Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
The Atlanta-Ancient Olympia Sister City relationship was founded on the cities’ shared history with the Olympic games. This summer, the Greek city will strengthen those ties by helping the Atlanta History Center construct a copy of an ancient Olympic archway that will be used at the center’s new Centennial Olympic Games Museum.
Ancient Olympia, which hosted the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C., is to donate stones to the history center that will be used to construct a copy of its own ancient Olympic archway.
In classical times, athletes ran under the archway as a start to the Olympic Games, and its construction in Atlanta strengthens the city’s relationship with Ancient Olympia, a Sister City since 1994. It also includes Greece in Atlanta’s evolving relationship with the Olympic Games, which it hosted 10 years ago.
“It’s only fitting that this city that hosted the Centennial Olympic Games would honor Olympia as the site of the first games,” Atlanta History Center Executive Director James Bruns told GlobalAtlanta about the proposed archway, which is to be constructed after the museum opens on Saturday, July 15.
The museum chronicles the history of the Olympics and Atlanta’s role as 1996 host, 100 years after the modern Olympics had begun. When Atlanta was awarded host city status in the early 1990s, many believed that a Greek city should have been chosen instead.
“They felt like they were walking on eggshells,” Lou Zakas said of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games that organized the Olympics in the early 1990s.
A native of Greece who has lived most of his life in Atlanta, Mr. Zakas was the Greek community’s liaison to the committee during that time.
Mr. Zakas told GlobalAtlanta that a lot of tension between Atlanta and Greece was alleviated when Ancient Olympia sent Atlanta an olive tree in 1993, extending its friendship and approval of Atlanta’s host city status.
Ancient Olympia became Atlanta’s Sister City the following year, and since then, Mr. Zakas has met with officials in Ancient Olympia and helped to welcome visiting Greek officials in Atlanta. He also assisted Ancient Olympia in its preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games that were headquartered approximately 180 miles to the east in Athens.
In 2003, Margo Alexander, an Atlanta resident of Greek heritage and professor of mathematics at Georgia State University, became chair of the Atlanta-Ancient Olympia Sister City Committee. She is working with fellow Greek-Atlantan Maria Mandekos Sharp and Greek Consul in Atlanta Lambros Kakissis to develop a study abroad program for Atlanta students in Greece.
While Mr. Zakas is no longer chair of the committee, he is working with Ancient Olympia officials to help organize the construction of the archway.
For more information on the Atlanta-Ancient Olympia Sister City Committee, contact Dr. Alexander at (404) 651-0680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Atlanta History Center, visit www.atlhist.org.