Thursday, January 8, 2009

Costa Cruise Day 3: Olympia, Greece

Day two of the cruise was spent on the ship... we swam, we drank, we ate, we ate and drank, and in the evening there was a Gala Dinner. On Sunday we arrived in Greece and had an excursion scheduled to go via bus to the village of Olympia, the location for the original Olympics.

Here are 10 things I learned about the Olympics and Olympia that you might not have known:
  1. The Olympics were all done originally naked and only men were allowed to compete. Eventually women were allowed to participate in some events, like racing, but the finish line for the women was closer than that for men!!!

  2. The lighting of the torch is an original part of the Olympics, going back to when a flame was lit and maintained throughout the ceremonies - but the torch relay is not.

  3. The torch relay started in 1928 with the Berlin Olympics. It was one of several ideas presented to Hitler as a means of sprucing up the ceremonies and introducing Nazi ideology. (More info here) The torch relay starts in Olympia each year and the torch is lit using a mirror reflecting the sun on the site of the original flame... or so they think.

4. This Palaestra area was basically an indoor track. There would have been a roof and the athletes would have used this area to train in bad weather! The wider end would have been used for wrestling or boxing.

5. During the Olympic games, all the surrounding tribes would go the to big event and throughout the duration of the Olympics all wars would be on hold- therefore the Olympics brought upon a time of peace each year to the usually dueling tribes. There were also lots of games across the Greek Empire, not just those in Olympia.

The Palaestra area

An offering stand

6. The Olympics was also a great time to show off wealth and make connections, being one of the only times each year when all the tribes came together peacefully. To show off wealth and support the games, offerings and sacrifices would be made. Pedestals such as that above held the offerings or gifts such as statues and the gift giver and city from which the gift was donated would be carved into the pedestal.

Me by the Temple of Hera, this column in the background is part reproduction

7. The site of the Olympics was found under about 15 feet of sand and dirt - so a lot of the ruins may still be undiscovered. They are digging along the river near the site in search of the hippodrome, the track where the chariot races were done - the horses were the athletes in that regard! They believe it is on the other side of the stadium and that the spectators just turned around to face the hippodrome and watch the chariot racing.

The entrance to the stadium

8. Participants that cheated were made into statues and the statues were placed at the entrance to the stadium with the cheaters name and city on them, a constant reminder that cheating is not tolerated and an embarrassment to the defiled cities.

The stadium grounds - great naked athletes
ran on this soil.... great strong naked athletes ;)

Here is a visual of the women's finish line and the men's just a stuck further.

9. At the stadium, the racers ran back and forth from line to line, the lines being marked by marble blocks in the ground, instead of on a circular track like today. If you won you were awarded with a big vat of olive oil!!!

10. And finally, after a big day of learning about the Olympics, the best way to re-energize is with a cheap and tasty Greek Gyro - only 1.70 Euro for this special delight - or 6 for 5 Euros. Bring it on baby!! YUMMMM..

More details here...

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