The ancient Olympics were the most important sporting festival in ancient Greece, held every four years and lasting up to five days. They started in 776 B.C. and lasted until A.D. 394 when Roman emperor Theodosius abolished the festival, deeming it pagan. The site hosted an Olympic event during the Athens 2004 Games, when the shot-put was held in the ancient stadium.
The flame for each modern Olympics is lit in a special ceremony at ancient Olympia — and the ceremony for the London Games will be held there on May 10.
Olympia Mayor Efthimios Kotzias urged authorities to improve security.
"The level of security is indeed lacking," Kotzias told state-run NET television. "These are treasures. A piece of world heritage has been lost, thanks to these thieves. ... I think (authorities) should have been more mindful and the security should have been more serious."
Friday's robbery is the second major museum theft in the past two months in Greece. In January, thieves made off with art works by 20th-century masters Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian from the National Gallery in one of the best-guarded areas of central Athens.
In that pre-dawn heist, the burglars also took a pen and ink drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th-century painter Guglielmo Caccia. As they fled, thieves abandoned a fourth work by Mondrian. No arrests have been made.
Demetris Nellas contributed to this report.
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