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Ancient Olympia: a Sacred Place Inspiring Generations of People Worldwide

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The Archaeological Site of Ancient Olympia. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

The spirit of Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, continues to inspire people to the present day and not only the athletes who train hard and make tremendous sacrifices to compete at the highest level, but all people who strive to overcome the challenges in life.

In the valley of the Alfios river, at the foot of Kronios hill in the Peloponnese region of Western Greece, Ancient Olympia, a glorious sanctuary of the ancient world, stands as an international symbol of humanity. It was here that the Olympic Games were born in honor of Zeus and were accompanied by the sacred truce that signaled a pause in hostilities between cities. The spirit of the Olympic Games and the message of peace are preserved even today at this sacred place where the Olympic Flame is lit each Olympiad and sent to every corner of the earth. The flame symbolizes the glorious triumph of the spirit and the creative power of man that continues to forge civilizations.

At the archeological site, visitors are transported through time and experience for themselves the elemental energy, racing up through the millennia, the raw emotion of the athletes, eager to win but at the same time upholding the spirit of fair play. Their physical reward was a humble olive branch, intertwined to form a wreath also known as kotinos, yet the glory and honor in triumph transcended the corporeal realm. They imagined themselves immortalized and were acclaimed by poets for posterity. And so they were. You can read the names of the Olympic winners from antiquity on the honorary plaques scattered around the site.

In the holy forest of Alti temples, offerings and buildings from different periods tell the story of the Olympic Games. Taking pride of place are the ruins of the temple of Zeus, which housed the gold and ivory statue in his likeness, the masterpiece by Pheidias which was also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was here that the crowning of the victors took place. The Olympic flame burnt in the holy hearth of the Prytaneion. The seat of the senate and possibly the umpires was the Voulefterion. Here, athletes took a sacred vow before the beginning of the Games. The athletes trained in the Gymnasium and the Palaestra while Leonidaion was a guesthouse for officials.

The Gallery of Echoes separated the sacred forest from the stadium, which competitors entered by the monumental Krypte. As you yourself enter the stadium, it is easy to conjure the image of hordes of spectators hollering in frenzied support of their champions. The temple of Hera, Pelopion, Nymphaion, and Philippeion are a few more of the buildings that comprised a grand backdrop, a worthy setting for displays of physical and mental prowess.

The centuries-old development of the sanctum is wonderfully depicted through the exhibits and displays in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. The sculpted decoration taken from the temple of Zeus, Nike of Paionios, Hermes of Praxiteles, and the richest collection of bronze artifacts in the world are just a few of the marvels on display for visitors to see.

The Museum of the History of the Olympic Games does not only provide information about the games in antiquity but also initiates visitors into the institution of the Olympic Games. It achieves this goal through its exhibits as well as interactive applications.

Archimedes’ Museum in Olympia is dedicated to the ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and inventor who contributed an invaluable amount to the world of technology. Approximately 350 functional models of ancient inventions by Archimedes and his contemporaries are displayed, aiming to reveal an unknown aspect of Greek civilization while showing how the technology was extremely similar to the beginning of our modern technology.

The International Festival of Ancient Olympia features concerts, theatrical performances, and photography exhibitions, that will enrich your summer in Ancient Olympia.

The International Film Festival of Olympia takes place yearly at Pyrgos and in its competition program selects films mainly for children and teenagers that may come from anywhere in the world.

Be revitalized in the sacred light of Ancient Olympia while boosting your spirit with a reminder of the true nature of competition and fair play.

More information is available online: https://western-greece.com/ancient-olympia/