Ancient Olympia

I recently visited Olympia, a truly beautiful, very quiet, and most definitely one of the most nature-rich parts of the Peloponnese.

While the general prefecture of Elis is not particularly attractive, Ancient Olympia, perhaps partly due to its position as a world heritage site, partly as a byproduct of the Athens Olympic Games of 2004 where a large part of the town, roads, and infrastructure were upgraded to meet the requirements for the shot put event that took place at the ancient stadium, manages to combine beautiful, unspoilt natural surroundings with a civilised, cosmopolitan and respectful atmosphere to it, so sorely lacking in most of the country. The area is unexpectedly beautiful to the newcomer, surrounded by large pine and cypress trees, good maintained roads and a beautiful, aristocratic entrance to the town that includes a view of the Ancient Olympia site, a renovated square that is overlooked by a large mansion, the first hotel of the town called ‘SPAP’ and now property of the Ministry of Culture. The town hosts several sights for the scholarly (or history buffs), such as the Archaeological Museum, the Olympic Games museum, the Pierre de Coubertin monument and of course the ancient site of Olympia.

In short, the site and to some extent the town present a very different (and attractive) view of Hellas that is so rare and very welcome. It is unfortunate that the much of the rest of the prefecture has little to do with Olympia and is typical of that omnipresent modern Hellenic kitsch (cf. magnificent natural sights spoilt by buildings, rubbish, cars, cement, neglect and, people).

Here are some photos of the ancient site of Olympia for your viewing pleasure.

Pillar at OlympiaStadium starting lineTemple at Ancient Olympia
Stadium in perspectiveStadium in perspective
Pillar HeadPillar Path

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5 Responses to “Ancient Olympia”

  1. Kostis says:

    Nice! We need to take a trip someplace the next time I get back.

  2. Azrai says:

    Have you heard about the debate concerning hosting some games there? It seems that the greek authorities believe that it would damage the archaelogical site and they are not granting permission. I find it silly and as far as I know so does the municipality of Olympia, yet their hands are tied.

  3. cosmix says:

    Yes I did hear about it [1, 2].

    The matter is quite complex. I agree that hosting any sort of event at the arcæological site would be a fantastic opportunity to promote that beautiful part of Hellas, our history and heritage. On the other hand, I do think that it would be an expensive and difficult undertaking to protect the site while hosting a full fledged sporting event there — the shot put event was a single event supported by the Olympics infrastructure/organisation/manpower.

    It would probably be preferable to build a new sporting complex a few kilometers from Olympia and use the ancient stadium for ceremonies and/or a single event. This way most of the objections of the archaeologists would be satisfied: the ancient site would be available to visitors, and the site would be safe from abuse and/or the wear and tear associated with hosting athletic events there and there would be the desired promotion and development of a beautiful area of the country. Or perhaps, not (knowing how badly this country’s institutions function)

  4. S G says:

    hmm i agree. I wouldnt like 80.000 beer drinking cannibals in the archetypal Stadio.

    But some more tourists would not be bad. Step 1 would be to improve the transport links, I think now it is quite hard to go there without a car (a german professor of mine went by train and thought she were in India).

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