For a long time Tolon has been a popular town with holidaymakers looking for a laid-back, family-friendly destination. Of course it has a good beach, but it’s also well-equipped for those wanting to explore the surroundings on bikes or on foot, and watersports enthusiasts can take out canoes or try their hand at windsurfing. Tolon is close to many of Ancient Greece’s famous sites – Corinth, Argos, Mycenae are all within an hour’s drive, as are the seasonal performances at the amphitheatre of Epidavros.
One of the more fascinating historical sites is Ancient Nemea, and the attraction goes far beyond exploring a set of crumbling ruins. Nemea was once home to what is widely thought to be the first Olympic Games. It was here that ancient Greeks would mark major festivals and, for a brief while, pause their perpetual hostilities, putting their efforts instead into athletic competition. Established sources give the starting date of the Nemean Games as 573 BC. The games continued despite the wars which raged around the Peloponnese, although at various times they were moved to nearby Argos. It is thought that Alexander the Great was responsible for the building of the Temple of Zeus and the stadium on which the games were held.
Thousands of years went by, and it was in the 197os that the first efforts began to revive the ancient site and return it to its original use. Years of excavation, political manoeuvring and sustained local hard work followed. The first modern Nemean Games took place in 1994, and it’s worth sharing the statement of purpose for the society formed for the revival of the games. It will strike a chord with all those disillusioned by the corporate bankrolling, the drug cheating and the corruption behind so much of modern-day sport.
“It is our belief that the modern Olympic Games, despite their obvious success in many respects, have become increasingly removed from the average person. Our goal is the participation, on the sacred ancient earth of Greece, of anyone and everyone, in games that will revive the spirit of the Olympics. We will achieve this by reliving authentic ancient athletic customs in the ancient stadium of Nemea.”
The Nemean Games take place every four years, a few weeks before the Olympic Games begin. This year the opening ceremony of the Nemean Games will be on the 10th June, with the main events taking place on the following day. Unlike at the games in Rio later in the summer, the visitors’ role isn’t restricted to merely watching the athletes; everyone is free to don a traditional white toga (supplied) and compete in the 100m or the 7.5km runs. Best of all, entrance is free (now there’s the original Olympic spirit in action). If the thought of all that exertion isn’t that tempting, perhaps the prizes will persuade even the most ardent couch potato to get into shape before the event.
Just as in the days of old, winners will receive a crown of wild celery and have a ribbon tied around their heads. Sunvil Chairman Noel Josephides took part in the 2012 Nemean Games and wrote a post about his eventful 100m race.