In honor of the concluded 2020 olympics, I want to share with you my experience at the Panathenaic stadium (the original olympic stadium – the O.G. horseshoe for all our Ohio State followers!) in no place other than Athens, Greece. For me, seeing this landmark was one of the most memorable moments during our time in Athens. Right up there with the Acropolis. Witnessing it in person made the historical and social significance of the stadium really sink in and I would recommend it to any Athens traveller.
The stadium served as the primary competition grounds for the first modern olympics held in Athens in 1896. Of course the Olympic tradition dates back earlier than this, but 1896 was the first international athletic competition permitting both men and women to compete. Since this date, each summer olympic games has been recorded on the marble tile located inside the stadium, and shown below. Can you identify any of the host cities written in Greek?
The entire stadium is constructed out of marble and the track and field at the center had been resurfaced for the 2004 Olympics which made use of this stadium 108 years after its reconstruction. Naturally, we took a lap around the elongated field and basked in the historic glory.
Attached to the stadium and accessed through the athlete’s entrance tunnel, was a small Olympic museum with history on the origin and transformation of the olympics. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, envisioned an international sporting event platform for the “youth of the world” which would ultimately contribute to a peaceful and better world in the spirit of fairness and respect. Some of Pierre’s critics believed this was too utopian of an idea. His response: “To ask people to love one another is merely a form of childishness. To ask them to respect each other is not utopian, but in order to respect each other they must first know each other.” And THIS is exactly what travel is all about. Both the olympics and travel expose you to diverse culture and thought, and encourage a broader understanding and appreciation for your neighbors. If you can’t tell, Pierre’s ideology resonated a lot with me!
The museum at the stadium also housed official advertisement posters for every summer games held since 1896 along with the associated torches from those games! The torch from this year’s Tokyo Olympics was already in position. However, I wasn’t able to figure out whether that was a replica or the actual torch (it would have had to be transported back to Greece in a matter of 5 days if so). Still, very cool to see! The Rio and London torches are also pictured below. And below these are the posters from Paris (1900), controversial Berlin (1936), Mexico (1968), and Atlanta (1996).
Treading through this original site at the same time the Tokyo Olympics were occurring made it that much more memorable. The original intent of the games, described 125 years ago, should encourage us, on and off the field, to continue to expand our horizons while being fair and respectful to all. When broken down to the individual human level, and disregarding any government intervention and propaganda, THIS is what will grow us into a more peaceful world.
Congratulations to all of the dedicated and courageous athletes that competed in this year’s games representing their home countries and pushing the physical boundaries of mankind.
“The Olympic Spirit is neither the property of one race nor of one age” – Pierre de Coubertin