Costa Navarino celebrates the Olympic Spirit

As this Olympic year unfolds, Costa Navarino is at the forefront of events, not only welcoming the Olympic Flame at the International Olympic Academy Golf Course but also providing a summer sports camp for youngsters with their own athletic dreams.

By Giorgos Tsiros

On television screens around the world, audiences of all nationalities watched the majestic entry of the legendary sailing ship Belem, accompanied by a fleet of a thousand vessels, into the port of Marseille, France’s oldest city, founded over 2,600 years ago by Greek seafarers. The Belem – today a symbol of French naval tradition – first set sail in 1896, a few weeks after the inaugural modern Olympic Games. For over 120 years, it has traversed the world’s seas, braving storms and other dangers around the globe. This year, it has carried out a landmark mission, transporting the Olympic Flame from Greece to France on a sea voyage that reinforced the deep-rooted friendship between these two countries. More than 150,000 spectators thronged the old port to greet the ship, the only operational three-masted vessel remaining in the French merchant navy; their enthusiasm made the moment even more special.

Right up until the start of the Games, the Flame will continue its epic journey on French soil, carried by 10,000 different torchbearers through 450 towns and past dozens of tourist attractions during its 12,000-kilometer, 65-region relay across France. The Olympic Flame will also visit six overseas territories (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, French Polynesia, Réunion, and New Caledonia) before taking center stage at the opening ceremony for the Paris Olympics of 2024.

Few symbols have the power to unite and inspire people of all religions, races, cultures and political views as does this light, a flame which connects these modern Games to their ancient legacy.

Undoubtedly, for the children who traveled from France to witness the lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia, both the ritual and the message it conveys will form a life-changing experience, one highlighted by hope. Every time the Flame, kindled by the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera, is sent forth to the Summer and Winter Games, the world faces different crises and new challenges, but the message that this sacred light carries remains the same. As President Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said at the Flame ceremony on April 16th: “In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression, and negative news they are facing day in and day out (…) We are longing for something which brings us together, something that is unifying, something that gives us hope. The Olympic Flame is the symbol of this hope.”

Costa Navarino, a celebrated sports destination in its own right, shares with the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Academy the same set of values regarding development, education, sustainability and personal well-being. This year, it proudly contributed to the inspiring Olympic narrative by hosting events and activities dedicated to advancing sports. On April 17th, the day after the Flame ceremony at Ancient Olympia – an event watched around the world – the International Olympic Academy Golf Course became the first golf course in the Mediterranean to host the Olympic Flame. Esteemed athletes from the Navarino Junior Golf Academy bore the flame, in the presence of an audience of students from nearby schools. President Isidoros Kouvelos of the International Olympic Academy offered a touching tribute to Costa Navarino’s visionary founder, the late Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos: “A staunch advocate for education and culture, he was ever-present at our sporting endeavors. I am delighted that his family, continuing his legacy, has created this remarkable golf course, among other venues. It truly embodies a space of sport that attracts people globally and proudly bears the name of the Olympic Academy, symbolizing both education and culture.”

The Olympic Flame’s journey through the International Olympic Academy Golf Course at Navarino Hills offered local students a unique chance to hear from an Olympian about the realities of a life dedicated to elite sports. Klelia Pantazi, a Sydney 2000 bronze medalist in rhythmic gymnastics and the youngest Greek Olympian ever at the age of just 15, as well as the winner of three World Championship and five European Championship medals, shared insights regarding the lessons, the sacrifices and the lifelong friendships that result from training, as well as the harsh reality of knowing that a minor error or a moment of misfortune can undo years of hard work.

“Rhythmic gymnastics was in my blood from the start,” Pantazi told her audience, “as my mother was an international judge. I spent weekends following her to events, playing around in the same warm-up areas as the athletes. At home, my sister and I would copy the routines we saw or create our own choreographies, and our grandparents would judge the performances, always awarding us both gold.” Pantazi began training at the age of five and, a few years later, committed to a career in gymnastics, but only after promising her parents to balance sports with education. She traveled globally, accumulating accolades, until a knee injury ended her dreams of competing in the Athens Olympics. “I retired fulfilled, ready to pursue other paths in life.” Now 39, Pantazi is a mother of three who holds a media studies degree and is about to earn another in coaching, a field she is actively involved in.

“If I had to think of one place in Greece that successfully combines family vacations with sports, it would definitely be Costa Navarino!” Pantazi says. “I spent two action-packed days here with my three children. They were absolutely thrilled, never had a dull moment, and constantly had new things to explore and try. The event with the students particularly impressed me; I appreciated their insightful questions, and their keen interest in the stories I shared. I hope this can be repeated with other schools!”

A Summer Sports Camp inspired by the Olympic Games

The Olympic year at Costa Navarino is just beginning. From July 15 to August 16, young visitors aged 6 to 15 will be able to take part in a five-day Summer Sports Camp and try their hands at 10 different Olympic sports under the expert guidance of coaches experienced in golf, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, archery, football, sport climbing, beach volleyball, swimming and water polo. Adults will not be left wanting either: they can play golf at four internationally recognized 18-hole courses; basketball at the NBA Basketball School; tennis, padel, and pickleball at the Mouratoglou Tennis Center; or take part in kayaking, SUP, surfing and windsurfing at the Watersports Center by Moraitis. They can also enjoy snorkeling, diving, and sailing, all offered by Navarino Sea, or hiking, climbing and cycling activities, organized by Navarino Outdoors, in the stunning countryside of rural Messinia.

Costa Navarino celebrates the Olympic Spirit