By George Liveris
The igniting of the Olympic Flame in Ancient Olympia and the Torch Relay first began in 1936 with the Olympic Games of Berlin, but the idea was located in the mind of the young Carl Diem 30 years ago from the time he was a student.
In 1934 when Germany undertook to organize the Games, Carl Diem, by then director of Berlin’s Academy of Gymnastics, was recognized as a sports personality and his word carried weight. First he persuaded the Olympic Committee of Germany, he had no trouble persuading his friend John Ketseas nor Angelos Volonakis. The IOC accepted the fine (and modern) idea although there was nothing of the kind in ancient times.
The first event of Igniting and Relaying the Olympic Flame was so successful, with the assistance of the methodical Germans, that it was recognized as a wonderful bonding of all countries and athletes, loved and established. So now the Olympics were not a Panhellenic event of a sport, but World Games of all sports, which also kept their sanctity.
The story evolved into an event of worldwide interest which began with Igniting the Flame in Olympia and continued with an unprecedented mobilization and development that was completed with the main Olympic Games.
Central figure in each event is the High Priestess with the archaic form of chorus from hand-picked girls. Overall so far, in these 76 years, 10 High Priestesses had the honor and about 100 priestesses have participated over the years. Let’s see the High Priestess and their Olympic years.
- Berlin 1936: Koula Pratsika
- London 1948: Maria Aggelakopoulou
- Helsinki 1952: Xanthippe Picheon – Theologiti
- Melbourne 1960: Aleka Mazaraki – Katseli
- Rome 1960: Aleka Mazaraki – Katseli
- Tokyo 1964: Aleka Mazaraki – Katseli
- Mexico 1968: Maria Moscholiou
- Montreal 1976: Maria Moscholiou
- Moscow 1980: Maria Moscholiou
- Los Angeles 1984: Maria Didaskalou
- Seoul 1988: Maria Didaskalou
- Barcelona 1992: Maria Pampouki
- Atlanta 1996: Maria Pampouki
- Sidney 2000: Thalia Prokopiou
- Athens 2004: Thalia Prokopiou
- Beijing 2008: Maria Nafpliotou
- London 2012: Ino Menegaki
All of them specializing in acting and dance from schools of Athens except for Maria Agelakopoulou, who was called at the last minute to assist as a local resident. This is because of the then degraded state, Aleka Mazaraki (subsequently Katseli) could not arrive at Ancient Olympia. But she later filmed a relevant film with English cameramen in the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion for the needs of the Organisation of 1948.
Cornerstone to the whole endeavor was Maria Chors, who for nearly half a century directed the choreography setting, or rather plotted the path that it took based on the information engraved on vases and marble compositions. The choreographies by Maria Chors brought the spirit and character of that era, convinced and were loved. They are choreographies that remain constant through time as they do not evolve as the modern dances. They are the equivalent of classical music that is accepted as it was created.