Friday, 25 May 2012

Reusing Olympic landscapes

The previous week saw the Olympic flame arriving to England in a golden airplane. The Olympics are one of the events that were recreated in the late 19th century during the aftermath of the Age of Romanticism. The modern Olympics make a full use of the past site of Olympia, the site of the ancient, original Olympics. The Olympic flame is lit in Olympia and a series of modern rituals have been created in order to celebrate the event. We could see a glimpse of these a few weeks back.

The fire was reintroduced as a symbol of the games for the Amsterdam Games in 1928. The torch relay that transports the flame from Greece to the various designated sites of the country where the games take place has no ancient precedent and was introduced at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – a detail nobody probably wants to remember. Nevertheless, there was a religious procession leading to Olympia before the ancient game, so there is a precedent for a preparatory event that passes a landscape related to the Olympics.

The flame is lit using a parabolic mirror from the rays of sun at the temple of Zeus in the holy area of Olympia. The modern reenactment of the events includes not-very-flatterning dresses and frankly bizarre dance routings beamed all over the world from the ancient ruins of Olympia. Considering the amount of good news coming from Greece in the recent times this is currently a rare reminder of the cultural heritage we owe to this country.

Even if there is no continuity between the Games, since these were discontinued as a pagan event by the Christian Roman Empire, the use of the holy area brings the use of this heritage area closer to its earlier function than is normally the case. The Stadium is used as a place to follow the modern presentations and may be for a fleeting moment feel some kind of attachment with the Real Thing in the past.

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