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The First Olympic Games

Think of what tourism would be now if no form of entertainment exisited?


A study tour is meant to expose students to different experiences and put their classroom learning into the real world. At breakfast this morning a student commented, that while at the Acropolis, she paused to think about how her visited impacted this ancient site. "Should we be visiting, thereby impacting the archaeological site? What is the economic impact on the site if we don't visit? And where is the balance between these two questions?"

Today we visited Olympia, home to one of the most ancient sites in Greece, and the world, dating back to 8th Century BC. While en route to the site we got a lesson in one of the first form of entertainment, the ancient Olympic Games. What if these games had never happened? What would tourism look like if this entertainment hadn't started when it did?"

Here are a few, fast facts about the Olympic Games. I took notes and hope I have most of it correct.
- Olympia was sanctuary to Gaia or Mother Earth.
- the first recorded sport was bull jumping. This involved acrobatics (remember Greek 'acro' meaning on top of) over the bull and in no way was the bull harmed!
- bull jumping was replaced by chariot racing, often done by the rich and sons of kings and aristocrats. Some things never change?
- the first 'official' Olympics happened in 760 BC. In 560 BC it was reorganized into a five day event, taking place on the 2nd full moon after the summer solstice. Remember when the games are held now.
- a flame travelled to city states to announce the games.
- events included soldiers racing in full gear, chariot racing, pentathlon, foot races and contact sports (think modern Mixed Martial Arts). The only rule in ancient contact sports - no biting, and, oh yeah, they were naked and covered in olive oil. I'll let you think about that one!
- the olive wreath was awarded to the winner.

The last Olympics was held in 396 AD and it wasn't until the 1860's until the ancient city was partially unearthed. Further excavations will occur in the future but at a pace so that there is always going to something for the next generation to unearth and learn about.

The students were excited and stoked for today. This was evident when they were given the chance to run on the original track to declare the winner. Only one winner, nothing for second, third or last. The winner, Drew, with the long legs and his Nike runners was awarded the wreath and has bragging rights until the next race or four years from now, whichever comes first!


From there we traveled to Magna Grecia, a local olive agroturismo, owned by a lovely Italian lady and her family. A welcome drink of local wine or Ouzo and we were treated to a quick lesson in olive production followed by a traditional lunch, with tastings of infused olive oils.
Lunch consisted of bruschetta (the owner is Italian), olives and feta. Lunch of lamb, chicken or vegetarian options followed. The potatoes in Greece are different, creamy and delicious, and usually cooked in Lemon and olive oil, of course.. Baklava, fresh strawberries and grappa followed. But wait! There is more. The hosts performed some traditional dances and before you know it, everyone was Greek and could dance. dont be surprised if some of you receive hand made olive oil soap and olive oil as gifts.

It was magic and a day that won't be forgotten! How fortunate are we to be able to bring our students on a journey that opens their hearts and minds to travel, the world around them and the possibilities that lie ahead for them? I have goosebumps!

We are in the coach, headed to Delphi. See that town in the mountains, that is tomorrow's destination. Coach time allows for catch up of the blog. We hope you enjoying following our journey!

Posted by jonaway 12:04 Archived in Greece

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Looking at that track in Olympia brought back memories of our visit there. I ran on that track and it was an awesome feeling. Enjoy tomorrow's adventure.

by Ann Schenkeveld

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