The tiny port of Katakolon serves cruise vessels for an excursion to the archaeological site of ancient Olympia. Adjacent to the port is the village of Katakolon with two main streets lined by a few souvenir shops and typical local restaurants. Ancient Olympia, the great Panhellenic sanctuary, lies an approximate 30-minute drive from Katakolon.
The origin of the Olympic games is thought to have started as a local funerary celebration. The Greeks believed that Herakles himself laid down the regulations for the games and specified the length of the stadium to be 600 feet. The first historical reference to the games can be found in 776 BC, when a treaty between the kings of Elis and of Sparta called for a truce during the Olympic games. From this date on, lists were kept of the winners in the footrace around the stadium, which took place every four years. Other events, such as the long-distance race, pentathlon, boxing and chariot racing, were added later. The winners received a branch from the sacred olive tree as well as material rewards. After an existence of more than a thousand years, the games were banned by Emperor Theodosius and came to an end in 393 AD.
The site of ancient Olympia is spread out along the foot of wooded Mount Kronos. Excavations began in 1875 and are considered one of archaeology's great achievements. A direct consequence was the revival of the Olympic Games by Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
Today's visitors walk among the ruins and reflect on their significance. Don't miss the site where the Olympic flame is lit even today for the modern games.