BE AN OLYMPIC WINNER
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!
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 its impossible for you not to feel the
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
Olympia still plays an important part in todays 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 youve seen one youve seen them
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. Its 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
Time to reflect on what Baron Pierre de Coubertin said, its 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 www.jmc.com
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
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