By Gabriela Paczko Bozko Cecchini & Nasra Hirsi
We started the day very early, as usual, so that we could have a good breakfast at the hotel in Athens and then take the bus to go to Olympia. The bus ride was about four hours, a fact that was very useful, because we could catch up on our sleep. We arrived at Olympia at around noon, and then had a quick lunch. The village was very charming, with many restaurants and souvenir shops. Most of us had a gyro, the famous Greek street food.
After lunch, we took the bus to the International Olympic Academy, which is the World Center for the Olympic Education. The institution, created in 1961 in a joint effort from the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee, is the true heart of the Olympic Movement, as it unites both its components of Philosophy and Education. Once there, we could walk for a little bit in the facilities of the IOA, which comprise multiple rooms to accommodate the students, a restaurant, conference rooms and multiple classrooms. We were very impressed with the size of the institution and the beautiful disposition of the buildings, in a semicircular fashion.
We then walked to the Archive of the 2004 Olympic Games, which is the only archive for an edition of the Olympic Games that exists in the world. There, our guide George, showed us a video that detailed the story of the organization and its aims. In the video, we learned more about the conception of IOA by Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the Modern Olympic Games, who wanted to create an institution to support and encourage the development of the Olympic values around the world. Further, we could get more details about the current projects being held at IOA, like the Young Participants and the Masters Programme in Olympic Studies.
After the video, looked at the Archive for the 2004 Olympic Games. It had both a vastness of documents and publications about the event, and many original artifacts from it: posters, clothes worn by the volunteers, and even the Olympic medals! It was extremely special to be in that place and to be able to see objects from one edition of the biggest sports celebration of the world.
In the afternoon, we went to Olympia, the place where the Ancient Olympic Games were held. Having the opportunity to go to Olympia was an amazing experience. Olympia is as beautiful as we expected it to be and the people who reside there are really kind. During the tour of the archeological site and the museum it felt like we were transported back in time to the first Olympic games. The tour allowed us to get an in-depth idea into the rich history of Olympia and the games that occurred there. We were able to learn about the importance of sports during Olympia, and even how they were able to stop wars, due to a treaty created back then that prohibited all types of wars during the Olympic games.
During the tour, we were able to get a better grasp on how sports shaped ancient Greece and its people. We learned that the Olympic games were religious and sacred, played to honor Zeus. Only non-slave men who were from Greece could participate in them. Because of that, at the time, women decided to create their own games, where they honored the goddess Hera. A second interesting fact about the ancient Greeks was the belief that training your body allowed a person to have self-control and was the only way a person could achieve physical perfection. Finally, we also learned that the Olympic Games were created in a moment when Greece was not an united country, but several city-states, so the Games served to unite all Greeks and make them realize that they were stronger together.
After the tour, we took the bus and drove to Tripoli, a small city where we are going to spend the night. It was definitely an unforgettable day, in which we were able to engage in a deeper level with the Olympic movement, both in its roots, when we visited Olympia, and in its current actions, in the OIA. We are very grateful for having had the opportunity to visit these places and to learn in locoabout the importance of sports for humankind, from the ancient Olympic Games to nowadays.