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Gemma Quinn
Teams of workers are painstakingly brushing away the dust and chipping at rock, uncovering more treasures. Tempting for the visitor to pick up a bit of rock just to see what souvenir you can find for yourself!

‘The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.’

This was the aim of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, to revive the spirit of ancient Greece by bringing young people of the world together in friendly competition.
Now standing amongst the Olive groves in the blistering heat of the Mediterranean sun it’s impossible for you not to feel the spirit
of magical and mythical Olympia.

In the Peloponnes area of Mainland Greece, Olympia spreads around the green wooded feet of the Kronian hill. In ancient times the valley was full of wild olive trees, poplars, oaks, pines and plane trees and it was these trees that gave the centre of the sanctuary the name Altis, meaning alsos (grove).
This Altis is home to the main religious buildings and temples. Just outside the enclosure you will see various other buildings including priests’ houses, baths and preparation areas for the athletes.

It takes some imagination to fully appreciate the history and importance of the place but get a tour guide for an hour and you can drift away into the world of ancient Greece. The temple of Zeus grows in the mind as the ruin dominates the sanctuary, the huge stone columns feature Zeus and Apollo as its central figures. Stories of how the games were started in 776 BC to honour Zeus and Pelops, the King of the Peloponnese who was, according to mythology, their founder.

From beginning to end they were engulfed by religious character and austere ritual.
Olympia still plays an important part in today’s modern Olympic Games. The Olympic flame is still lit here and then the torch is carried by various athletes to the host city ready for the opening ceremony.
As you make your way round the site, history can be seen in the making as excavation is still continuing. Teams of workers are painstakingly brushing away the dust and chipping at rock, uncovering more treasures. Tempting for the visitor to pick up a bit of rock just to see what souvenir you can find for yourself!
Tear yourself away from the site and walk the short distance through the tree-lined avenue to the museum, a more modern offering and typically built for the droves of tourists. The rooms are graced with artefacts and statues. In ancient times the bodies were made in bulk and then each individual head carved and sculpted as needed, bringing a new meaning to the saying ‘when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all!’
Olympia is not just relics and ruins hidden amongst the trees. Escape the heat in the valley to the cooler climes in the village of Olympia and town of Elis where there is a more Mediterranean feel.
The streets are paved with small and friendly cafés, all very typically Greek compared to the more well known beach resorts, offering you a mouth-watering selection of Greek and international cuisine at reasonable prices. Old traditional craft shops fuse with souvenirs and the sparkle of gold in jewellery stores. It’s easy to let time drift away here, basking in the friendly hospitality of the Greeks. Over the centuries they looked after and worshipped their Kings and Gods and it's hard not to get a similar treatment as they fuss over you.

Time to reflect on what Baron Pierre de Coubertin said, it’s not the winning but the taking part. Few of use will ever get to take part in the modern day Olympics let alone win but every visitor to Olympia can be a winner as they do their victory lap round the Stadium.

There are a number of small basic but clean hotels in the village but most tour operators run day trips across from a more popular holiday island. We were staying on the island of Zante travelling with JMC and had a short ferry ride over to the mainland. For a wide choice of hotels in Greece and Greek islands try JMC. Prices for a two-week holiday on Zante, where we were based, start at £479 per person, travelling from a number of UK airports. JMC run regular trips to Olympia for approximately £70 per person. For a JMC Greece brochure call 01274 387 740 or visit
For information on Greece contact the Greek National Tourist Organisation
4 Conduit Street
London W1R 0DJ
Tel: 020 7734 5997

1. Take some bottled water as it gets very hot and dry in the valley.
2. Try and avoid travelling between June and August as it gets very crowded with coach tours and lots of Americans visiting on cruises.
3. Surprisingly, gifts and souvenirs are slightly cheaper than in the main resorts; gold is a good buy.

email: Gemma Quinn

Gemma is a third year journalism student at Lincoln University

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