More than 130,000 olive saplings have been donated to farmers in the area surrounding Ancient Olympia in the northwest Peloponnese, replacing some of the hundreds of thousands that burned in last summer’s devastating wildfires. An official ceremony in the municipal hall of Ancient Olympia celebrated the donation.
The new koroneiki saplings—considered the queen of olives in Greece—are part of a global initiative launched in January to restore the birthplace of the Olympic Games and offer a message of hope to those who lost everything in the fires.
The campaign to restore the lost tree groves was called “The Olympia Trees Project.” It was created to help regenerate the land and support local farmers by replanting lost olive trees.
The project was spearheaded by Giannos Grammatidis, honorary president of the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. It involved fundraising efforts by Steve & Dianne Tittle de Laet, head of the US-based Arete Fund. Dianne Tittle de Laet is the daughter of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle.
Wildfires Burned 450,000 Olive Trees
The donation campaign also included the International Relations for Culture and had the support of the Greek government.
In the August wildfire, some 450,000 olive trees were lost to the flames around the World Heritage Site of Ancient Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were held. Thousands of farmers thereby lost their means of livelihood. The fire was among the dozens of blazes across the country at the time that caused extensive damage and led to injuries. In the area of Ancient Olympia, the fire also prompted evacuations but did not damage the archaeological site, its treasures, or the museum.
The government’s Minister of Development and Investments Adonis Georgiadis said the work to restore the olive groves “will be [his] legacy for this holy place,” as he told AMNA. He said the fires brought “a horrible ten days with heat” and added that “in the context of climate change, we must be prepared.”
For the ceremony to mark the 135,000 donated saplings, a commemorative column was also unveiled, and a 250-year-old olive tree was planted in the garden across the town hall. Olive trees can live for hundreds of years.