History tells us that the multi-sporting event of Olympics was started in Olympia. With this article, get some interesting information on the origin & background of Olympic Games.

History Of Olympics

Olympics Games is an international multi-sporting event, held every four years. It is sub-divided into two sporting events - summer sporting events and winter sporting events. Since the times of their origin, Olympic Games have developed to a major extent. As we look into the history of the sporting event, we discover that it took birth in Olympia around 776 BC, about the same time when Homer was born. Before the start of Olympics, Olympia was serving as a cult site for the worship of Zeus.
The traditional views of the Greeks, that Gods supported a winner, resulted in the establishment of games for producing winners. These winners were supposed to be favored by Zeus and asserted their power on the lesser mortals. Another factor that contributed to the foundation of Olympic Games was the rise of the Greek polis (city-state). With time, these city-states started growing and looking for a way to develop their dominance over each other. For the purpose, they started sending representatives to Olympia, to engage in physical competition.
Even military training started coming into prominence and games seemed to be one of the best ways to get men into shape. All this contributed towards the setting up of the ancient Olympics. Initially, for the first 13 Olympics, just one event was held, namely Stadion Race. It involved participating in a running race, up one length of the stadium. By 724 BC, additions were made to Olympic Games and Diaulos, a longer, there-and-back race, was introduced. Four years later, Dolichos, a race of perhaps 12 laps, was added to the games kitty.
Not long after, Olympic Games started comprising of boxing, wrestling and the pancration, followed by the pentathlon and horse-and-chariot racing. Around 520 BC, a race was introduced in which runners used to wear armor while competing. The mule race, which was added in 500 BC, was not much successful. With time, religion started to gain more significance in the games. A grand sacrifice of 100 oxen to Zeus and invoking of the God (to keep the sacrificial meat fly-free) became a part of the Olympics.
Financial rewarding of the winners at the games was started in sixth-century, by Solon, an Athenian statesman. It is believed that with the passage of time, men started competing naked in the main Olympics, in which women were not allowed to participate even as a viewer. As time passed, many great athletes came to participate in the games, some of which are remembered even till date. Amongst the most prominent ones are Milo of Croton, Leonidas of Rhodes and Diagoras of Rhodes.
Abolishment and Revival
Ancient Olympic Games were extremely successful and continued to be played for a period of approximately 1200 years. However, around 393 AD, Theodosius I, a Roman emperor and a Christian, abolished the Games under pagan influences. The scenario continued for the next 1500 years, till Pierre de Coubertin (known as le Rénovateur), a young French aristocrat, started working towards its revival. He believed the defeat of France, in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, to be a result of lack of vigor amongst the soldiers.
After much research, he came on the conclusion that exercise, more specifically sports, was necessary to make a person well-formed and energetic. His attempt met with little enthusiasm from the people. However, he persisted with the idea and founded a sports organization, Union des Sociétés Francaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA). Coubertin put the idea of the revival of Olympic Games in 1892, at a meeting of USFSA, in Paris, with no result. Two years later, another meeting was held and he again put the idea, which gathered interest this time.
The delegates at the second meeting unanimously voted for the revival of Olympic Games. At the same time, they gave Coubertin the task of organizing an international committee to organize them. This committee later became the International Olympic Committee (IOC - Comité Internationale Olympique). Demetrious Vikelas, from Greece, was selected to be the first president of IOC. Athens was chosen as the venue for the revival of the Games and this is where the very first modern Olympic Games were held. The rest, as they say, is history.
Modern Olympics
The opening of the Olympic Games in Athens, in the first week of April 1896, laid the foundation of the Modern Olympics. Greek government failed to generate enough funds for the construction of a stadium. However, Georgios Averoff, a wealthy Greek architect, donated one million drachmas (over $100,000) for the purpose. With this amount, the Panathenaic Stadium, built in 330 BC, was renovated with white marble and the games were held there.
In the absence of international publicity of the games, the participants did not come nationally, rather participated on their own. The events at the first Olympics included pole vaulting, sprints, shot put, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, target shooting, tennis, marathon and gymnastics. The swimming events were held in the Bay of Zea, in the Aegean Sea. In toto, approximately 300 athletes, representing 13 countries, participated in the games.
The Tradition and Its Breakage
Since their start, in 1896, Olympics games have been held on a regular basis, every four years. There have been only three exceptions to the rule, the years of 1916, 1940 and 1944. In 1916, when the games were scheduled to be held in Berlin, World War I led to their cancellation. In 1940 (scheduled in Tokyo) and 1944, World War II prevented the Olympic Games from taking place. The next Olympics are scheduled to be held in Beijing, in 2008.
Olympics Till Date
1896 - Athens
1900 - Paris
1904 - St. Louis
1906 - Athens ("Unoffficial")
1908 - London
1912 - Stockholm
1916 - Not held (World War I)
1920 - Antwerp
1924 - Paris
1928 - Amsterdam
1932 - Los Angeles
1936 - Berlin
1940 - Not held (World War II)
1944 - Not held (World War II)
1948 - London
1952 - Helsinki
1956 - Melbourne
1960 - Rome
1964 - Tokyo
1968 - Mexico City
1972 - Munich
1976 - Montreal
1980 - Moscow
1984 - Los Angeles
1988 - Seoul
1992 - Barcelona
1996 - Atlanta
2000 - Sydney
2004 - Athens

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