Every year, on the edge of summer, the small town Proti in Northern Greece organizes a very lovely event for young people with a strong flavor of ancient Olympic Games. This four-day long gathering is called Mathiada and it gives a chance to sport seeking high schools from all over Greece to compete in various Olympic disciplines as well as to present themselves to the general public.
One of the main organizers, Mina, introduced us to this event in the following way:
What makes this year’s Mathiada special is a couple of new disciplines – golf and rugby, which are also new for the real summer Olympic Games as well. Actually, all of the summer Olympic sports can be found here in Mathiada and usually when people see the list of these sports for the first time they go like: Sailing? Horse riding? Really? They do not really believe it, but when they come to see it in person they are usually really surprised that we truly have the venue for all of these sports over here, because we try to be as authentic and as close to the real summer Olympics as possible. In connection with the organisation, I should say that the last years has been a bit challenging to organize because of the crisis, but this year we are again having much more children than the last year and thus the event is growing once again. I am very glad to see all those young people who want to experience new things.
It was also very nice to see some of the adult graduate students that visited Mathiada in order to revive the memories from their high school years. One of them was Yorgos, which came to the event not only out of nostalgia, but also to capture it with the objective of his camera. He was also willing to share some of his memories of Mathiada with us:
I grew up here. I went to the local elementary and also gymnasium, so coming back after all this years is kind of a bittersweet feeling, because of the school memories and also because of all those friends that I made over here throughout my studies. Most of the teachers whose classes I have attended back in my studying years are still here and thus the atmosphere and memories are still very vivid. As for the Mathiada’s past, I can tell you that back in my school days the event used to be much bigger and internationally oriented as many kids used to visit this place also from the foreign countries. I can vividly remember that back in my school days there used to be about 30 different countries over here each year. So thus I should say that before the crisis the event used to be much bigger. So the quality is getting better every year, but because of the financial limitations it unfortunately also seems much smaller than in the past.
Being a local, Yorgos knew some essential facts about the history of the Mathiada’s home place and luckily for us, he was also willing to share them:
I am not a huge fan of history, but as for the basics, I can tell you this: They called this place Proti, which means the first in Greek, because it is believed to be the first stop of Alexander the Great that he did on his very long journey. Some people say that he just stayed here for a night and others claim that it was for weeks and nobody is really sure how much time he has really spent in here. But one thing is certain, that after his visit the locals named this place in honor of this first stop. Also it is the village of Konstantinos Karamanlis – very significant person that helped the Greece in the process of joining of European Union.
Apart from the sport competitions, Mathiada also contained numerous kiosks all around the venue, in which people had a chance to stop by and learn some more information about the visiting high schools and places where they came from. In one such kiosk, we have also encountered a teacher from Pyrgos that presented us his visiting high school in the following way:
I am very happy to participate with the competitors from our school at Mathiada. I am very proud to be from the Pyrgos, which is a place that lies 20 kilometers away from ancient Olympia. I am also very satisfied to see that the events like these are still being organized, because it gives the opportunity to our students to experience sports similarly to athletes from the times of ancient Greece. I think that it is very important for growth of young people’s personality to experience these sports, because in this way they also learn how to respect the rules and act accordingly to fair play principles. The students from our school have a chance to compete in wide range of disciplines such as mountain biking, volleyball, Ping-Pong, tennis, high jump and many others. I also really like the idea of the small kiosks in which students from different schools may present to the visitors of Mathiada some interesting facts about their home regions and give them a taste of the local products such as olives or wine. It is a great opportunity for all of us to meet each other and establish new friendships.
Another visiting teacher in the presenting kiosks told us this about their high school and home region:
We are from the Trikala that is in the center of Greece. Specifically we are from the small village called Megalochori, which is about 9 kilometers away from Trikala. This is the ninth time our school is participating in Mathiada and this year our high school is participating in sports such as basketball, high jump, taekwondo, sabre fencing and Ping-Pong. In connection with our region, I can also tell you that it is very famous for Meteora, which is UNESCO protected monastery site. This place lies about half an hour away from Megalochori and our region is definitely worth visiting also because of this reason.
It was a very enriching experience to see all these active people enjoying sports during the four days of Mathiada. Thus we wish that this lovely event would continue to grow and successfully deliver the joy of sport to future generations as well as it does today.