Saturday, February 9, 2008

Re-visiting Olympia

As many of you loyal friends and family know, I absolutely adored my trip to Olympia, and touring the site of the original Olympics. So much so, I decided I wanted to go back. So much so, that I decided I didn't want to lead tourists around or do head counts, but that I wanted my head counted by someone else.

Cody, Steve, and Dave Keeton agreed, and we all shelled out $72 of our (hard earned?) dollars to take the excursion to Olympia in Muggle-fashion.

I may have said this before, but the Olympics reduce me to a sniffling, snotting mess every year, making me beam with pride at what humans, in their peak perfection, can accomplish. I sort of expected the same thing to happen when I waltzed back into the Olympic Stadium not having to worry about whether Snappy McTakesTooManyPictures is lagging behind.

But, instead, it was sort of just calming. It was a very serene feeling, retracing those steps. I still cannot get over the cypress trees that surround the Olympic site. And the quiet - a quiet that you cannot achieve in revered places like the Vatican museums or the Parthenon. It is the quiet that cannot possibly be man-made.

I realized that a lot of the facts that I had tried to piece together from my previous tour guide's speeches where a bit off. First, anyone caught cheating in the Olympic games was forced to commission a statue of Zeus to line the pathway into the Olympic Stadium. The statue had the cheater's name on it. So, it wasn't just any criminals, but athletes that were forced to endure the humiliation. Take that, Barry Bonds.

Also, the fire-pit that houses the Olympic flame was reintroduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics. It is lit by the reflection of sunlight in a parabolic (fancy word for curved in a precise, mathematical way) mirror and then transported by a torch to the place where the games are held. A fella by the name of Carl Diem introduced the modern-day torch running during the Berlin Games of 1936, as part of an effort to - get this - turn the games into a glorification of the Third Reich!

Horrible, lesser-known associations aside, they boys had to do the "I raced my pals at the original Olympic Stadium" race. Steve won! However, all were quite winded, and much water and panting was needed to recover.

Not too long ago, the fires that ravaged Greece reached these places. Flames licked the edges of the original Olympic stadium and scorched the yard of the museum. Even though we were all separated by many miles, Cody and Jennine and Dave and I all corresponded about how horrible it would be that a place we had all mutually appreciated was so close to destruction.

To be honest, had we not gone there, I probably wouldn't have batted much of an eye at the news story.

That is happening a lot lately. Faraway places have become friends I want to keep in touch with.

So, there's that. I can sure thank my travels for that.

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