On the island of Crete in Greece on July 22, an olive branch was cut from the Monumental Olive Tree of Vouves for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The wreath cutting ceremony was accompanied by an ancient dance ritual and the singing of the Olympic Hymn and the national anthems of Greece and the Olympic host country, Brazil.
Branches from the Monumental Olive Tree of Vouves have been used in ceremonies at each summer Olympics since the Athens Games in 2004. This ancient tree was selected for the symbolic honor because of its monumental status and advanced age, which is estimated at approximately 3,000 years, if not more. Locals believe it to be the oldest olive tree in the world, but its hollow trunk makes exact dating impossible.
The event was sponsored by the town of Vouves and the Municipality of Platanias, which includes the town. It was attended by Platanias Mayor Ioannis Malandrakis, other dignitaries from Crete, and scores of additional spectators. The mayor explained to Olive Oil Times that the ceremony’s singers and dancers were members of the Pelasgians, a local athletics association.
See more: Millennial Olive Trees
Although Mayor Malandrakis was unable to tell Olive Oil Times whether the olive branch would be made into wreaths to crown Olympic winners, as in ancient times,
Zarpa News reports that he emphasized the importance of the symbolic use of the olive branch in the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Mayor Malandrakis commented, “Beyond the symbolism that emerges from today’s ceremony, we send a message of peace from here, Vouves in Platanias, across the world, with the sacred symbol of the olive that our Greek athletes will hold, accompanying the Greek flag when they enter … as the first national delegation in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, during the opening ceremony of the Games. This is a message that is particularly important in today’s highly turbulent times.”
Mayor Malandrakis read greetings sent by the Brazilian Ambassador to Greece, Edgart Antonio Casciano, conveying his happiness about the event, wishing Greek athletes success in the Games, and inviting all Greeks to travel to Brazil so his country can reciprocate the warm hospitality the Brazilian athletes appreciated during the Olympic Games in Athens.
The mayor delivered the olive branch to the head of the Hellenic Olympic Mission and president of the International Olympic Academy, Isidoros Kouvelos, at the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport in Athens just before he and the Greek athletes departed for Rio de Janeiro on July 28.
Receiving the olive branch, Kouvelos commented, “As the Olympic flame travels the continents before triggering the start of the games, so the olive branch of this ancient monumental olive tree of Vouves in Platanias, on its fourth Olympic trip, conveys a universal message.”