The heart of the Olympics

Christina Zambus

Christina Zambus has never competed in the Olympic Games; never felt the camaraderie present in the athletes village; never experienced the euphoric high of standing atop the medal podium with your country’s anthem playing, nor the crushing low of missing out by the slimmest of margins.

But ask the White Rock woman what the Olympics feel like – what the Games are really about – and she’ll tell you. She knows better than most.

“The flame is supposed to represent happiness, and peace, and the coming together of nations. It doesn’t mean that anymore – now it’s all a business,” says Zambus, who grew up in Vrina, Greece, a “five- or 10-minute” drive from Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.

“To me, though, it is still very special.”

Though she’s lived in Canada for more than 40 years, Zambus – who came to Canada at age 12 – still recalls, with stunning detail, a childhood spent just minutes from Olympic history.

“When I was a little girl, my parents used to take me to Olympia every summer – they used to have the biggest fair there. People would come from all over Greece to see the shows, the animals, the games. It doesn’t exist now, but back then, it was the place to be every summer,” she recalls, sitting in a quiet corner of Cosmos Greek Restaurant, the Marine Drive eatery she’s owned, along with husband George, for 20 years.

The first Olympic Games on record were held in 776 B.C., Zambus explains, and it was a time when all war ceased. Instead, all empires came together to light a flame and compete in honour of the Greek god, Zeus.

And though the summer fair was the main draw for most Olympia visitors, Zambus says it was the historic ruins of ancient Olympia – on the other side of town – that always drew her attention.

“When you step into the ruins, you’re just in awe – you stand next to all these huge columns, the fountains, and you see where the temple used to be. You can just imagine an ancient city – it’s just spectacular to be there,” she says.

Now, with the Olympic Torch Relay due to arrive here Tuesday and the Olympics set to begin three days later in Vancouver, Zambus is excited to have the Games in her adopted hometown.

“I’ve lived most of my life in Canada, but I still love Greece – it is still a very special place for me,” she says.

“I’m very proud to see the Olympics come from that tiny village, all across the world to Vancouver. I’m very touched.”

She got similarly choked up in 2004, when the Games returned to Athens. Though she did not attend in person, just watching on TV was emotional enough.

“I was watching the 2004 opening ceremonies, and I remember I saw the historic site, and right next to it on the screen, was the modern Olympics, and I just started to cry… I couldn’t control myself,” Zambus says. “No matter what, (Olympia) is my childhood place. It’s in my heart.”

Zambus notes her duties at Cosmos will likely prevent her from attending Olympic events, but she’ll be a keen observer, and plans to be out front of her restaurant Tuesday when the torch meanders past.

“I’ll be out there, definitely – are you kidding? Even if we can’t go to any events, we want to participate in the spirit… I’ll probably have tears in my eyes.”

Just Posted

City of Surrey to remove eight dead trees along stretch of road where SUV was hit

Assessment confirms tree that fell was dead; others to be removed ‘early this week’

CCTV cameras help Surrey RCMP arrest two bank robbery suspects

The robberies were in North Surrey on Nov. 7 and Oct. 1

New Surrey Police force ‘swallowing up’ city’s funds, Annis says

City councillor says draft city budget shows new force coming at expense of ‘everything else’ in the city

Guitar ‘swap & sale’ planned at Cloverdale’s Shannon Hall

40-plus vendors are signed up for event on Saturday, Nov. 23

Totems, Mariners win South Fraser volleyball titles

South Surrey teams now advance to provincial high school championships in Langley

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Most Read

l -->