Games to relive former glory in Ancient Olympia
Posted: Sunday August 8, 2004 10:16PM; Updated: Sunday August 8, 2004 10:16PM
ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece, Aug 8 (Reuters) -- More than 16 centuries after a Roman emperor prohibited the Olympics as a pagan ritual, part of the Games returns to its original site at Ancient Olympia this month.
Nestled in a valley of exquisite natural beauty, around 80 shot putters from at least 47 countries will take part in a poignant Games homecoming after the ban by Christian Emperor Theodosius in 393 AD.
For the first time, though, in this historic Olympic setting, women will be watching and competing alongside the men on August 18. About 40 will take part in their competition.
In antiquity, women were excluded from being either spectators or participants, with violation of that edict punishable by death.
"We are going to keep things as simple as possible to maintain the originality of the site. We do not want to go over the top," says assistant venue manager Sophia Hassapis of Greek games organisers ATHOC.
That includes rejecting any seating in the ancient stadium. Instead spectators will sit on grassy banks.
For Greeks, the lush green valley dotted with wild olive and pine trees some 300 kilometres south west of Athens is hallowed ground.
Organisers have offered free coupon tickets for the shot put events on a first-come-first-served basis. It has an ever expanding waiting list for the finals with 15,000 expected to be packed in for the competition.
Keeping things simple means no corporate banners, the bare minimum of electrical equipment and no seats for spectators, who will be sitting on the banks of an ancient stadium where games first started in 776 B.C.
Seats in antiquity were reserved only for judges, with the stone outline of their booth still very visible on one side of the arena. In modern times, it will be Olympic officials who get seats.
The stadium is next to the ancient Temple of Zeus whose massive rock columns, crumbled in an earthquake, can still be seen as a testament to its former glory.
"It fills me with awe every time I come here," says Alexandra Economou, a tour guide.
"These are our roots. Our parents tell us of our heritage from infancy and how we should be proud of it. It is something every Greek carries with them."
It was not until last year, however, that ATHOC decided to use the historic backdrop for the shot put after complaints by the local authority that the site was effectively being ignored in Games planning.
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