What did the ancient Olympic Games look like?
Of course, no one comes to the Games for accommodation or food: everyone is there for the sport! So when and where can you see all of your favorite events?
The first day is largely a ceremonial occasion. This is the time when athletes make their first appearances, mainly to take the oath that requires them to play by the rules – a tradition that has made the Games the most beautiful multisport event in the known world. And it’s not just the athletes who swear allegiance to fair play: the judges must also commit to keeping the event free from corruption.
Once all the oaths have been taken, contests are organized to decide which trumpeters will have the honor of serenading the Games. Then it’s time to decide who will be the heralds, i.e. the people who will announce the names of the athletes and act as starters for each race and fight.
On the racetrack side, the ever popular equestrian sports kick off the day. There are all kinds of events, including quadriga (a thrilling high-speed race where four horses pull each chariot), horse-riding races, and chariot races for young horses. But remember: however skillful the charioteers or the jockeys are, the real winners are the owners of the horses. After all, they are the ones who receive the loot of the winners.
In the afternoon, the famous pentathlon takes place in the stadium – the ultimate measure of an athlete’s fitness, physique and athletic ability. In the space of a few hours, the competitors tackle five different events: discus, long jump, javelin, race and wrestling. And whoever is crowned champion will retain his title for the next four years.
It is indeed a day of rest and general cheerfulness, without any sporting event. Instead, the sacrifice of a hundred oxen is the main item on the agenda – or should it be a menu? Around the full moon, part of the beef is offered to Zeus, while the rest is shared by all participants.
Today, the various foot races take place in the stadium. The stadium race is one of the most explosive events, and therefore the most popular: an intense sprint organized over a single length of the stadium – a distance of around 192 meters. Krison, the pride of Himera, will he win a fourth crown in what should be his last Olympiad, or will Theopompos of Thessaly take between seven and 24 laps of the stadium). Another of the most popular events is the Armor Race, where athletes compete wearing shields and wearing helmets and leg warmers.
After lunch, combat sports take place. These include boxing and wrestling, as well as the pancreas – an event that is close to a combination of the two. Crowds are always large for these events, so be sure to arrive early to get the best vantage point. But those of a delicate constitution should be warned: these events are not for the faint of heart. The pancrace is particularly brutal, with very few rules that get in the way of the competitors. The only restrictions are that fighters must not bite their opponents, widen their eyes, stick their fingers in their noses, or aim at the genitals. Other than that, everything is allowed!
The last day of the Games gives everyone present the opportunity to greet the champions by applauding them. The winner of each event is presented with the taeria (the red woolen ribbon that designates an Olympic champion), and is also crowned with a ceremonial wreath of olive leaves.
The remainder of the day is devoted to celebrating the displays of athletic endeavor and glory that participants have witnessed over the past few days. The winners of the Games are invited to an exclusive banquet which is also attended by all the judges, as well as various politicians and dignitaries.