August 27, 2007—Appearing to gasp for air through the smoke, a winged statue of victory stands surrounded by wildfires that nearly destroyed the site of the ancient Olympic Games in southwestern Greece.
Firefighters scored a victory of their own yesterday, when they beat back flames that skirted the edge of Olympia, birthplace of the Games and one of the most sacred sites of ancient Greece.
"The fire reached the hill overlooking ancient Olympia but was stopped just before entering the archaeological site," a member of the brigade told the Reuters news service.
"Six planes, 2 helicopters, 15 fire engines, and 45 firemen participated in the effort."
Olympia's 2,800-year-old temple ruins and statues appear to have been spared, but dozens of other fires continue to rage throughout Greece, having killed 63 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.
The fires seem to have been set intentionally, officials said, and a U.S. $1.4 million reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the arsonists.
Meanwhile, experts are racing to spare other Greek antiquities from the flames, such as the 2,500-year-old Temple of Apollo Epikourios, a marble ruin on Greece's southern peninsula last reported to be some 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the fire line.
An unnamed resident near Olympia told the Los Angeles Times that the fires' toll could reach historic proportions—in more ways than one.
"[The fires] managed to destroy our past, our present, and our future," he said.
—Blake de Pastino