The Nemea Games - Peloponnese, Greece
The ancient Greeks celebrated festivals at Nemea that were part of the cycle of games at Delphi, Isthmia, and (best known today) Olympia. At each one of these four sites in rotation, for a brief period each year, wars and hostilities were suspended by a sacred truce, and all Greeks - Spartans and Athenians, Corinthians and Argives, Macedonians, and Cretans - gathered in recognition of their common humanity.
This impulse toward peace - albeit limited to a few days each year - was the first in the history of an organized, regular, and international scale. Thus, the ancient festivals at Nemea, Olympia, Delphi, and Isthmia are the direct ancestors of today's Olympic games as well as of the United Nations.
The society for the Revival for the Nemean Games (which now has more than 1800 members from around the world) was founded in the belief that there is today scope and pehaps even the need for the average person - regardless of ethnicity, language, religion, gender, age, or athletic ability - to participate in an international athletic festival.
And so it happened in 1996 and 2000. More than 1300 people from 45 different countries, ranging in age from 10 to 93, added their footprints to those of ages long ago while more than 8000 spectators looked on.
No records were kept and no medals were awarded. Families with picnics on the slopes of the stadium were as much a part of the festival as the runners.
Races were organized by gender and age, and were interspersed with music and dances. All the participants ran barefoot and in ancient tunics which they put on in the ancient locker room.
And they entered the stadium through the same tunnel where athletes passed in the 4th century B.C. They started from the same stone line and with the same starting mechanism, and the winners received the same initial tokens of victory - a ribbon tied around the head and a palm branch.
At the end of the day the victors received the same crown of wild celery that was the ephemeral symbol of the victory at the ancient Nemean Games. But all the participants were rewarded with feet sore from contact with the same earth where ancient feet ran more than 2,000 years ago - and by the knowledge that they had been in direct physical contact with an ancient idea, an ancient spirit, that still lives at the earth of Nemea.
The Third Nemead took place on July 31, 2004.
The information and image on this page was used with very kind permission from www.nemea.org. Please visit the official Nemea web site at www.nemea.org for lots more information about the Nemea Games, where you can find a whole range of interesting information such as history, sights, museums, maps and images.