As they entered the temple, the victors wore a red woolen band around the head and held a palm-branch in their right hand. The wool band was usually used to adorn sacred objects, and the palm-branch was reminiscent of Theseus, who issued the games in Delos. The victors of these games were crowned also with a palm-branch.
Within the temple, there were crowns of wild olive leaves (kotinos), placed on a gold and ivory table. The bronze tripod on which the crowns had been in earlier times, was now kept in the temple. The victors were crowned with the precious prize. It was believed that the crown transferred powers to the athlete. The victor became the favorite of the gods, because he has won with the gods' help. This rite symbolized the mystic communion between the deity and the man.
According to the tradition, it was Iphitos who first established the crown of wild
olive as the prize, thus, obeying to an oracle from Delphi. The olive branch was
always cut from the same ancient wild olive tree, the Kallistephanos ,
grown near the temple of Zeus. Victors in other games
were praised in a similar way:
a wreath of laurel for the victors of the Pythian Games at Delphi, a wreath of
pine for the victors of the Isthmian Games, and a wreath of celery for the victors of
the Nemean Games.