Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Return to Olympia

Aug 18, 2004 8:57 am

The Return to Olympia

I've been thoroughly enjoying watching a number of events at the Athens Summer Olympics, everything from gymnastics to the adventures of 19-year old American swimming phenom Michael Phelps and awesome Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe (who has fins for feet: size 17!!). Thorpe won gold over Phelps the other night, but the Aussie team lost to the US team last night.

Meanwhile, today, the Olympics return to the ancient city of Olympia... for the very first time in 16 centuries. Things are not quite the same as they were back then; the word"gymnasium," after all, comes from the Greek"gymnos," which means naked, and unlike the ancient competitors, the modern ones don't perform in the nude. But, like it was back then, the Olympia venue still has no seats for spectators (the Greek"stadion," from which"stadium" is derived, means"a place to stand"). So, the spectators will stand or sit on the ground while watching such events as the shot put

This return to Olympia has some personal meaning for me as well; though I've never visited the city, it is the birthplace of my maternal grandparents, who came to America early in the 20th century. (My grandfather was actually the founding pastor of the first Greek Orthodox Church in Brooklyn, the Three Hierarchs Church, where I was baptized.) By contrast: my paternal grandparents came from Porto Empedocle, Sicily (named after the Agrigentine philosopher and poet Empedocles, whom Aristotle called the inventor of rhetoric and whose own grandfather was victorious in horse racing at the Olympics in 496 BCE). I often joke that my"heritage" is of gods... and godfathers. Still, like many, I'm one of those Greek-Sicilians with no ties to either the diner business or the mob...

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Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 8/18/2004

And you thought "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" was an exaggeration, eh? ROFL I could tell you stories...

Steven Horwitz - 8/18/2004

Why does Chris's attempt to explain the Greek roots of our English words make me want to go eat some bundt cake and spray some Windex? :)