When critics rushed to slam Greece’s hopes of being ready on time for the Summer Games, World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound insisted that the homecoming of the Games would be crucial for the Olympics movement. In a world, said Pound, which appears to have lost its moral compass in all areas of public life, a return to the roots of the Games was necessary to revive the Olympic commitment to moral athletics. Staging the shot put in the ancient stadium of Olympia, where it all began in 776 BC, confirmed the symbolic power of the return of the Games to their birthplace. So will the marathon event, as athletes are set to cover the classic distance. The symbolism surfaced strong at the Panathenaic Stadium. Apart from reviving memories of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, which were held there, the marble stadium is itself a setting of unrivaled beauty. Of course, in Olympia the sense of history is greater and the symbolism more intense, the landscape is breathtaking and the ancient stadium came back to life, transferring athletes and spectators to a bygone era that was free from Games sponsors and commercials. Athletes and journalists present at the ancient site were all in good voice: «You feel you are part of history,» they said. With a similar idea in mind, most people were fond of the idea of staging the archery event in the Panathenaic Stadium, praising the moral and sentimental value of coming into contact with history and taking a step away – even temporarily – from modern society’s eternal pursuit of novelty. To be sure, man cannot turn his back on the present. Similarly, the modern Olympic Games cannot transcend their commercial aspect. However, even fragmented contact with the history of the Games offers symbolic protection, it conveys a moral message, it promotes those elements of civilization and sportsmanship that should pervade the Olympics today. The response of the IOC and its national counterparts to these signals will determine the future of the Games. For Greece, the global sensation caused by hosting the first official competition at the ancient site for the first time since AD 393 carries enormous significance – regardless of the IOC’s stand in the future. The event highlighted the cultural weight of Greece’s ancient monuments and the emotional impact they convey to foreign visitors. Greece could reap many cultural and economic rewards if it managed to promote its history with the respect and consideration that they are due.

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