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Olympic history in Olympia

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Stadium of Olympia

The history of Olympic games goes way back. In ancient Greece, athletes took an oath not to fight for the duration of a sports event in Olympia. We take a look at this historic site.

When we finally arrive in Olympia, we search for the youth hostel. Nice and cozy, we think, but that’s not the case. It is cheap, but the cold environment makes us head directly for the ruins, so we can leave again the next morning.

Olympic past

The ruins of Olympia are great. There is very little intact here, but you can feel the history of the Olympics here. Incredible that starting in the year 776 B.C., sports games were being held here, and that the people made an oath to stop fighting during those games.

Fallen pillar of the temple of Zeus in OlympiaIn fact, the houses and temples at the ruins are not the reason for coming here. It is the stadium that we want to see. But the temple of Zeus is impressive as well. At this location once stood the enormous statue made of gold and ivory, one of the seven wonders of the old world. And there’s the bouleterion, where the athletes made their oath. And the temples, where the different competing city states kept their trophies. But it’s still all about that stadium.

We enter the stadium through the old arch. And what we see behind it is not very much. A sand and grass plain, surrounded by low hills for the spectators. On the plain still lie the start and finish lines, both made of marble. On the side are still the seats for the VIPs or the jury. And that’s it, the rest needs to be filled in by one’s imagination about what took place here.

Arch at the entrance to the stadium in OlympiaWhile we wander along the old temples, we notice the archeologists at work. We amaze ourselves about how they are scraping the moss from a huge pillar block, while there is so much work to be done in reconstruction. One pillar of the temple of Zeus is in scaffoldings, and one temple is being reconstructed. But this way, these are in decay again before the rest of the complex is reconstructed.

Our ticket to the ruins also gives admission to the museum. But the new museum needs to be completely decorated. Most of the art treasures are gathered in chests outside. We do see the impressive façade sculptures of the temple of Zeus. And on the postcards which are on sale here we can see the ceremony of the lighting of the Olympic flame, which takes places before each Olympic games.

The modern Olympia cannot stand in the shadow of its antique past. It is entirely geared towards tourism, but in the low season it’s almost completely deserted. So after visiting the magnificent archeological site, we leave this place again.

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