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On your marks…


With Rio 2016 fast approaching, we get into the spirit of the Games and take a look at four previous Olympic host cities that you can visit on a P&O Cruises holiday

Ancient ruins in Olympia, Greece

Olympia in Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games as we know them now were inspired by the ancient Greek Olympic Games, thought to have begun in 776 BC and held in honour of the god Zeus. They happened every four years – known as an ‘Olympiad’ – at Olympia in Greece and continued for nearly 12 centuries, until 393 AD when Emperor Theodosius I banned them, deeming them ‘pagan cults’. Following the decree, pagan cults began to disappear and the site of Olympia was abandoned.


Thankfully, due to the writings of ancient historians, the Games were never completely forgotten. Although others before him dreamt of bringing the Olympics to life again, it was Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin who reignited the flame by creating the International Olympic Committee in 1894. In 1896, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens.


Since then, there have been 26 summer Games and 22 winter Games held in cities around the world. In the spirit of the four-year ‘Olympiad’, here are four previous host cities and their Olympic stadiums that guests can visit on a P&O Cruises holiday.



Olympia was home to the Olympic Games for over 1,000 years and as the birthplace of the ancient Games and inspiration behind the modern Games, a cruise to Olympia (tours from Katakolon) is a must for any sports fan.


It is also where the first Olympic torch was lit in 776 BC. The Ancient Greeks considered fire to be a divine element and perpetual fires burned in front of their most important temples. To this day, the link between the ancient and modern Games is kept alive through the Olympic torch – several months before the opening ceremony of each Games, the torch is ignited at the Temple of Hera in Olympia before travelling to the host city.


On the Olympic Spirit shore excursion, walk (or run if you feel like it!) in the footsteps of ancient athletes on the original course of the 45,000-seat arena and marvel at the marble starting blocks still intact today. Soak up the myth and legend of this incredible site with the ruins of the Temples of Hera and Zeus. The latter housed the gold and ivory statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.



Capital of the country that founded the ancient Olympic Games and home of the first modern Games, Athens (tours from Piraeus) has played host to the Olympics twice, in 1896 and 2004.


The 1896 Olympics had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date, attracting athletes from 14 nations. Despite the success of the first Games of the modern era, the Olympics didn’t return to Athens until 2004, with the motto ‘Welcome Home’.


On The Acropolis and The Plaka shore excursion  and The Acropolis – Crown Jewel of Athens shore excursion, guests can get into the spirit of the Games by seeing the old Olympic stadium, built for the 1896 Games and also used as the marathon finish during the 2004 Games.



In 1952, Helsinki became the 12th city to host the summer Olympics. The capital of Finland was actually chosen to host the Games in 1940, but the onset of the Second World War led them to be cancelled. Though Scandinavia has played host to the winter Games, Helsinki is the northernmost city to ever host a summer Games. As well as seeing some of the city’s iconic sights and buildings, on the Helsinki Highlights shore excursion, guests will see the Olympic Stadium, home to these 1952 summer Games.

Entrance to the Barcelona Olympic stadium

Barcelona’s Olympic Games transformed the city. Entrance to the Olympic stadium, photo credit Margaret Stepien


Known for its passion and pride, architecture and art, beautiful beach and city buzz, Barcelona has it all. And the passion that pumps through the Catalan city is evident in the city’s sport, from its 1992 Olympic Games, which helped to revive the city, to its hugely successful football club, Barcelona FC.


Prior to the Games, the city’s waterfront was an area in need of much TLC. The Olympics – and the chance to restructure the city for the Games – are widely credited for transforming Barcelona into what it is today. Since the Olympics, Spain has been at the forefront of many sports including cycling, tennis and football.


Witness the effect the Olympics had on the city on the Highlights of Barcelona shore excursion where guests will get the chance to behold the incredible panoramic view of the city from Montjuïc Hill, where the Olympic Ring and Olympic Stadium are situated. For football fans, get your fix on the FC Barcelona shore excursion where you can visit the prestigious home of FC Barcelona – Camp Nou, Europe’s largest football stadium.



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