September 5 - The Olympics, Old and New
The modern Olympics have been a worldwide tradition since 1896. The Olympics
were originally created by the ancient Greeks around 776 B.C. Greek city-states
were called to gather at the ancient city of Olympia to pay tribute to Zeus.
There they competed in foot races, wrestling, boxing, etc. The modern Olympics
consist of the winter and summer games, which alternate every two years. The
location of the games is also changed each year. Although the modern Olympics
have many differences from the ancient games, they also have many similarities.
The ancient Greek Olympic Games were held in the summer every four years
in Olympia. This site was chosen because of the great sanctuary of Zeus, where
athletes paid their tributes before competing. The games were open to any
honorable man of Greek descent. The first day of the games was devoted to
festivity and sacrifices. The second day mainly consisted of foot races in
the stadium, an area enclosed by banks of earth where spectators could look
on. The next couple of days consisted of wrestling, boxing, and pancratium,
a combination of the two. The objective of wrestling was to throw your opponent
to the ground three times. Boxing became one of the fiercest sports in the
ancient Olympics. At first, gloves were made of soft leather to lighten the
blows, but later hard leather sometimes weighted with metal was used. That
has got to hurt! Horse racing was also a popular sport. Only the rich could
afford to take part in this sport because of the expensive horses (each participant
had their own horse). The next event was the pentathlon, a series of five
events. These events included wrestling, discus throwing, javelin hurling,
long jumping, and sprinting. In the discus event a plate of bronze was thrown.
In the javelin hurling event, competitors tried to throw a spear as far as
possible. The winners in each event won a reef of olive leaves, fame, and
living expenses for the rest of their lives. The ancient Olympics were at
their peak in the fifth and fourth century B.C., until the Roman Emperor Theodosius
I cancelled them. It was not until the late eighteen hundreds when they were
revived and created into the modern Olympics.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. Two years before,
a French educator named Pierre de Coubertin first introduced the idea to bring
back the Olympics in hope of promoting a more peaceful world. The first modern
Olympics consisted of only summer games and included 300 athletes from less
than 15 countries, competing in 43 events in 9 different sports. It is astonishing
to compare that to the 1996 Olympics, which included more than 10,000 athletes
from 190 countries, competing in 271 events in 29 different sports! The 2004
summer Olympic Games will be held right in Athens. We saw the construction
of the Olympic village and while we were there last week. We heard that they
are way behind in construction and working overtime to finish it in time for
next year! We also heard that they are 10,000 hotel rooms short, and are bringing
in cruise ships for people to stay on.
During the opening ceremonies, many traditions are done to recognize the
origin of the games. The torch is lit in Olympia, where the Olympics started,
and carried by runners to wherever the games are that year. It sometimes takes
months for them to achieve this task, but this year they are lucky. They only
have to run a couple days from Olympia to Athens! The torch is lit by magnified
sunlight in the ancient stadium. Another tradition is that the Greek team
always walks out first during the opening parade of countries. After the parade,
doves are released to symbolize world peace.
The Olympics have been an enjoyable tradition for the past 107 years, and
hopefully will promote world peace. It has been fun learning and researching
about the Olympic Games. It will be cool seeing the Games returning to Greece
where they originated in 776 B.C.