Games to be revived again this June at UC Berkeley excavation
site in Nemea, Greece
Gretchen Kell, Public Affairs
foot races held in 1996 in a reconstructed ancient Greek stadium
where athletes competed more than 2,300 years ago were so successful
they'll be held again this June, according to the University
of California, Berkeley, professor who excavated the site.
June 1, 1996, the Nemean Games, held in Ancient Nemea, a tiny
agricultural town 80 miles southwest of Athens, drew more than
650 participants from 29 countries. The mainly untrained runners
competed barefoot, as was the rule in the ancient Panhellenic
Games. Unlike the ancient games, women participated, as did
people young and old, from ages 12 to 89.
June 3 and 4, hundreds of participants from dozens of countries
again expected to race down the sandy clay track in the 100-yard
sprint or in the longer, 7.5 kilometer race through the countryside.
experience of running through the entrance tunnel, past graffiti
scratched on its walls in the 4th century B.C., and of feeling
the ancient stone starting line beneath one's toes was thrilling
to all of us," said Stephen Miller, the UC Berkeley professor
of classics who has led archaeological digs at Nemea since the
want to give everyone the opportunity to share in the experience
of the Olympic idea every four years," he said.
the original Panhellenic Games, which began at Nemea in 573
B.C., wars and hostilities between Greeks were suspended for
a week or two - the first evidence in history, according to
Miller, of an organized, regular and international event that
June, Miller hopes to see Greeks running peacefully alongside
between the two groups are better than ever before," he
said, " and that's why we're encouraged to make a special
effort to have Turks with us. I think that our historical research
can provide a basis for recognizing our single human race."
a letter to Miller, Turkish Ambassador to Greece Ali Tuygan
agreed, saying that the contributions Miller has made to the
Greek cultural heritage through his excavations, "which
rightly makes the Greeks proud of their past, also belongs to
all of us, in other words, to mankind."
the 63 ambassadors to Greece formally invited to race, the ambassadors
from Canada, South Africa, Morocco, Colombia, Armenia and the
United States already have said they'll come. UC Berkeley Chancellor
Robert M. Berdahl also plans to attend the event.
the 1996 games, runners included U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas
Niles, then-UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien and 1968 U.S.
Olympic coach Payton Jordan.
games featured judges, heralds and trumpeters wearing ancient
costumes, a reconstructed starting device that launched foot
races in Ancient Nemea as early as 330 B.C., and crowns of wild
celery for the winners.
Nemean Games are organized by the Society for the Revival of
the Nemean Games, a group formed in 1995 by residents of Ancient
Nemea and New Nemea, a nearby city of 6,500 people. The organization
includes members of the UC Berkeley community.
society believes, said Miller, that "the Olympic movement
is increasingly removed from those who are not extraordinarily
gifted. That's why there is scope and, perhaps, even need for
the average person - regardless of ethnicity, language, religion,
gender or age - to participate in an international athletic
campus hired Miller in 1971 to lead UC Berkeley's excavation
of the 45-acre site. Since then, he has made headlines uncovering
the race track, what may be the world's oldest remaining athletic
locker room, an entrance tunnel to the track, an early Christian
burial ground, a great basilica, a hero shrine, a bathhouse,
currently is rebuilding a 2,400-year-old temple to Zeus on the
site and hopes to have erected by June 3 two of the 34 columns
that once were part of the structure. Another six of the 42-foot
columns are scheduled for completion by the time of the summer
Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. The 2004 Nemean Games are to
be held that summer as well.