The Olympic Games have a very long history. They are a very old tradition in the world of sports. This tradition began more than two thousand years ago, in Greece. In 776 BC the first Olympics were held. All the cities sent their best athletes to Olympia near Mount Olympus – the mythical home of gods – to compete in strength, speed and adroitness. Men wanted to know who of them were the strongest, the swiftest and the adroitest. Hence the then motto was “Citius, altius, fortius” (Latin – faster, higher, stronger). During the Olympic Games all wars between the cities stopped and people enjoyed peace.
Originally the Games were an ancient Greek religious festival in honor of Zeus. The ceremonies included contests in oratory, poetry, music and art, as well as in athletic skills like wrestling, throwing the javelin, and running. The Games were an exclusively male festival. Women were not allowed to compete, or even to attend and watch. The victors were crowned with olive leaves rather than with gold medals. To be a victor was a great honor not only for the athlete but also for his city. The Games lasted for five days. They were held over the period of 200 years, and then they were abolished by a Christian Emperor because they were held in honor of Zeus, a non-Christian god. The temple at Olympia was destroyed.
The Games offer a unique opportunity for young people from all over the world to run, jump, row, wrestle, swim, ski, skate, fence and play indoor and outdoor games. The Games take place every four years; the Olympic Committee decides the place and the choice of sport events that athletes will participate in.
The Games were discontinued for over a thousand years and were revived in the modern world in 1896 due to Pierre de Coubertin from France. 311 athletes from 13 countries competed in nine sports in Athens, Greece.
At first, the modern Games were limited to men. Women first competed in 1910 in biathlon (ski-running plus shooting), played ping-pong and golf, but real women’s participation began in Paris in 1924 when women’s athletics was included in the program.
Winter Games were first held in France at Chamonix in 1924, with competitions in ice-hockey, speed skating, figure-skating, and skiing. These are still the basic events of the winter program, with the addition of bobsleigh, skeleton (toboggan races), and ski-jumping.
The most impressive events of the opening ceremony are the taking of the oath, the lighting of the Olympic flame, and the hoisting of the flag.
The Olympic flag has a motif of five rings on a white background. They represent five continents of the world and symbolize universal brotherhood. The six colors, the white of the background and the blue, yellow, black, green and red rings represent the nations of the world.
Each Olympiad has been growing in the scale of competition, number of competitors and size of the audience watching them – live or on television. Huge stadiums accommodate tens of thousands of spectators, while television brings the scene directly to the homes of the whole world.
The 22nd Olympic Games took place in the Soviet Union in 1980. Five cities – Moscow, Kiev, Minsk, Riga and Tallinn greeted the world’s champions. Our sportsmen and sportswomen won 80 gold, 64 silver and 49 bronze medals then. That was the best result among other national teams.
Nowadays the Olympiad is held every four years. The next one (“the white” one) will take place in Sochi, Russian Federation. It will contribute much to peace, understanding and friendship among peoples.