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Greek Olive Branch Sent to Rio to Symbolize Peace in Olympics Opening Ceremony

Branches from the Monumental Olive Tree of Vouves have been used in ceremonies at each summer Olympics since the Athens Games in 2004. The wreath cutting ceremony was accompanied by an ancient dance ritual.

Aug. 1, 2016
By Lisa Radinovsky

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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.

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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.”