Memories - 1996
The First Modern Nemead
1 The first article in the Athenian press about the revival, April 6, 1995:
“Presentation for the revival of the Nemean Games in the presence of Niles”
“What do you know? Clinton might even like it.”
“The Director of the Excavations, Stephen Miller, presents an image of the world-wide festival to the audience.”
“Οn June 1, 1996, ιn the ancient stadium of Nemea the clock will be set back 2,300 years.
Athletes and visitors from every corner of the world are invited to participate in an international athletic festival that will be conducted in the same way as our ancestors, reviving the spirit of brotherhood to which only a country like Greece was able to give birth.
The idea of the “Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games” – which includes personalities from the Greek and international world – is finally becoming reality. The inaugural presentation of the Organizing Committee took place yesterday at the Museum of Cycladic Art in the presence of the American ambassador, Thomas Niles (the excavation at Nemea was performed by the University of California under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies.) The Director of the Excavations, Stephen Miller, the President of the Society, Aristoteles Kalles, and its Secretary, Kostantinos Demetriou, took the podium in order to give the audience an image of the international festival.
The participants will run barefoot dressed in white chitons at the signal of the herald. Whoever starts too early will be flogged by the Hellanodikes. There will be no international records or medals, but a (crown of) wild celery, a palm branch, and a ribbon for the winners. Exhibitions of music and dance by local groups will embellish the athletic competitions in which anyone over the age of 12 will be able to take part.
It was the speech of Mr. Demetriou that “sealed” the ecumenical spirit of this ambitious enterprise: ‘The American embassy might submit a suggestion to Washington so that we would have official visitors at the Games. We all know that President Clinton likes to go jogging . . .’
2 An article by Joan Ryan in the “San Francisco Chronicle” for May 9, 1996, was one of many that spread the word of the First Nemead around the world.
3 The cover of the program for the first modern games.
4 U.S. ambassador Thomas Niles in the locker room to prepare for his role in the opening ceremonies while Stephen Miller checks his watch – 7 a.m. – right on time.
5 At 7:50 a.m. the judges leave the tunnel for the altar to await the flame. At front, left to right, Vasilis Georgikos (local postmaster) and Kostas Peppas (Mayor of Ancient Nemea); second row, Kostas Lafkiotes (Mayor of Kleonai) and Evangelos Andrianakos (Mayor of Leontion, elected Mayor of the consolidated Nemea in 2010); Theodosios Zavitsas (starter in white); third row, Athanasios Saisanas, (Mayor of Galatas) and Kostas Kalantzis (Mayor of Aidone, Mayor of the consolidated Nemea 2006-2010); last row, Scot Kennedy and Demetrios Pyrgakis (postman).
6 At 8 a.m. Ambassador Niles is ready to bring the flame, which had left Olympia for Atlanta in March, but left an offspring at Nemea on April 1 during its journey, into the stadium through the ancient tunnel.
7 At 8:06 am, with the morning sun only beginning to cast shadows, Ambassador Niles lights the fire on the altar under the watchful eyes of Chris Kyriakou (herald), Kostas Papoutses (slave), and Kostas Peppas (judge).
8 Race #4 at the starting line. Nic Fleming is the water slave. Runner nearest the camera is Angelos Delivorrias (Director of the Benaki Museum); the third is Christos Doumas (Excavator of Santorini).
9 Around 9 am, runners in race #5 assemble, and UCB Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien draws his lane assignment from the helmet held by Vasilis Georgikos while athlete U.S. Ambassador Thomas Niles and Judge Kostas Lafkiotes watch.
10 Race #5 in progress with John Kasser (athletic director, UCB) nearest, followed – in line – by ???, Nikos Gkiousis, William Ammerman (Director, Fulbright Foundation), Yiannis Sakellaris. In group to the right, from right to left, Andreas Skoupas, Jiri Marvan (Czech Ambassador to Greece), and Chancellor Tien.
11 After two steps in Race #6, the leader is Stephen Miller (left) who will lose to his neighbor in lane 2, Themistokles Mystriotis . . . and to everyone else.
12 Race #8 was won by Roy Woolsey (long-time supporter of the Nemea Excavations) with third and fourth places taken by two other supporters, Philip Lamoreaux and Vaggelis Chronis. At the far left is the late Michales Velentas, four time Mayor of Nemea and founding member of the Society.
13 Vaggelis Chronis – who is about to get his T-shirt - is congratulated by Stephen Miller – who (having raced earlier) already has his.
14 While waiting for the women to begin their races, Starter Theodosios Zavitsas and Slave Nikos Zoes refresh themselves.
15 The First Women’s Race with Lilica Anderson in the nearest lane out in front, but she will pull a hamstring and white-haired Nina McCorkle in the fourth lane will become the first woman ever to win in the ancient stadium of Nemea.
16 At 10:19 a.m. the first woman victor at Nemea, Nina McCorkle has her palm branch and ribbon.
17 The first strides of young (30’s) women’s race.
18 Father Anastasios Benekos of Ancient Nemea, whose son won the first race in 1994, now has the means to record such triumphs. But this year Zeus was not so friendly.
19 Konstantina Vlastara and Maria Rekleite share the victory in a race for teenage girls (#36).
20 By 3 p.m. the last of the races (#44 for boys) nears its end.
21 At 4:45 p.m. the participants in the Footsteps of Herakles assemble at his temple near Kleonai. Front row, second from left, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Niles. Behind right end of front row with moustache, Yannis Flessas, now Treasurer of the Society.
22 First woman to win the Footsteps of Herakles race, Cora McCloy of Canada, surrounded by, from the left, Trumpeter David Durein, Judge ???, Herald William Ammerman, and Judge Anastasios Tagaras.
23 At 6 p.m. the last, and oldest, finisher of the Footsteps of Herakles, 88-year old LaGrand Nielsen, enters the stadium from the entrance tunnel.
24 A few moments later Nielsen crosses the finish line and is rewarded with a cup of water.
25 At 7 p.m. the judges begin to assemble for the closing ceremonies. Angelos Delivorrias (Director, Benaki Museum) and Panos Valavanis (Professor, Athens University) await the others in the passageway from the tunnel.
26 The judges, led by Angelos Delivorrias and Stephen Miller enter the stadium for the closing ceremony. The trumpeter and heralds announce them to the audience.
27 By 7:15 the closing speeches are taking place by Kostas Peppas (Mayor, Ancient Nemea) and Aristoteles Kalles (President, Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games). The Greek is translated for the non-Greek speakers in the audience by Herald William Ammerman, while Herald Demetrios Skotades and Trumpeter Emil Bliss stand by to help.
28 The victors take their places, now crowned with wild celery, including the very first modern Nemean victor, Payton Jordan.
29 Jordan is followed by the next victors (from the right in the order of victory): Panayiotes Laliotis, Richard LemMon, Antonis Michailaidis, John Kasser, Themistokles Mystriotis, Ioannis Tsirogiannis, and Roy Woolsey.
30 Further along the winners’ stand, there is a truly international character (from the right in the order of victory): Emil Bliss (U.S.A.), Colotin Covatc´ (Hungary), Kathrin Poppe (Germany), Lidia Melonik (Poland), Georgia Stergiopoulou (Greece).
31 At 8 p.m. the judges prepare to extinguish the flame on the Nemean Altar with Nemean earth while Judges Delivorrias and Miller (the author) read the alternate lines of Greek and English of:
Prayer to Earth
Προσευχή στη Γη
Oh Sacred Earth of Ancient Greece,
Ιερή Γη της Αρχαίας Ελλάδος,
Dear Mother Earth,
Μητέρα Γη αγαπημένη,
Mother of every people ever born,
Μητέρα κάθε λαού που γεννήθηκε ποτέ,
Mother of this flame,
Μητέρα αυτής της φλόγας,
We entrust this flame,
Εμπιστευόμαστε τη φλόγα αυτή,
Back to your care.
Πάλι στη δική σου φροντίδα.
Guard this flame,
Φύλαξε τη φλόγα αυτή,
Guard the hope,
Φύλαξε την ελπίδα,
That burns bright within it,
Που καίει λαμπρά μέσα της,
That all peoples of your planet,
Ότι όλοι οι λαοί του πλανήτη σου,
All of us who are your children,
Ότι όλοι εμείς που έιμαστε παιδιά σου,
Will live in peace,
Θα ζήσουμε με ειρήνη,
Until we meet again,
Μέχρι να συναντηθούμε πάλι,
On Nemean Earth,
Στη Γη της Νεμέας.
The First Nemead ends.
32 Of the dozens of reports in the press of the 1996 games, that by Karl Meyer in the “New York Times” captures most succinctly the essence of the Society’s goals.
33 Stephen Miller writes of his experiences of the First Nemead in the “California Monthly” (the magazine of the California Alumni Association) for September, 1996.