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LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

One of our final stops on the Peloponnese was the port of Katakolon just south of the Gulf of Patras.  Katakolon is a major cruise ship port located about thirty minutes by bus from Olympia, the site to which Greek athletes gathered every four years for almost eleven centuries.

Cruise ships arrive daily. . .

depositing thousands of tourists in Katakolon for the sole purpose of seeing Olympia.

We anchored just outside the harbor and took a tour bus to Olympia.  The thirty minute ride took us through groves of olive and fruit trees and past a checkerboard of fields under cultivation. 

The modern town of Olympia has the usual assortment of restaurants and souvenir shops, but the ancient site and its museum are the main attractions.

Many of the early structures were temples and Olympia was a sacred place honoring Zeus, the “king of Gods”.

From remnants of columns, a reproduction gives life to what was there. . .

and allows a step back in history.

We first wandered through the ruins and visited the place where the Olympic torch begins its journey for the modern games.  The actual spot where the flame originates is hardly more than a roped off area with a sign.

Ancient columns line some streets. . .

and outline buildings no longer there.

Very little remains of the buildings of ancient Olympia, and some imagination is required to transform the fallen pillars and foundations into anything approaching their original magnificence. 

Pillars and. . .

foundations stroke the imagination.

One thing that is relatively unchanged is the stadium that is a grassy banked area surrounding a field with marble starting and finishing lines that was where an estimated 50,000 could watch ancient running events.  Interestingly, only men participated and attended and all the athletes and their trainers were naked.  There is some disagreement among historians as to why no clothing was permitted, but it is speculated that ancient Greeks revered the human body in its most athletic form.

The stadium is no more than a grassy embankment around the field. . .

with marble start and finish lines over which thousands of bare feet ran. . .

until Kent arrived--it was too hot to run.

The marble base that held the famous sculpture known as “Winged Victory” is still in its original spot although the statue has been moved into the archeological museum where it has a place of honor.  The sculpture actually depicts the Goddess, Nike and was considered a tribute to Zeus.

The triangular base upon which. . .

the Goddess Nike proudly stood.

The archeological museum contains most of the artifacts recovered from the site. 

Some relics are at the entrance to the museum.

They are preserved and arranged in displays that reconstruct portions of the architecture.

A portion of the pediment from the Temple of Zeus. . .

has larger than life-size figures.

Marble statuary that survives thousands of years is remarkable, but blown glass that dates to the 1st Century B.C.  is downright amazing, and there were examples of that as well.

How does something this beautiful. . .

and obviously fragile survive?

 Being “tourists” for a day was fun.  We gained a new appreciation for the Olympics, and its history.  In the future we will watch the lighting of the flame and recollect that “we’ve been there”–to the place where it all started all those thousands of years ago.

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