Yenra : Olympics : Ancient Olympics : Stadium and gymnasium archeological history reveals details about training and performance in Olympia, Greece

Olympic Games

Swatch is timekeeper of the Athens Olympics.

Science Channel program Champions of Olympia uses footage of archaeological discoveries and recreations of the early Games to demonstrate what the Olympics were like in ancient Greece. From the initial discovery of the Temple of Zeus in the 19th Century to the German excavation of the actual stadium and the gymnasium in the mid-20th Century, the special traces the archaeological excavations surrounding the Olympic complex and explains what we know about the Games and the people who competed. Champions of Olympia will be shown on July 23, July 28, and August 18.

In excavating the stadium, archaeologists uncovered two starting lines at either end, giving us the exact length of the track -- 600 Olympic feet, or 192.27 meters. Historical accounts relate how athletes would warm up by being massaged with oil, their bodies then covered with dirt to reduce perspiration and act as a sun block. Viewers will gain fascinating insights into the competitions, including learning how legend has it that the first Olympic Games owe their existence to a chariot race -- and that unlike popular depictions, the horses didn't run around a circular track, but raced to one end of the stadium and back, maneuvering their vehicles around a marker post.

Athletic training was carried out to music, for the Greeks believed music elevated the soul. And while women took part in the sacrificial ceremonies surrounding the events, only virgins were allowed in as spectators. The Olympic Games flourished for 10 centuries, until they came to an abrupt end with the advent of Christianity, when the cult of the body and the adoration of multiple gods were outlawed as pagan. The games did not resume again until 1896.

The Science Channel is part of Discovery Networks.