- nige acorn
- BBC story revealed
July 23 beginsRon the Tokyo Olympics. this artThis article is a fascinating and vivid account of what the Games looked like 1,585 years ago. Enjoy it.
The Olympic Games began over 2,700 years ago in Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece.
Every four years, some 50,000 people from around the Greek world attended this great event, which was also a religious festival celebrated in honor of Zeus, the king of the gods.
There were no gold, silver and bronze medals. The winners received an olive wreath and were welcomed home by a hero.
Athletes competed for the glory of their city and the winners were considered to have been touched by the gods.
Can you imagine being able to attend?
Well, we invite you to the Olympic Games of 436 BC.
Here’s a guide to getting the most out of an imaginary journey through this ancient sports carnival.
How to get to Olympia?
Many spectators will have traveled from all over the Mediterranean basin, so prepare for heavy traffic (and delays) on your way to Olympia.
There will be those forced to cross war zones and rival Greek states.
Although the Olympic Truce is nominally in effect for the duration of the Games, ongoing battles may not be suspended in some areas and regions.
This means that there is a reasonable chance of encountering clashes on the way to the Games, so be very careful when traveling.
And remember: no married women will be allowed to enter Olympia during the Games. They are reserved for single men and women!
Where to stay?
Tens of thousands of people will flock to the place which, being a religious shrine rather than a fully functioning city, offers little infrastructure.
Unfortunately, Olympia currently only has one hotel, the Leonideo, which is beyond the budget of most Olympic spectators, so it tends to reserve its rooms for dignitaries and officials.
Rental of canvas tents and pavilions is possible, but again these are very popular and very expensive.
Most viewers bring their own tents for camping, but there are also many who are content with comfortable ground to rest and sleep under the stars.
What to eat?
All manner of food is available on the grounds outside the stadium and racecourse, but beware some unscrupulous vendors may charge extortionate prices. And be sure to bring enough cash.
That said, save some room in your stomach for the third day of the Games, where 100 oxen are traditionally sacrificed as an offering to the god of sky and thunder, Zeus.
This day, timed around the full moon, effectively turns into a huge barbecue.
If part of the meat is reserved for Zeus, the rest is distributed among the 50,000 spectators and no one goes hungry.
What to see?
Of course, no one goes to the Games for accommodation or food: everyone is there for the sport! So when and where can you watch your favorite events?
The first day is largely a ceremonial occasion.
This is when athletes make their first appearances, primarily to take the oaths that bind them to the rules, a tradition that has made the Games the largest multi-sport event in the known world.
And it’s not just athletes who swear allegiance to fair play: judges must also pledge to keep the Olympics free from corruption.
Once all the oaths have been taken, competitions are held to decide which trumpeters will have the honor of playing the serenade. Then it is decided who will be the heralds, that is, the people who will announce the names of the athletes and give the start of each race and fight.
At the hippodrome, the ever-popular equestrian sports kick off the day.
There are all kinds of events, including the chariot (an exciting high-speed race in which four horses pull each chariot), mounted horse races and chariot races for young horses.
But remember: no matter how skilled the charioteers or the horsemen, the real winners are the horse owners. After all, they are the ones who get the loot.
In the afternoon, the famous pentathlon takes place, the ultimate measure of an athlete’s physical condition and sporting abilities.
For a few hours, competitors face five different events: Discus, Long Jump, Javelin, Running and Wrestling.
Whoever is crowned champion will retain their title for the next four years.
It is a day of rest and general joy, without sporting events.
The sacrifice of the 100 oxen is the main point on the agenda.
Today, the various foot races start at the stadium.
The stadium race is one of the most explosive and therefore popular events: an intense sprint that takes place over a single length of the stadium, a distance of approximately 192 meters.
Another popular event is the armor race, in which athletes compete wearing shields, helmets and greaves.
After lunch, combat sports take place.
These include boxing and wrestling, as well as pankration, a sort of combination of the two. Crowds are always large for these events, so be sure to arrive early.
And keep in mind that these events are not for the faint of heart.
Pancracy is particularly brutal, with very few rules to curb competitors. The only restrictions are that wrestlers must not bite their opponents, pierce their eyes, stick their fingers in their noses, or aim for their genitals.
Other than that, anything goes!
The final day of the Games gives attendees a chance to cheer on the champions.
The winner of each event receives the taeria (the red woolen ribbon denoting an Olympic champion) and is crowned with a ceremonial crown of olive leaves.
The rest of the day is spent celebrating the displays of sporting effort and glory that participants have witnessed over the past few days.
The winners of the Games are invited to an exclusive banquet which is also attended by the judges, as well as a variety of politicians and dignitaries.
tips to survive
The Games are taking place in the middle of summer, which makes the risk of heat stroke very real. That’s why it’s crucial to stay hydrated, although due to the low levels of the Cládeo River, drinking water is a scarce commodity.
It is hoped that at some point in the future an aqueduct and fountain will be built to supply Olympia with fresh drinking water. For the moment, the only thing that flows without stopping is the resinated wine.
It should also be noted that with the river so low at this time of year, there is no possibility of swimming during the festivities.
This, combined with high temperatures and tens of thousands of spectators temporarily living close to each other, means the smell of Olympia is far from pleasant.
Shade is also hard to find, so if you manage to find a spot under one of the olive trees, try to stay there as long as possible.
Even without the scorching temperatures and lack of liquid refreshments, just staying up for up to 16 hours a day to watch the action also wears you down.
There are very few seats in the stadium, and they are the exclusive domain of dignitaries and politicians.
So take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way to lighten your legs.
Oh! And beware: the camping area outside the stadium is full of opportunists – pickpockets, fortune tellers, astrologers and the like – who want to steal your money.
Do not get lost…
On a more positive note, there are some amazing venues the Games have to offer.
For a few days, Olympia is transformed into an ephemeral city where one can attend beauty contests, marvel at fire-eaters, be dazzled by jugglers and indulge in luxurious massages.
There are also a host of aural delights.
At camp, poets recite verse, politicians give speeches, philosophers share their teachings, and historians are there to inform and educate.
In fact, Herodotus, the author of “The Histories” and perhaps the most famous historian of the day, often gives impromptu lectures from the back porch of one of Olympia’s famous temples.
Although the judges had no sophisticated technology to catch those who broke the rules, they were extremely strict and could be ruthless and brutal in the punishments they administered.
Corporal punishment was common even for relatively minor offences, such as a false start, which could warrant whipping (and athletes competed naked in many events).
Such measures were necessary to deter cheating, which was not uncommon.
There have been, for example, several notable cases of boxers who took bribes and deliberately lost their fights.
For more serious crimes there were fines, and the money collected funded the construction of the Zanes of Olympia, a series of bronze statues of Zeus.
The pedestals on which these statues stood bore the names of cheaters forced to make “the donation”, a permanent reminder of their crimes.
The statues were situated along a walkway leading competitors into the stadium, as a warning to anyone hoping to gain an unfair advantage.
remembera What you can receive notifications from BBC World. To downloada our application and activate them to not miss our best content.