20 Interesting Facts About Greece & its Sport Culture
From serving as the birthplace of the Olympics, to establishing Democracy in 500 B.C., Greece is full of rich traditions as a country and within its sport culture. This June, the Living Sport team will travel to Athens, Greece for an International Sport Business Program. We’ll take in the sights of Athens and Ancient Olympia, and move south to stunning Oitylo Bay for a one-of-a-kind sporting event - Oceanman. As we prepare for our Athens program, here are 20 interesting facts to learn about Greece and its sport culture. Interested in seeing it all firsthand? Apply today at livingsport.com/apply!
1. Greece averages over 250 days of sunshine each year.
2. Due to the country’s diversity and passion for food, more than one dish is considered a national dish which includes gyro, moussaka, souvlaki, fasolada, magiritsa and kokoretsi.
3. 98% of the total population is made up of ethnic Greeks, and 40% of the total population resides in Athens.
4. Only 227 Greek islands out of a total of 6,000 islands are inhabited.
5. The island of Ikaria is one of the world’s five “Blue Zones”, as scientists call them, where the people have the longest lifespans in the world.
6. Theater was born in ancient Athens, dating back to the time of the first democracy. Athens is now home to 148 theater stages, 90 of which are open air cinemas for the summer.
7. Democracy originated in Greece around 8,000 years ago. The city of Athens, which is Europe’s oldest capital, is sometimes referred to as the cradle of Western civilization.
8. The official name of the country is Hellenic Republic or Hellas. In English the country is called Greece, which is derived from the Latin name Graecia meaning “land of the Greeks”.
9. The Greek culture is very superstitious and has a slew of superstitions and traditions that vary across villages and regions. The evil eye, a popular Greek superstition, is a curse or legend that happens when you are cast a malevolent glare when you are not aware. It is believed that by receiving the evil eye you will be caused misfortune or injury.
10. The Parthenon is a temple built in the mid-5th century B.C. in honor of the goddess Athena Parthenos and sits on the high hill of the Acropolis in Athens. It was lined by 46 outer and 19 inner columns, and boasts a 39-foot gold and ivory statue of Athena. Not only was it originally built as a dedication to Athena, but also for use as part of the state treasury.
1. The Olympic games are called Olympic because they were originally held in the Greek town of Olympia. What started as a one-day event which only Greeks were allowed to participate in, is what we now know as the massive global event.
2. Football (soccer) is the country’s most popular sport, with basketball a close second.
3. Greece is one of the founding members of FIBA (International Basketball Federation) and is considered one of the best teams in the world. Greek athletes currently playing in the NBA include Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Kostas Koufos (Sacramento Kings) and Tyler Dorsey (Atlanta Hawks).
4. At the semifinals for the 2006 World Basketball Championships, the Greek national team defeated the USA team making itself the only team in the world to defeat the United States during the Mike Krzyzewski era (2005-2016).
5. Olympiakos is the most widely supported and successful football club in Greek history, and holds the record for the most consecutive Greek titles won (seven in a row, twice!).
6. Outside of Karaiskakis Stadium, which opened in June 2004 and is home to Olympiakos FC, you’ll see a monument commemorating the death of 21 Olympiakos fans that were crushed exiting the stadium after a match against AEK in 1981. There are also 21 black chairs among the stadium’s red chairs in memory of the fans.
7. Greece is one of only five countries that have participated in all Summer Olympic Games since 1896 when they began. They even sent their athletes to Moscow for the 1980 Olympic Games despite the Greek government's support of the US-led boycott.
8. The ancient Greek Olympic athletes always competed in the nude. The word gymnasium is actually derived from the Greek term gymnós, meaning “naked”.
9. The ancient Games included the javelin, long jump, discus throwing, wrestling, running, Pakration (form of martial art), Equestrian events and boxing.
10. The rules of the ancient Games were much different than we are accustomed to today. To start, women were not allowed to compete and married women were not allowed to watch. In boxing, there were no points, time limit or weight classes. In Pakration, the only two rules were no biting and no poking the opponent’s eyes.