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Olympia, Mount Olympos, the Olympic Games; how are the connected? In the beginning, there was Mount Olympos, the mythical home of the gods and their father, Zeus. When the cult of Zeus was established in this area of the Peloponnese around 1100 B.C., the place was named Olympia after Mount Olympos.The ancient Greeks believed that the Olympian Gods inaugurated the games at Olympia, and held their own Olympic games every four years in honour of Zeus.

The first official Olympics were declared in 776 B.C., and they soon became so important in the life of the ancient Greeks that they were used as the main basis of dating all the significant events. Every time the games were being held, all hostilities between greek cities were suspended and the Sacred Truce was declared. The sanctuary of Olympia, itself, was famous all over the world and was placed under the protection of Zeus.

Today, the ruins of ancient Olympia are situated in an idyllic setting near a small river, and consist of the gymnasium, the palaestra, the baths, the temples of Zeus and his wife Hera, the stadium and the hippodrome, the treasuries, and other monuments. Unfortunately the site was badly ruined by man and time, as well as by earthquake, however, it still is one of the most important and interesting sites in Greece.

The museum of Olympia is just a few metres away and houses a magnificent collection of exhibits. However, the most important piece is the masterpiece of classical sculpture, Hermes of Praxiteles, displayed in a hall to itself. But while you are here, don't miss the recently restored statue of Nike of Paeonios which gives the impression that it's about to fly.

The Olympic games today is the most important sports event, and athletes from all over the world take part in it. Of course this institution has not been continuous through the ages; Emperor Theodosios I issued a decree forbidding the games after the Olympics of 393 AD, and the games were banned until 1896, when the istitution was revived by Baron de Coubertin.

The games have been held ever since- with the interval of the two World Wars- every four years in different cities around the world. The ceremony of lighting the Olympic flame takes place in Olympia, and runners carry it from the ancient site to the city where the games are held each time.

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