History of the Olympic Games Past and Present. Greek Mythology and Modern Day Olympics. Olympic games are not just about medals. It is an opportunity for the the world to come together to showcase their culture, education and history. Today’s Olympic Games have come a long way from their humble beginnings in 776 BC. According to Greek mythology the Games were founded by Heracles, the son of Zeus. The Games were dedicated to the 12 Olympian gods and were hosted on the ancient green plains of Olympia, a place famous for its magnificent temples of the two gods Zeus and his wife Hera.
The first and only Olympic event at the time was the 200-yard dash, called a stadium. But in 724 BC, the two-staida race was added, and then two years later the 24-stadia event began, followed by the pentathlon and wrestling soon became part of the Games. The penthathlon consisted of running, wrestling, leaping, throwing the discus and hurling the jevelin. The Games began to grow with the introduction of boxing, chariot racing and other events were soon included.
Winners of these early games were crowned with wreaths from a sacred olive tree planted by Hercules, a stark contrast from today’s winnings of gold, silver and bronze medallions.
The Games were held every four years until AD 393, when a Roman emperor Theodosius I-a Christian abolished the Games because they were looked upon as nothing more than a pagan festival.
It would be 15 centuries before another Olympic Game would be held.
Late in the 19th century, Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France completed a successful campaign to revive the Olympics. On March 24, 1896, the first modern Summer Games opened in Athens, Greece.
Olympic Rings, Olympics Logo
One of the most notable symbols of the Olympic Games are the five colourful rings. It is believed that the rings were adopted by de Coubertin in 1913, after a similar design was found on an ancient Greek artifact. The rings represent the five major regions of the world; Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Every national flag in the world includes at least one of the five colours, blue, yellow, black, green and red.
The Olympic Games have been held on every continent except for Africa.
In 1920, the Olympic flag made its debut at the Games in Antwerp, Belgium. At the end of every Olympic Games, the mayor of that host-city presents the flag to mayor of the next host-city. The flag then is held on display in the town hall for four years until the opening ceremonies of their Olympic Game.
Purpose of the Olympics
The Olympic Games provide an opportunity for countries to come together and show the world they exist. It is the only time that countries are showcased on the worldwide stage, in a transparent matter.
During the the 2004 Games in Athen, and despite a war in their country, an Iraqi football team qualified for the Olympic Tournament and even secured a spot in the semi-finals. This unprecedented event showed the world, that despite political tension, countries could come together for friendly competition.
Olympic Games link sport with culture and education, promote the practice of sport and the joy associated with it and help to build a better world through sport practised in a spirit of peace, excellence, friendship and respect.
The Olympics have also allowed countries to showcase their culture. During the 2000 Sydney, Austriala games, the Aborigines were headline news, which helped to bring attention to their claims.
Women in the Olympics
Historically the Olympics were reserved for males only. It wasn’t until 1900, when women made their first debut at an Olympic Game.
The only two sports that were opened to women at the time were golf and tennis. Women had to overcome a great deal of prejudice because of the perception and fear that women would loose their femininity by growing too muscular or that it would lead to sterility.
In 1912, the first female swimmer, made her debut at the Stockholm Games. The trend for women athletes continued with volleyball in 1964, rowing in 1976, cycling in 1984 and football in 1996, the strength of women in the Olympics continues today.
It is estimated that during the start of 2001, 40% of all athletes at the Olympic Games were women. But while women were unable to compete in Olympic sports prior to the 1900s, men to this day are not contenders in synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics.
Fascination of the Olympics
The fascination of the Olympics is found worldwide. There is a sense of pride and joy, for nationalities to cheer on their Olympic athletes. The Olympics also provides nations an opportunity to set aside their political and religious views and enjoy the display of true human spirit. It is an opportunity to learn about people, who are differint in a lot of ways but at the same time not all that different. It teaches about tolerance, and educates people in a way that a history class can not. The Olympics allows people to escape the negativity of the world and brings the world together as one.