home Activities, Best of Greece, Destinations, Mainland, Visit Greece Discover the Olympic Games Heritage

Discover the Olympic Games Heritage

The Olympic Games is the most celebrated multi-sport event of our times. It was also the most important athletic competition of the ancient world. The ideal and values of Olympism still resonate with us; respect and excellence, friendship, peace and unity, not just amongst athletes but also the peoples of the world. Travel Zone designs unique travel programs for individual travelers or groups that wish to discover the centuries-long Olympic Games heritage. Travel to Greece for a unique cultural, educational and recreate experience at the birthplace of the Olympics. Experience yourself the unique connection between the ancient and modern Olympic Games, as you visit and walk in the authentic sites; ancient Olympia, the original location of the games, the Panathenaic Stadium, that held the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, Marathon, the town connected with the most famous run of the world, Olympic Stadium (OAKA), the celebrated site of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and much more.

Ancient Olympia: where it all began

ancient olympia olympic games heritage
Ancient Olympia the birthplace of the Olympic Games

Olympia is the cradle of the Olympic Games. A UNESCO World Heritage Monument is connected like no other site with the Olympics. In the antiquity, it was a religious sanctuary dedicated to Zeus. To honor the most powerful of all Greek gods, ancient Greeks organized there an athletic completion, that became known as the Olympic Games. Every four years athletes from city-states from all over Greece gathered at Olympia to compete and pay tribute to Zeus. Even though not much of the ancient town remains today, the archeological site Olympia is an exquisite location to visit. Walking through it you see the remains of the ancient Stadium, the Palestra where athletes fought, as well as the temples of Zeus and Hera. A virtual tour to Olympia from above offers a sneak-peak to this important site and its unique natural beauty. Ancient Olympia is still connected with the modern Olympic Games. During the Athens 2004 the authentic stadium of Olympia held the shot put competition, a historic moment as for the first time in history women athletes competed at this sacred site. The lighting of the Olympic flame also takes place here. In a unique revival of an ancient ritual the midday sun ignites the flame. Departing from Olympia, the Olympic Torch Relay brings the flame and the Olympic message of unity and peace all over the world.

Olympic flame lighting with a parabolic mirror during the ceremonial lighting at ancient Olympia, Greece
Olympic flame lighting with a parabolic mirror during the ceremonial lighting at ancient Olympia, Greece

Panathenaic Stadium: history of modern Olympic Games

olympic games heritage panathenaic stadium
Panathenaic Stadium: today, in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and during the first modern Olympics in 1896

Athens is the only city in the world that has held the Olympic Games twice. In the heart of the Greek capital lies the most iconic stadium in the history of the summer Olympics; the Panathenaic Stadium. Two times in the 120-year long history of the Olympic Games have athletes and audiences from all over world entered in the emblematic Panathenaic Stadium. Constructed in 1896 to host the first modern Olympic Games, it is the only marble stadium in the world to date. Almost century later it was refurbished in order to welcome the participants and visitors of the Athens 2004. No wonder the stadium listed as a must-see landmarks of Athens. Still functioning today, the stadium is open to the public; you can visit Panathenaic stadium as part of a guided tour or even just to jog in the morning. It hosts special exhibitions, including a unique collection of Olympic Torches that date back to the 1936 games when the first Olympic Torch Relay was organized. We expect to see soon the beautifully designed Rio2016 torch displayed, as well. Finally, the Panathenaic Stadium is used each year for serveral athletic events, including the Athens Authentic Marathon.

Marathon: where the story of the famous run began

marathon olympic games heritage
The Tomb of the 192 Athenians that fell at the Battle of Marathon.

There is no other run as famous as the marathon. Yet the history behind the modern sporting event remains rather unknown. It dates back to ancient Greece and an epic battle between the Greeks and Persians in 490 BC. Known as the Battle of Marathon, it was named after the homonym location, 42 kilometers (26 miles) north east of Athens. According to ancient historian Plutarch, a messenger was sent from Marathon to Athens to deliver the good news; his name was and he was the first to run this long distance. Legend has it that he announced the victory with a short phrase “Νενικήκαμεν” (‘Nenikikamen’, meaning we have won) and then he collapsed and died of exhaustion. Phidippides’ fabled run inspired the contemporary marathon, vastly loved all around the world. In the 1986 Athens Olympics the marathon run was introduced for the first time. Seventeen athletes replicated Phidippides run, following the same route from Marathon to center of Athens and Panathenaic Stadium. Each year in November the hundreds of professional and amateur athletes from all over the world gather in Athens to run in the Authentic Marathon.

athens marathon authentic heritage
The Athens Classic Marathon follows the original route

Athens 2004: the marvelous Olympic Stadium

olympic stadium athens
Fire on Water: the symbol of the Olympics at Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony, at the Olympic Stadium (OAKA)

In 2004 the summer Olympics return to their homeland for the second time in their modern history. The Olympic Athletic Center of Athens, OAKA, or for brevity known as the Olympic Stadium was the epicenter of what came to be hailed as “unforgettable, dream games”. The stadium was extensively renovated prior to the event, with the addition of a movable rooftop designed by famous architect Santiago Calatrava being a highlight. The memorable opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic games were held here. Numerous world records were broken during the Olympics and Paraolympics of Athens, some of which at the OAKA stadium. In its post-Olympic Games history, the stadium has witnessed numerous other events, ranging from major football matches, including the 2007 Champions League Final, to music concerns of world-famous artists, including Lady Gaga, U2, Madonna, AC/DC, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. With a capacity of 75.000 seats, the Olympics Stadium ranks among the biggest stadiums in Europe. It is part of an impressive athletic complex located in the north of Athens that is worth visiting if you wish to follow the contemporary trail of the Olympic Games.

athens 2004 olympic stadium heritage
Athens Olympic Stadium Complex

Would you like visit these sites and follow the authentic trail of the Olympic Games? We invite you to contact us for more information about the Olympic Games Heritage tours and travel packages. Whether traveling for leisure or for educational purposes, whether you are interested in history and cultural tourism or you are an athlete or sports-lover, the discovery is of Olympic Game heritage in Greece is an once in a lifetime experience.

At ancient Olympia by the statue of Pierre de Coubertin who revived the modern Olympic Games
Travel Zone Greece has designed a special Olympic Games tour package. It includes a visit to Olympia the birthplace of the original Olympic Games as well as other important sites, monuments and museums connected with the ancient and modern history of Olympics.
Contact us for more information.