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Olympic Games

The five Olympic rings were designed in 1913, adopted in 1914 and debuted at the Games at Antwerp, 1920. The Olympic Games (often referred to simply as The Olympics or The Games[1]) is an international multi-sport event subdivided into summer and winter sporting events. The summer and winter games are each held every four years (an Olympiad[2]). Until 1992, they were held in the same year. Since then, they have been celebrated two years apart. The original Olympic Games (Greek: Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες; Olympiakoi Agones) began in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece, and was celebrated until AD 393.[3] Interest in reviving the Olympic Games proper was first shown by the Greek poet and newspaper editor Panagiotis Soutsos in his poem "Dialogue of the Dead" in 1833. [4] Evangelos Zappas sponsored the first modern international Olympic Games in 1859. He paid for the refurbishment of the Panathinaiko Stadium for Games held there in 1870 and 1875. [4] This was noted in newspapers and publications around the world including the London Review, which stated that "the Olympian Games, discontinued for centuries, have recently been revived! Here is strange news indeed ... the classical games of antiquity were revived near Athens". [5] The International Olympic Committee was founded with the initiative of a French nobleman in 1894, Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin. The first of the IOC's Olympic Games were the 1896 Summer Olympics, held in Athens, Greece. Participation in the Olympic Games has increased to include athletes from nearly all nations worldwide. With the improvement of satellite communications and global telecasts of the events, the Olympics are consistently gaining supporters.[6] The most recent Summer Olympics were the 2004 Games in Athens and the most recent Winter Olympics were the 2006 Games in Turin. The upcoming games in Beijing are planned to comprise 302 events in 28 sports.[7] As of 2006, the Winter Olympics were competed in 84 events in 7 sports.[8]

Ancient Olympics

There are many myths and legends surrounding the origin of the ancient Olympic Games. The most popular legend describes that Heracles was the creator of the Olympic Games, and built the Olympic stadium and surrounding buildings as an honor to his father Zeus, after completing his 12 labors. According to that legend he walked in a straight line for 400 strides and called this distance a "stadion" (Greek: "Στάδιον")- (Roman: "stadium") (Modern English: "Stage") that later also became a distance calculation unit. This is also why a modern stadium is 400 meters in circumference length (1 stadium = 400 m). Another myth associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of ἐκεχειρία (ekecheiria) or Olympic Truce. The date of the Games' inception based on the count of years in Olympiads is reconstructed as 776 BC, although scholars' opinions diverge between dates as early as 884 BC and as late as 704 BC. From then on, the Games quickly became much more important throughout ancient Greece, reaching their zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, contests alternating with sacrifices and ceremonies honouring both Zeus (whose colossal statue stood at Olympia), and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia famous for his legendary chariot race, in whose honour the games were held. The number of events increased to twenty, and the celebration was spread over several days. Winners of the events were greatly admired and were immortalised in poems and statues.[9] The Games were held every four years, and the period between two celebrations became known as an 'Olympiad'. The Greeks used Olympiads as one of their methods to count years. The most famous Olympic athlete lived in these times: the sixth century BC wrestler Milo of Croton is the only athlete in history to win a victory in six Olympics.[10] The Games gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power in Greece. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Olympic Games were seen as a pagan festival and in discord with Christian ethics, and in 393 AD the emperor Theodosius I outlawed the Olympics, ending a thousand-year tradition.[11] During the ancient times normally only young men could participate.[10] Competitors were usually naked, not only as the weather was appropriate but also as the festival was meant to be, in part, a celebration of the achievements of the human body. Upon winning the games, the victor would have not only the prestige of being in first place but would also be presented with a crown of olive leaves. The olive branch is a sign of hope and peace.[12] Even though the bearing of a torch formed an integral aspect of Greek ceremonies, the ancient Olympic Games did not include it, nor was there a symbol formed by interconnecting rings. These Olympic symbols were introduced as part of the modern Olympic Games.


In the early seventeenth century, an "Olympick Games" sports festival was run for several years at Chipping Campden in the English Cotswolds, and the present day local Cotswold Games trace their origin to this festival. They were a local sports event with extraordinary sports, such as shin-kicking. In 1850, an "Olympian Class" was begun at Much Wenlock in Shropshire, England. This was renamed "Wenlock Olympian Games" in 1859 and continues to this day as the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games. A national Olympic Games was organised by their founder, Dr William Penny Brookes, at Crystal Palace in London, in 1866. Meanwhile, a wealthy Greek philanthropist called Evangelos Zappas sponsored the revival of the first modern international Olympic Games.[4] The first was held in an Athens city square in 1859. Zappas paid for the refurbishment of the ancient Panathenian stadium that was first used for an Olympic Games in 1870 and then again in 1875. That same stadium was refurbished a second time and used for the Athens 1896 Games. The revival sponsored by Zappas was a dedicated athletics Olympic Games with athletes that participated from two countries: Greece and the Ottoman Empire. The interest in reviving the Olympics as an international event grew further when the ruins of ancient Olympia were uncovered by German archaeologists in the mid-nineteenth century. At the same time, Pierre de Coubertin was searching for a reason for the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). He thought the reason was that the French had not received proper physical education, and sought to improve this. Coubertin also sought a way to bring nations closer together, to have the youth of the world compete in sports, rather than fight in war. In 1890 he attended a festival of the Wenlock Olympian Society, and decided that the recovery of the Olympic Games would achieve both of his goals. Baron Pierre de Coubertin stood on the ideas of both Dr Brookes and the foundations of Evangelis Zappas to found the International Olympic Committee. In a congress at the Sorbonne University, in Paris, France, held from June 16 to June 23, 1894 he presented his ideas to an international audience. On the last day of the congress, it was decided that the first IOC Olympic Games would take place in 1896 in Athens, in the country of their birth. To organise the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established, with the Greek Demetrius Vikelas as its first president. The Panathenian stadium that was used for Olympic Games in 1870, and 1875 was refurbished and reused for the Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896. The total number of athletes at the the first IOC Olympic Games, less than 250, seems small by modern standards, but the games were the largest international sports event ever held until that time. The Greek officials and public were also very enthusiastic, and they even proposed to have the monopoly of organizing the Olympics. The IOC decided differently, however, and the second Olympic Games took place in Paris, France. Paris was also the first Olympic Games where women were allowed to compete.

Modern Olympics

After the initial success, the Olympics struggled. The celebrations in Paris (1900) and St. Louis (1904) were overshadowed by the World's Fair exhibitions in which they were included. The so-called Intercalated Games (because of their off-year status, as 1906 is not divisible by four) were held in 1906 in Athens, as the first of an alternating series of Athens-held Olympics. Although originally the IOC recognised and supported these games, they are currently not recognised by the IOC as Olympic Games, which has given rise to the explanation that they were intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the modern Olympics. The 1906 Games again attracted a broad international field of participants—in 1904, 80% had been American—--and great public interest, thereby marking the beginning of a rise in popularity and size of the Games. From the 241 participants from 14 nations in 1896, the Games grew to nearly 11,100 competitors from 202 countries at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The number of competitors at the Winter Olympics is much smaller than at the Summer Games; at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin Italy, 2,633 athletes from 80 countries competed in 84 events. The Olympics are one of the largest media events. In Sydney in 2000 there were over 16,000 broadcasters and journalists, and an estimated 3.8 billion viewers watched the games on television. The growth of the Olympics is one of the largest problems the Olympics face today. Although allowing professional athletes and attracting sponsorships from major international companies solved financial problems in the 1980s, the large number of athletes, media and spectators makes it difficult and expensive for host cities to organize the Olympics. 203 countries currently participate in the Olympics. This is a noticeably higher number than the number of countries recognised by the United Nations, which is only 193. The International Olympic Committee allows nations to compete which do not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that many other international organizations demand. As a result, many colonies and dependencies are permitted to host their own Olympic teams and athletes even if such competitors hold the same citizenship as another member nation. Examples of this include territories such as Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Hong Kong, all of which compete as separate nations despite being legally a part of another country. Also, since 1980, Taiwan has competed under the name "Chinese Taipei", and under a flag specially prepared by the IOC. Prior to that year the People's Republic of China refused to participate in the Games because Taiwan had been competing under the name "Republic of China". The Republic of the Marshall Islands was recognised as a nation by the IOC on February 9, 2006, and should compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.[13]

Olympic problems Boycotts

The 1956 Melbourne Olympics were boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, because of the repression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet Union; additionally, Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon, boycotted the games due to the Suez Crisis.[14] In 1972 and 1976, a large number of African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott, to force them to ban South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. The IOC conceded in the first 2 cases, but refused in 1976 because the boycott was prompted by a New Zealand rugby union tour to South Africa, and rugby was not an Olympic sport. The countries withdrew their teams after the games had started; some African athletes had already competed. A lot of sympathy was felt for the athletes forced by their governments to leave the Olympic Village; there was little sympathy outside Africa for the governments' attitude. Twenty-two countries (Guyana was the only non-African nation) boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was not banned.[15] Also in 1976, due to pressure from the People's Republic of China (PRC), Canada told the team from the Republic of China (Taiwan) that it could not compete at the Montreal Summer Olympics under the name "Republic of China" despite a compromise that would have allowed Taiwan to use the ROC flag and anthem. Taiwan refused and as a result did not participate until 1984, when it returned under the name "Chinese Taipei" and used a special flag.[16] In 1980 and 1984, the Cold War opponents boycotted each other's games. The United States led and 64 other Western nations followed in refusing to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but 16 other Western nations did compete at the Moscow Olympics. The boycott reduced the number of nations participating to only 80, the lowest number of nations to compete since 1956. The Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Bloc partners (except Romania) countered by skipping the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, arguing the safety of their athletes could not be guaranteed there and "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in the United States".[17] The 1984 boycotters staged their own Friendship Games in July-August.[18][19]



One of the main problems facing the Olympics (and international sports in general) is doping, or performance enhancing drugs. In the early 20th century, many Olympic athletes began using drugs to enhance their performance. For example, the winner of the marathon at the 1904 Games, Thomas J. Hicks, was given strychnine and brandy by his coach, even during the race. As these methods became more extreme, gradually the awareness grew that this was no longer a matter of health through sports. In the mid-1960s, sports federations put a ban on doping, and the IOC followed suit in 1967. The first and so far only Olympic death caused by doping occurred in 1960. At the cycling road race in Rome the Danish Knut Enemark Jensen fell from his bicycle and later died. A coronor's inquiry found that he was under the influence of amphetamines. The first Olympic athlete to test positive for doping use was Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish pentathlete at the 1968 Summer Olympics, who lost his bronze medal for alcohol use. Seventy-three athletes followed him over the next 38 years, several medal winners among them. The most publicised doping-related disqualification was that of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who won the 100m at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but tested positive for stanozolol. Despite the testing, many athletes continued to use doping without getting caught. In 1990, documents were revealed that showed many East German female athletes had been unknowingly administered anabolic steroids and other drugs by their coaches and trainers as a government policy. In the late 1990s, the IOC took initiative in a more organised battle against doping, leading to the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999. The recent 2000 Summer Olympics and 2002 Winter Olympics have shown that this battle is not nearly over, as several medalists in weightlifting and cross-country skiing were disqualified due to doping offences. One innocent victim of the anti-doping movement at the Olympics was the Romanian gymnast Andreea Răducan who was stripped of her gold medal-winning performance in the All-Around Competition of the Sydney 2000 games. Test results indicated the presence of the banned-stimulant pseudophedrine which had been prescribed to her by an Olympic doctor. Raducan had been unaware of the presence of the illegal substance in the medicine that had been prescribed to her for a cold she had during the games. Most recently, during the 2006 Winter Olympics, only one athlete failed a drug test and had a medal revoked. The only other case involved 12 members with high levels of haemoglobin and their punishment was a five day suspension for health reasons. The International Olympic Committee introduced blood testing for the first time during these games.


Politics interfered with the Olympics on several occasions, the most well-known of which was the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, where the games were used as propaganda by the German Nazis. At this Olympics, a true Olympic spirit was shown by Luz Long, who helped Jesse Owens (a black athlete) to win the long jump, at the expense of his own silver medal.[20] The Soviet Union did not participate in the Olympic Games until the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Instead, the Soviets organized an international sports event called Spartakiads, from 1928 onward. Many athletes from associations organized by Communists or close to them chose not to participate or were even barred from participating in Olympic Games, and instead participated in Spartakiads.[21] A political incident on a smaller scale occurred at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Two American track-and-field athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, performed the Black Power salute on the victory stand of the 200-meter track and field race. In response, the IOC's autocratic president Avery Brundage told the USOC to either send the two athletes home, or withdraw the complete track and field team. The USOC opted for the former.[22] In a political policy move that flouts the spirit of the Olympic movement, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran specifically orders its athletes not to compete in any olympic heat, semi-final, or final that includes athletes from Israel. At the 2004 Olympics, an Iranian judo wrestler refused to compete in a heat against an Israeli judo wrestler, but did so in a way that 'covered' the possibility of Iran being removed from the games for political intrigue (the athlete deliberately overweighted himself out of his class). This athlete returned home to a hero's welcome.[23]


Despite what Coubertin had hoped for, the Olympics did not bring total peace to the world. In fact, three Olympiads had to pass without Olympics because of war: due to World War I the 1916 Games were canceled, and the summer and winter games of 1940 and 1944 were canceled because of World War II. Terrorism has also become a recent threat to the Olympic Games. In 1972, when the Summer Games were held in Munich, West Germany, eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorist group Black September in what is known as the Munich massacre. A bungled liberation attempt led to the deaths of the nine abducted athletes who had not been killed prior to the rescue as well as that of a policeman, with five of the terrorists also being killed.[24] During the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, a bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park killed two and injured 111 others. The bomb was set by Eric Robert Rudolph, an American domestic terrorist, who is currently serving a life sentence at Supermax in Florence, Colorado.[25] The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were the first Olympic Games since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Olympic Games since then have required an extremely high degree of security due to the fear of possible terrorist activities.[26]


Most Olympic Games have been held in European and North American cities; only a few games have been held in other places, and all bids by countries in South America and Africa have failed. Many non-westerners believe the games should expand to include locations in poorer regions. Economists point out that the massive infrastructure investments could springboard cities into earning higher GDP after the games. In the past, the IOC has often been criticised for being a monolithic organisation, with several members remaining a member at old age, or even until their deaths. The leadership of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch especially has been strongly criticised. Under his presidency, the Olympic Movement made great progress, but has been seen as autocratic and corrupt. Samaranch's ties with the former fascist government in Spain, and his long term as a president (21 years)—until he was 81 years old—have also been points of critique. In 1998, it became known that several IOC members had taken bribes from the organising committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, in exchange for a vote on the city at the election of the host city. The IOC started an investigation, which led to four members resigning and six being expelled. The scandal set off further reforms, changing the way in which host cities are elected to avoid further bribes. Also, more active and former athletes were allowed in the IOC, and the membership terms have been limited. The same year (1998), four European groups organized the International Network Against Olympic Games and Commercial Sports to oppose their cities' bids for future Olympic Games. Also, an Anti-Olympic Alliance had formed in Sydney to protest the hosting of the 2000 Games. Later, a similar movement in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia organized to protest the hosting of the 2010 Winter Games. These movements were particularly concerned about adverse local economic impact and dislocation of people to accommodate the hosting of the Olympics. A BBC documentary aired in August 2004, entitled Panorama: "Buying the Games", investigated the taking of bribes in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The documentary claimed it is possible to bribe IOC members into voting for a particular candidate city. In an airborne television interview on the way home, the Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë, specifically accused the British Prime Minister (Tony Blair) and the London Bid Committee (headed by former Olympic athlete Lord (Sebastien) Coe of breaking the bid rules with flagrant financial and sexual bribes. He cited French President Jacques Chirac as a witness but President Chirac gave rather more guarded interviews. In particular, Bulgaria's member Ivan Slavkov, and Muttaleb Ahmad from the Olympic Council of Asia, were implicated. They have denied the allegations. And Mayor Delanoë never mentioned the matter again. (Indeed two days later when London was attacked by suicide bombers on buses and trains, 52 Londoners were killed and over 700 Londoners were injured, it was both Mayor Delanoë and President Chirac -in an Olympian spirit of which Pierre de Coubertin would have been proud- who were among the first to express their solidarity with London and to send practical help in the form of rescue teams etc.) Others have alleged that the 2006 Winter Olympics were held in Turin because officials bribed the IOC and so Turin got the games and Sion, Switzerland (which was the favorite) did not. The Olympic Movement has been accused of being overprotective of its symbolism (in particular, it claims an exclusive and monopolistic copyright over any arrangement of five rings and the term "olympics"), and have taken action against things unrelated to sport, such as the role-playing game Legend of the Five Rings. It was accused of homophobia in 1982 when it successfully sued the Gay Olympics, an event now know as the Gay Games, to bar it from using the term "olympics" in its name.[27]

Olympic symbols

The Olympic movement uses many symbols, most of them representing Coubertin's ideas and ideals. The best known symbol is probably that of the Olympic Rings. These five intertwined rings represent the unity of five inhabited continents (with America regarded as one single continent). They appear in five colors on a white field on the Olympic Flag. These colors, white (for the field), red, blue, green, yellow, and black were chosen such that each nation had at least one of these colors in its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914, but the first Games at which it was flown were Antwerp, 1920. It is hoisted at each celebration of the Games. The official Olympic Motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", a Latin phrase meaning "Swifter, Higher, Stronger". Coubertin's ideals are probably best illustrated by the Olympic Creed: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." The Olympic Flame is lit in Olympia and brought to the host city by runners carrying the torch in relay. There it plays an important role in the opening ceremonies. Though the torch fire has been around since 1928, the relay was introduced in 1936. The Olympic mascot, an animal or human figure representing the cultural heritage of the host country, was introduced in 1968. It has played an important part of the games since 1980 with the debut of misha, a Russian bear. French and English are the two official languages of the Olympic movement.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1011

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