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May 2, 2020

The Olympic Torch lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia, Greece

Hope Lights Our Way – The message of this year Olympics which will be held in Tokyo, Japan.

We all love the Olympics whether we like doing sports or not. Have you ever wondered why?

From my point of view the Olympics are not about sports but ideas; great ideas that were born thousands of years ago in a small Greek area, Ancient Olympia.

Every time we think about the Olympics or talk about the Olympic spirit, ideas such as unity, peace, safety come to our mind. And these are the ideas we celebrate every time the Olympic torch is lit; where else but in the birthplace of the Olympics, Ancient Olympia, Greece.

Ancient Olympia lies in the heart of the Greek countryside, often called the valley of the Gods. There, the Ancient Greeks gathered once every four years in the summertime to celebrate for their Gods.

How can you convince the people to leave their homes and travel under the heat of the Greek sun for weeks or even months, defying all dangers and difficult weather conditions? By using two very powerful tools; Sports and religion! Especially if these two tools are combined with each other, then you hit the jackpot!

At this point, it is crucial to point out that sports back in the ancient times were considered as one of the most prestigious religious activity. There were no professional athletes, instead, they were people doing “athla” which means achievements or something very difficult or the competition itself in Greek. The athletes were great achievers. And what did they want to achieve by participating in the games? Honour, pride, glory, fame.

And how do you ensure that all these pilgrims will not be attacked on their way to Olympia, but they will be safe to travel, attend the Games and return back home?

The answer came as the natural thing to do for the Greeks; make an agreement according to which all conflicts had to stop sometime before the games, during the games (five-day duration then) and sometimes even a month after the end!

So, one would ask – Did they honour that agreement? Even the Spartans or the Athenians? YES!

As we read in the ancient sources, the Olympics lasted for almost twelve hundred years, counting 293 Olympic Games and there were only four to five-time where that agreement was violated. The best part of that agreement was that everyone was obliged to leave his weapons outside the site once in Olympia!!!

But, how could you know when it is time to travel since there were no common calendars among the Greeks? That was the role of the Olympic torch.

There was a fire kept lit forever in Ancient Olympia, guarded by the local people. So, a while before the beginning of the Games young men would run with the torch informing all the city-states along with colonies about the upcoming event and the beginning of the Olympic truce.

This is what we wish to revive every time the ceremony of the lighting torch is hosted in Ancient Olympia. Unofficially, we invite people to join the period of the Olympic truce.

Therefore, the idea is very old. However, the event itself started for the first time in 1936 for the Olympics in berlin. Since that time and onwards, the ceremony takes place exclusively in Ancient Olympia.

For this year, the ceremony has been scheduled for March 12th. There, everyone will have the unique opportunity to experience this great event from up close.

The ritual is unique; young girls, called the priestesses, dressed in the Ancient Greek style with white tunics will gather in front of the temple of Hera.

They will light the torch with the help of two single tools; a cauldron, specially designed to trap the sun rays and the torch which contains something flammable.

The ceremony takes place around midday when the sun is very strong, therefore just a few rays are enough to have the required result. Meanwhile, the girls will sing hymns in honour of God Apollo, the God of light according to the Ancient Greeks and once the torch is lit, they will release a white pigeon, spreading the message of peace.

In our times and since the Olympics are a world event, two torch relays are always organized; one in Greece and the second in the organizer country. For this year it will be Japan.

After the end of the Olympics, the flame is extinguished till the next Olympics.

Trust the locals, The Travel Insiders to show you around the area and its surroundings and enjoy a sneak peek of the rehearsals of the past, Olympia tour flame lighting ceremony 2016

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