4 Feb

In honor of the Olympics, here are some fun facts I learned while in Olympia:

  • The first ever Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC; they took place every four years and lasted until 939 AD (1,169 years)
  • They started in order to honor Zeus, the king of the gods!
  • The Olympic Games reached heightened popularity during Greece’s golden age (400-450 BC).
  • Like any trendy event, the Olympics made a comeback in 1896 in Athens.  And, as now know, it’s comeback was successful!

My first time ever in Olympia, Greece, coincided with opening week of the 2018 winter olympics!   It was hyper cool since to be where it all began!  Back in Athens, I got to watch several of the events with my Turkish host. I always think it’s neat to see all of the countries coming together in support of the Olympics and sports and this year was extra cool to be with a Turk, in Greece (because, of their rocky history), watching the 2018 winter games.

In the past, a “sacred truce” was declared several months before the Olympics so that athletes and fans could travel safely to Olympia without fear of being attacked on their way there…and this would be a perfect place to insert a comment about our relations with North Korea and its proximity to Pyeongchang, but I think you can see the connection.


Ruins from the Altar of Hera…it’s time to use your imaginations, readers!

And Olympia, the place, is still linked to the modern day Olympics even though the games are no longer performed here as the Olympic torch is literally lit in Olympia and passed in a long relay to the next city that will host the games.  So, this years journey was 9,000 miles overland, in the snow, from Olympia to Pyeongchang, South Korea!  Really freaking cool.


After our first night in the region, Ben and I woke up early to eat a breakfast of champions, since you know, we were in Olympian territory after all.  What choice did we have, really?  As we finished up our cheese, bread, and fruit, sitting on a side walk, we headed to the Museum of Ancient Games!  Awesome!!  We saw tons of relics and used our own imaginations (plus helpful interpretive signs) to figure out what kinds of games they played in Olympia 1,500 years ago.

And then, we headed to see the ruins themselves. We walked around, read plaques, and gained lots of information from our guidebook (thank you Rick!).  The grande finale was checking out the old sprinting course, still used today.



Sprinting down the course and letting ghosts of past Olympians carry me to the finish line!


As we stretched and prepared for our own personal race down this old course (again, what choice did we have but to stage a race because #Olympia), we recalled that elderly Italian family at the stage of Epidavros who had decided to put on a show with songs and dance and had whistles blown at them. Thus, I was half-expecting the same thing to happen to us here, but luckily in running, whistles mean “GO!” And GO we did!!  Luckily, the fun police were not in Olympia that day, so we didn’t use the whistles as our starting pistol, instead we hit the track hard on our own count down.

Ben and I ran the sprints twice, and he won both times. I was forced to concede and announce his name in the winner’s circle (kick a girl while she’s down, why don’t you) and place an olive branch on his head.




Look at this Geeky winner.  Er, I mean, Greek-y winner!


After I graciously accepted defeat, we headed to the main museum.  Hours had already been spent learning about Olympia but there was way, way more information to take in! I told my brain to hurry up and digest.

Things we learned in this museum:

  • If you weren’t in first place, you lost. Those who came in second or third place got nothing except the honor of competing…and maybe a t-shirt that said “I went to the Olympics, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”
  • Extra incentives for winning were that you didn’t have to pay taxes (um, where do I sign up?), you got free food (no, seriously, how do I get in on this?), and you received the honor of your village (bow down to Ben, Pittsburgh).
  • Women were not allowed in the games. Only men could compete, and they had to compete in the nude (sounds like a reality show on NBC hosted by Bear Grylls).
  • The statues and the relics we see today were once very colorful and not the white and grey that we see we today.  Again, imagination.



Maybe one of the games 1,500 years ago was moving these massive blocks…?  We just don’t know.



At the temple of Zeus with one reconstructed pillar showing me how massive the temple was.  I think reconstructing the pillar was probably its own Olympic sport.  Also, I see Olympic sports everywhere now-a-days. 


Here’s to the 2018 winter games!



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