Nod to the Olympic Games
It’s a lucky day in China, the 8th day of the 8th month of the 8th year in the 21st century, as Beijing hosts the 29th Olympic games of the modern world. And so, as a nod to today’s opening ceremonies, a quick trip back to… Greece. I don’t mean thousands and thousands of years ago, necessarily. I’m actually referring to the summer of 2006, when Olivier and I spent 4 months traveling the world. And it all started in the Peloponnese.
The very first stop we made was in Olympia. It was powerful to stand on the very ground where the Olympics all began. So with that, a quick history lesson…
Conflicting views may abound, but much literature points to 776 BC as the year of the first Olympic games, and for the first 13 games, there was but one event, a running race the length of the stadium. Numerous contests were added in later years, including boxing, wrestling, horse races, and the pentathlon, as well as additional running events. This continued until 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius issued a ban on all pagan cults and sanctuary activity. Imagine what he would think of today’s modern version! For this we can thank the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded an international Olympic committee and ultimately revived the Olympic games in 1896.
Excavations began at Olympia in the 19th century, but continue to this day. The famous Olympic stadium is not the only attraction on these grounds, but it is an important one for athletes and fans alike. You can also walk through the sanctuary, consisting of temples and buildings that were originally constructed to honor the mythological gods of ancient Greece. There are ruins of the gymnasium, bath complex, workshops, and numerous Temples, all along with an informative museum of artifacts.
The drive leading in and out of Olympia was a beautiful one, the entire region of the Peloponnese being a place I would go back in a second. It is the southernmost part of mainland Greece, practically an island in itself, with an overwhelming natural beauty. Its interior mountains, green rolling hills, as well as breathtaking beaches and coastal views, all making for an ideal place to hike, bike, swim and especially eat. And for animal lovers, you will never be too far from your next confrontation with a goat or sheep.