years. We docked in the tiny town of Katakolon and were quite surprised to find that Olympia is actually 45 minutes away by train. We arrived at the small town of Olympia with its pretty little railway station, renovated especially for the tourists, with the realisation that this ancient site is quite isolated. However, as you enter the historic site itself there is an immediate sense of its cultural significance. This is a sacred location (after all, the Olympics was originally a religious event), where some of the greatest athletic events were born at around 700 years BC. We walked freely around the ruins that spoke of a civilisation long disappeared with its various temples to the Greek Gods and Grecian pillars that surrounded once grand buildings. Eventually we made our way toward the site of the very first Olympic stadium, which is remarkably humble by modern day standards. I was tempted to run a quick lap around the track, but as it was a very hot time of the year, just stepping onto the track was quite enough. As you walk through the arched entrance way you can imagine the scene of the first Olympics with cheering crowds watching running, javelin, discuss and other events, while athletes competed for the glory of victory and a simple olive wreath. These were simpler times that seem a far cry from the multi-billion dollar event the Olympics is today!

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