While Greece is still a relative newcomer on the international golf scene, one of the sport’s main advantages, the fact that it can effortlessly become part of anyone’s life, regardless of their age, gender or physical condition, goes hand in hand with the ancient Greek philosophy regarding sports, known today as Olympism. When Baron Pierre de Coubertin decided to revive the Olympic Games in 1896, he took to heart the way in which the ancient Greeks saw physical education – as a part of everyday life for everyone, as important as any other education, and with the goal of reaching personal excellence.
This lesson is at the heart of the work of the National Olympic Committees around the world, who strive to inspire athletic activity by creating educational programs. It is also a goal of the International Olympic Academy (IOA), which is creating an international cultural center in Ancient Olympia, and which has partnered with Costa Navarino and the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) to create the world’s first International Olympic Academy Golf Course.
The International Olympic Academy Golf Course, is one of two 18-hole par-72 golf courses designed for Costa Navarino by the world-famous golfer and two-time Masters champion José María Olazábal. It is located at Navarino Hills, the 125-hectare golf haven named the “World’s Best New Golf Development” at the 2020 World Golf Awards and one of the most anticipated new projects worldwide in the golfing community.
In these rolling green hills, the 6366-meter International Olympic Academy Golf Course course overlooks the historic Navarino Bay and the Ionian Sea. Olazábal describes the spectacular sea view as “breathtaking” and almost impossible to keep your eyes off. Speaking this summer at a virtual event announcing the project, he said: “It is a great honor to have designed the first International Olympic Academy Golf Course at Navarino Hills. The development of the game is very close to my heart, and I am proud that future generations of golfers will have the opportunity to be educated in the Olympic values at this wonderful new facility.”
The launch was hosted in an online event which was moderated by Sky Sports’ David Jones, and attended by representatives from the HOC, the IOA, and the Hellenic Golf Federation (HGF). The General Manager of Costa Navarino Golf, Nuno Sepulveda, joined live from Navarino Hills along with members from the Costa Navarino’s Junior Golf Academy, there to represent the sport’s future stars.
Spyros Capralos, President of the HOC and a member of the International Olympic Committee, said: “It is with great pleasure that we announce today, during International Olympic Day [June 23], the cooperation between the Hellenic Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Academy and Costa Navarino, for the world’s first International Olympic Academy Golf Course. We are granted the opportunity, through golf, which is a sport without age limits, to call on all citizens to participate in sports activities and to integrate exercise into their daily lives.”
The International Olympic Academy Golf Course opened for the first time for three days on November 24th to 27th, exclusively for the 5th Messinia Pro-Am. In the spring of 2022, it officially opens to visitors along with the other Olazábal course at Navarino Hills, Costa Navarino boasts a total of four signature golf courses, all within a maximum distance of 13km from each other, further enhancing its status as one of Europe’s best golf resorts. The existing courses, The Dunes Course and The Bay Course (with its new earth-sheltered Bay Clubhouse) are already drawing professional and amateur golfers from around the world, while the Costa Navarino Golf Academy, initiated by the resort’s founder Captain Vassilis C. Constantakopoulos, teaches young local golfers through programs that are also in keeping with the ideals of Olympism.
Acknowledging that this new golf course opens yet more doors for young people to learn the sport, president of the HGF, Thomas Tokas, said at the online event: “The reintroduction of golf at the Olympic Games was a very important milestone for a sport that is played in 207 countries around the world. The International Olympic Academy Golf Course will further boost the sport’s development and will attract younger generations.”
While it was only reintroduced to the Olympic Games in 2016 (it had also been one of the official events in both 1900 and 1904), it’s hard to deny that golf is, in many ways, the perfect vehicle for reaching the goals of the National Olympic Committees – that is, to ensure the development of local sports communities, leading to a larger part of society taking part in athletic activities, in the spirit of the Olympic ideal. For a long time, all that was missing in Greece for golf to thrive was a sufficient number of great places to play. Thanks in part to the ambitious developments at Costa Navarino, that problem is no more.