Ancient sporting tradition revived

ON YOUR MARKS: Charlie, looking at the camera,  on the 2,300-year-old starting blocks.
ON YOUR MARKS: Charlie, looking at the camera, on the 2,300-year-old starting blocks.

A GOMERSAL man has taken part in an historic sporting event that is as old as the Olympics.

Charlie Cattell was a competitor in the Nemean Games, which date back almost 3,000 years to the time of the ancient Olympics.

Charlie said: “The Olympics, in classical times, were only one of four such events. In addition to Olympia, games were hosted at Delphi, Isthmia and Nemea. Games were held annually and cycled between the different venues, so they recurred every four years.

“The games had a religious significance and were all attached to major temple sites.

“Further, they marked a short period in each year when wars and hostilities were suspended by a sacred truce, and all Greeks gathered in recognition of their common humanity.”

Charlie said the Nemean Games were revived in 1996 when a project to excavate an ancient stadium was completed.

They have since been held every four years.

A member of the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games, he took part in this year’s event in June.

He said: “At present the only sport is running, but anyone can take part.

“After a dramatic opening ceremony in the ruined Temple of Zeus, where a sacred flame was lit and carried to the stadium to burn throughout the two days of the event, over 1,000 people aged from four to 82 ran a total of 91 races on the original clay stadium track.

“The Nemean Games take the form of a re-enactment with officials dressed in authentic 3rd century BC costumes, while the runners must be barefoot and wear only a short cotton chiton. Historically they would have run naked.

“Runners from all over the world compete for the honour of winning a simple wreath of wild celery, the traditional prize at Nemea. Ambassadors from over a dozen countries took part to show their support for the Games’ philosophy of promoting world peace and reconciliation.”

The next event takes place in 2016.