The next day of our travels brought us to visit Olympia! I was so excited to see where this famous event actually originated. As part of a wedding gift, Scott’s grandparents gave us an excursion to have a guided tour of Olympia, including various museums in the area. We were up bright and early to catch our 45 minute bus ride to these ancient grounds.
Our tour guide for the day was an interesting Greek woman who had a cold and a mic that didn’t leave her lips (can you picture what we were hearing in our ear buds the whole time?). That aside, it was an amazing day. We spent the entire time in “dream” mode, trying to visualize what these foundations and columns were once a part of. Our guide had a lovely book that showed an interpretation of what once was. I only wish we could have stood there when the athletes were parading around the site and going in and out of the training centres and temples. These buildings were so ahead of their time, and the sculptures they housed were so intricate and appealing. Unfortunately, the once immaculate buildings that towered over the athletes and spectators no longer stand. They now are represented by stone foundations and fallen columns.
The highlight of visiting Olympia was parading through the arch, just as the athletes would have done, and running the 100m sprint on the actual track they used. The race is a little different than it is today. The ancient athletes ran 50m to the end of the dirt track, turned around and ran back 50m to the start/finish line. It was not one continuous sprint in a straight line as we watch Usian Bolt do today! As we stood at the start/finish line (a thick marble slab) I looked around and pictured hundreds of cheering fans sitting along the slopes that surround the track. It is such a beautiful setting, nestled in between the hills and olive trees.
After touring the site we headed up the hill to visit the Archaeological museum. Many of the sculptures and artifacts found on site have been moved to various museums around Olympia to preserve what they can. I was amazed at how many things they have found – from little metal tokens brought by athletes to share with their competitors to large sculptures from the pediment of Zeus’s temple. We had the chance to see the beautiful sculpture of Nike and the very well preserved Hermes. The details and the proportions were absolutely incredible!
Peace, Love and 100m Sprints!