Greek Rituals: The Olympics

Olympics 2021 has become a reason for much hue and cry all over the world.

Back in September, the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead next year “with or without Covid”, said the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee. However, yesterday, as per a BBC report, the games are unlikely to happen.

In this story, the Fynch is taking to exploring, to the essence, and to the very history of the Olympic Games, and the ancient rituals which we keep alive even today.

The Olympic Games originated long ago in ancient Greece.

Exactly when the Games were first held and what circumstances led to their creation is uncertain.

We do know, however, that the Games were a direct outgrowth of the values and beliefs of Greek society. The Greeks idealized physical fitness and mental discipline, and they believed that excellence in those areas honoured Zeus, the greatest of all their gods.

Legend also has it that the Olympic Games revolved around Zeus.

It was said Zeus once fought his father, Kronos, for control of the world. They battled atop a mountain that overlooked a valley in southwestern Greece. After Zeus defeated his father, a temple and immense statue were built in the valley below to honour him.

This valley was called Olympia, and soon religious festivals developed there as people came to worship Zeus and to approach as nearly as possible his great strength. It is believed that these religious festivals eventually led to the famed Games of the Olympics.

Lighting the Torch:

The lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame is to be held in Ancient Olympia organized by the Hellenic Olympic Committee since 1936 for the Berlin Olympic Games.

The ritual starts with a procession of 30 priestesses towards the Temple of Hera, a goddess in Ancient Greek mythology.

In front of the ruins of the ancient temple, the High Priestess lights the torch by the means of a concave mirror using the sun’s rays, calling the God of Sun Apollo to light the sacred flame.

Apollo, king of the sun and the idea of light, send your rays and light the sacred torch,” she prays.

The procession then moves into the stadium after a young boy cuts off a branch of olive tree called “kotinos” as a symbol of honor and victory.

On a hill around the stadium, a dozen priestesses and a dozen male dancers perform a choreography inspired by ancient Greece sculptures.

After the flame is transferred in a replica of an urn inside the stadium, the High Priestess lights the torch and passes the flame to the first torchbearer, the world champion in gymnastics, Lefteris Petrounias.

The ritual is held under the rhythm of the flute, percussion sounds, bagpipes and the ancient lyre composed by musician Yannis Psimadas.

He will be playing the lyre and percussion instruments accompanied by Dimitris Barkos in bagpipe and gaida and Konstantina Ventouri-Roussou in flute.

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