Today the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games announced the program for the Fifth Modern Nemead on June 22-24.

            The celebration will begin with the opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. on Friday the 22nd.  These will be highlighted by the lighting of the flame at the Altar of Nemean Zeus and the crowning of Nemea by Ekecheiria (Sacred Truce).  As in Ancient Greece, the Sacred Truce both protected and symbolized the spirit of peaceful competitions.

            Saturday, June 23 will be a full day of footraces for all who have registered to run no later than May 15.  There will be “stadion” races of 100 m. on the ancient track, and a 7.5 km “Footsteps of Herakles” race from the ancient temple of Herakles at Kleonai back to the Nemea stadium.  At the end of the day all the winners will be crowned with the traditional wild celery, followed by a buffet at the local school hosted by the Cultural Society of Ancient Nemea.

            On the final day, Sunday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. there will be presented in the ancient stadium the “Nemeada” a poetically framed story of the ancient mythology and history of Nemea and the Nemean Games written by George Kostouros, the vice-president of the Society.  This piece was first presented at the Fourth Nemead in 2008 and proved to be very popular with the local people.

            A detailed program will be found on our web site soon.

            For now we can say that the preparations for the games are progressing with the acquisition of additional ancient garments for the participants, and especially with the conservation work on the stadium entrance tunnel.  Falling fragments of ancient blocks had necessitated the erection of scaffolding in 2008 to prevent injuries to those passing through the tunnel.  The effect was safe, but, in the words of one visitor, “I thought I was going to go back to ancient Greece, but the scaffolding made me think I was in the Metro.”  Athletes in the Fifth Nemead will once again pass through the ancient tunnel and be transformed into ancient Greeks.

            The tunnel conservation, which is nearing completion, has already made the Fifth Nemead the most expensive.  The games are supported entirely by private contributions and volunteer labor, and the determination to hold the games in 2012 has been difficult in the middle of the economic difficulties of the world, and especially Greece. 

            “We debated very hard whether we should cancel the Fifth Nemead,” said Professor Stephen Miller, President of the Society,  “but a number of considerations played a role in our final decision to go ahead.  First was the enthusiasm and support of our members – now over 1200 active, dues-paying people from 19 different countries.  Next was the willingness of the local people to give of themselves, and especially the Board of Directors who are working constantly to make the Fifth Nemead the biggest and best yet.  Then there was the major support that we needed, and which has been forthcoming from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Opheltes Association, and the John S. Latsis Foundation.  We have also been motivated by the thought that if we cancelled the Fifth Nemead, the whole project might never come back to life,”  Miller continued. 

            “Perhaps the most important consideration, however, was that we want to show the world that Greece, through its antiquities and ancient history, has valuable lessons for today’s world community, and that we are doing all we can to preserve those antiquities and to make those lessons universally available.”