Source AP ©

Ancient Olympia's fire-ravaged forests to be replanted

Greek authorities will replant the blackened wasteland left behind by the summer's deadly wildfires around the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said Thursday that 3,200 bushes and saplings would be planted on the Hill of Kronos, next to the ruined temples and stadium of Ancient Olympia.

"We will soon restore a regenerated Ancient Olympia to the international community," he said. "We have the funds, we have sponsors. There will be no excuse for delays."

The country's worst wildfires on record killed more than 65 people in southern Greece from Aug. 24 to Sept. 3. At the Wold Heritage site of Ancient Olympia, the flames scorched 2,500-year-old stone blocks and licked up to the site's rich archaeological museum, burning swathes of once-lush countryside.

The replanting will start in mid-November, Liapis said, using laurel bushes, oaks, olive trees and other native species.

During a visit to the riverside site, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Athens, Liapis also promised that the March 24 flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics would be conducted "in the best way possible."

The carefully orchestrated ritual has been held at Ancient Olympia before every Olympics since the 1936 Berlin Games.

Kneeling in front of the ruined Temple of Hera, an actress in the white gown and sandals of an ancient high priestess lights the Olympic flame using a concave mirror to focus the sun's heat on a silver torch.

The conservative government has pledged that all forests burned in the summer - 150,000 hectares (370,000 acres) in total - will be restored and protected from illegal development.

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