Colorado Springs, the home of the United States Olympic Committee, this week became a Sister City to Ancient Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games.
Ancient Olympia, a city of 14,000 people, sees 2 million visitors annually, people who are drawn to Olympic history. It is also the home of the International Olympic Academy, the academic arm of the International Olympic Committee.
The agreement between the two cities will positively impact both, through tourism, student exchanges and academics, said Harris Kalofonos.
Born and raised in Greece, Kalofonos works for USA Wrestling, a national governing body (NGB) headquartered in Colorado Springs that works with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Colorado Springs has 22 NGBs of Olympic and Paralympic sports.
For a recent business trip, Kalofonos traveled to Ancient Olympia, and from that trip came the Sister City idea.
After introducing the idea to Ancient Olympia, that city sent a delegation of three people to Colorado Springs. Vice Mayor Aristideis Panagiotopoulos, President of the International Olympic Academy Isidoros Kouvelos, and Director of the International Olympic Academy Dionyssis Gangas participated in several tours of the area, including the Olympic Training Center.
The Greek contingent met with representatives of Colorado College, UCCS, the Olympic Training Center, El Pomar Foundation, the USOC Young Professionals, Downtown Partnership and the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“There are three main components — academic, Olympic and tourism,” Kalofonos said. He suggested a video clip about Colorado Springs playing at an attraction in Ancient Olympia. Cruise ships dock on the seacoast and explore nearby Ancient Olympia, he said. Those videos could be seen by thousands of people – many from the United States – who stop in the city from the cruise ships, he added.
“What this can do for our reputation is huge, for tourism, academics and the Olympics.”
– Jill Gaebler, City Council
Also, many Colorado Springs residents are unaware of the number of athletes who train here, Kalofonos said. The sister-city relationship could shed light on that, he added.
“There’s a lot of potential for tourism with the Olympic museum being built” as part of the proposed City for Champions, said Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler.
“What this can do for our reputation is huge, for tourism, academics and the Olympics,” Gaebler said. “Colorado Springs would become the true Olympic city in the U.S.,” particularly with the proposed City for Champions museum showing ancient artifacts from the museum in Ancient Olympia.
Ancient Olympia is Colorado Springs’ seventh Sister City.
Already, Colorado Springs has Sister City arrangements with Fujiyoshida, Japan; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Smolensk, Russia; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico; and Bankstown, Australia.