Olive oil played a crucial role in the ancient Olympiad.
The ideal of the Olympic Games was inspired by the legend of Hercules. Athletes anointed themselves with olive oil before the Games. Victors were crowned with a wreath of olive branches and awarded with amphorae of oil. The branches were always cut from a special wild olive tree growing in the nearby sacred wood of Altis. The tree bore the name of “Kallistephanos” or the one that makes beautiful crowns. The branches were cut with a golden knife and kept in the Temple of Hera.
From then on, the olive branch was identified with the goddess Nike (Victory) who held in her hand a branch or crown of olive.
During the Olympic Games, hostilities ceased and people from all corners of Greece came to compete. The Games promoted the athletic spirit as such but also all things Beautiful, Great and True that peace allows people to pursue. The olive branch became a symbol of rapprochement of people and ideas. It was with this in mind that the oldest symbol of Greece was chosen to mark the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens: a stylized olive crown on a blue background.