Beginning July 27 millions of people who never watch sports and who, on an average Tuesday in March, couldn't care less about throwing a discus or rowing crew, are fixated on the TV. The evening news has to offer special spoiler alerts where they give you the option to press mute if you don't want to hear who won a medal or lost by a millisecond. Where did the magic begin? Here in Olympia, Greece.
Only Greeks could participate. Only men could participate (unless you were a rich woman who owned a horse that a man raced with a chariot). The events were simple - running, wrestling, and charioteering. If you were caught cheating you were publicly humiliated - and forced to build a statue to Zeus right outside the ramp where the athletes processed into the arena.
When you are at Olympia you will see a small rectangular area of nothing that is fenced off. Why? It's a spot that's only famous when it comes time for the Olympic torch to be lit. Then it becomes a spectacle of (recent) tradition, that involves a lot of ladies dressed as priestesses. The torch ceremony was on May 10. CNN has some pictures of the festivities. It's one of those things that you are compelled to take a picture of - even though there's nothing to see. Somehow I managed to resist.
The torch is currently on a 70 tour of the UK - today specifically going from Cardiff to Swansea. The London Olympics site indicates that on the tour the torch will travel to within an hour of 95% of the UK population. You can follow the adventures of the torch and torchbearers here.
I, too, love the Olympics. I get caught up in the stories of triumph, sacrifice, and defeat. I wait for the medals ceremony to hear the national anthem. 62 days and counting.