Table of Contents: Sacred Place: civility, quiet concentration, smiling plain amidst low peaceful hills, protected from the savage north wind, from the hot south wind, and below - the sea, from which flows the moist maritime air, rising up along the valley of the Alpheios. There is no more inspiring place in Greece that can so sweetly and with such persistence encourage peace and reconciliation. Olympia,the most brilliant, the most revered panhellenic Sanctuary, dedicated to Zeus, father of gods and mankind, is near the western coast of the Peloponnese, in the magic valley of the river Alpheios, "in the most beautiful place in Greece" according to Lysias. Below the Kronion hill, where the little river Kladeos joins the plentiful waters of the mythical river Alpheios, in a place that even now is imbued with Olympic beauty and calm, lies the sacred grove of Olympia, the Altis.Here Zeus and the other divinities were worshipped. Here the Olympic Games were born; here the great values common to all mankind and the pure ideals of sports and the Olympic spirit saw the light of day. Here, with their goal the high ideal of harmony of body and mind, men learned to compete, following the rules of fair play, for the reward of glory alone. Its symbol was the humble crown (stephane) of wild olive, the "kotinos", the victor's prize in the Games. The historical course of the Sanctuary is inextricably bound to the Olympic Games, which were held every four years under the watchful eye of the ruling god, Zeus the Thunderer. Indeed, Olympia owes her uniqueness and her splendour to these Games, which, with their ideals, for more than a thousand years forged generations and generations of Greeks, giving a new dimension to human nature.
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