Olives, Olive Trees and the Olympic Games

The 2020 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXXII Olympiad and also known as Tokyo 2020 Games, will take place from Friday 23 July to Sunday 8 August 2021. The Olympic Games have long been associated with olives and olive trees.

olympic rings

ancient olympics

A Symbol of Victory

The winners at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece were awarded with an amphora of olive oil and crowned with a braid of wild olive branches as a symbol of victory. At the modern Olympics held in Athens in 2004 the winners all received a crown of olive branches as well as their medals.

olive branch

An Offering of Peace

To extend an olive branch is to make an offer of peace or to approach a foe in the spirit of conciliation. Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid is the first written account of an olive branch being offered in peace when the Trojan hero Aeneas extends an olive branch to the Phrygians.


A Precious Gift

Legend has it that the olive tree was a gift from the goddess Athena to the people of Athens who named their city in her honour. Homer referred to olive oil as liquid gold and Thomas Jefferson proclaimed it the richest gift of heaven.

Olive Oil

Most of the world’s supply of oil is produced from olives grown in SpainItaly, and Greece with France and California as emerging nations. Here’s what you need to know about olive oil and geography:

  • Spanish olive oil is typically golden yellow with a fruity, nutty flavour. Spain produces about 45% of the world’s olive supply.
  • Italian olive oil is often dark green and has an herbal aroma and a grassy flavour. Italy grows about 20% of the world’s olives.
  • Greek olive oil packs a strong flavour and aroma and tends to be green. Greece produces about 13% of the world’s olive supply.
  • French olive oil is typically pale in colour and has a milder flavour than other varieties.
  • Californian olive oil is light in colour and flavour, with a fruity taste.

olive oil

Olives to Eat

In general, green olives are the plumpest and firmest, with a sharper taste. Good varieties to look out for are the large Queen or smaller Manzanilla olives, both from Spain.
Black olives are given longer to ripen, have a higher oil content, which gives them a milder flavour and softer texture. Look for glossy skins and, for maximum flavour impact, a small size and slight wrinkling – Good varieties are the Gaeta and Liguria olives, both from Italy.
Kalamata olives come from the town of the same name in Greece, they are large, with a purple tinge, and a fruity flavour and considered to be the best in the country.


olive oyl

Olive Oyl

Olive Oyl is Popeye’s girlfriend.