During April 2014, we took a cruise of the Greek Islands & the Italian and French Riviera. After a day at sea, our first port of call was to Olympia, where we took an excursion to see the birthplace of the Olympic Games.
Traveling from Rome to Italy, we passed through the Straight of Messina. Below we have the island of Sicily on the left and Italy on the right.
After about a 20 minute drive from the port, we arrived to Olympia. The Olympic games were held every 4 years from the 8th century BC to 4th century AD. After the games, during about the 8th century AD, various earthquakes and river flooding buried the site under 8 meters (26 feet) of mud. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that the site was found and excavated. Even today, as in the left side of this picture shows, excavations continue.
The games were a tribute to the Greek God Zeus, and during the games, all of the Greek city states agreed to peace & no fighting during the games. The games ended as Greece was taken over by the Romans, and because they were Christian ended the games dedicated to Greek Gods.
This is a picture of what the Statue of Zeus looked like inside the temple. Made of marble and gold, the statue stood 13 meters (43 feet) tall. In his right hand, is Nike the Greek God of victory (and the origin of the name of the shoe company).Track can still be seen. It has a marble staring line, and is 150 meters (500 feet) long. Spectators would have sat along the hillside to watch. When the 2004 Olympics were held in Athens, the shot put, javelin, and discus competition were held here.
A parabolic mirror catches the sun’s rays to light the flame that is then carried to the final destination of that year’s Olympic games. In ancient times, a flame was light during the entire ceremony to represent the stealing of fire from Zeus. And, it was Hitler’s idea to start the tradition of the Olympic Flame marathons for the games held in Berlin.
Our visit to Olympia was very fascinating to see the ancient site of the games that are still played today. Every two years now when the Winter and Summer Olympics start, when the flame is shown being lit, we can say we have been to the exact spot where it started.