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9 January 2000
The Beginning of the Modern Olympic Games
From the earliest that historians can trace back which was nearly since the beginning of time, people have been putting on and celebrating some type of a festival. The festivals held in the foot hills of Cyllene and Erymanthus at Olympia were considered to be religious and athletic. Some historians believe that in the beginning of time, two gods, Zeus and Kronos, the most powerful gods of all, battled for the earth and the games and religious celebrations held later were in commemoration of the victory of Zeus.
In the time of about 776 B.C. there was a great foot race in a meadow beside a river named Alpheaus. The race was between two really fast sprinters. The race also was believed to be only about thirty seconds long. It was approximately six hundred and thirty feet long or about what we know as the two hundred yard dash. This race started the competitions of the Olympic Games. The winner of the race would be crowned with a wreath of olive leaves, which was considered then, as the best crown a winner could possibly receive.
There was a great sprinter in the time of about 776 B.C. that had won a great foot race. His name was Coroebus. Since the race was won by Coroebus he was considered to be the Greatest athlete at that time in history. It is believed that Coroebus was just a cook from the nearby Greek city of Elis.(Grolier Inc. 16)
In the days of Ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were held every four years. It is believed that then, the greatest athlete was the man that could throw the discuss the farthest. The discuss is a circular object that one holds in the palm of his hand and with the tips of his fingers and he throws it as far as he can without stepping outside of a little circle.
Each one of the Olympic Games had specific rules and regulations that the athletes had to follow. All of the athletes had to swear that they had gone through a vigorous ten month training program before going to compete against any other competitor in the Olympics. This was necessary for every event.(Grolier Inc. 15)
In the ancient days, the competitors that competed had a relatively large stadium compared to the ones in today’s world of athletics. The Olympic stadium in Olympia could hold about 45,000 to 50,000 spectators at one time. The field inside the stadium was only about two hundred and thirty four yards long and thirty five yards wide.(Kieran 14-16)
All of the grounds in Olympia were very sacred and treasured grounds. Noone under arms could enter Olympia because of the sacredness of the grounds. The number of people that actually attended the Olympic Games is unknown. The Games to the Greeks were considered to be the most important thing to do or to see. The word “stadium” was derived from “one stade” which came from the great foot race that was approximately six hundred and thirty feet long.(Grolier Inc. 16)
The four-year period between each olympiad is believed to have started in about three hundred B.C.
A very cruel and unusual event in the Olympics was called the pancration. This was a combination of wrestling and boxing. The winner was crowned when the loser was dead, unconscious, or raised his hand in defeat. In one case, two men were fighting and one killed the other. The fight was so brutal that the athlete that was killed was crowned as the winner.
The Olympic Games were beginning to decline in about the year sixty seven A.D. In three hundred ninety three A.D., the roman Emperor, Theodosis , was a convert to Christianity. He considered the games pagan and ordered them to be abolished. He also said that the Games had become a “public nuisance”.(Grolier Inc. 25)
All of the temple of Zeus and Hera were torn down. Huge earthquakes and extremely large floods ruined the site and eventually Olympia was buried. It would remain buried for centuries after century until 1875.
There was a man that had played a really big role in reviving the Olympic Games. His name was Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The Baron was born in Paris, France on January 1, 1862. He had the idea of reviving the ancient Olympic Games on a world-wide basis. He had decided that education and athletics might go hand-in-hand toward a better international understanding. He also helped to found the A.S.U., Athletic Sports Union. This sought to increase physical education in French schools and universities. He was considered to be the driving force behind the Olympic Games; he revived it and kept it going. Though Olympia was out of the question, the people organizing the Olympics wanted to revive it on the Greek soil; and Athens was the perfect spot. The Baron died on September 2, 1937.
The people that must deal with the problems of running and organizing the Games is the International Olympic Committee. This committee was created by the Congress in Paris on June 23, 1894. It was created to be the “final authority on all questions concerning the Olympic movement”.(Grolier Inc. 29)
The first Modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece in the year of 1896. All of the teams in Athens of 1896 were: Greece, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Greece had the largest number of spectators and competitors, since that the games were held on its own soil. The spectators that watched the marathon was about one hundred thousand. This is a lot considering Athens has a total population of about one hundred and thirty five thousand. The total of athletes in the 1896 Games was three hundred and eleven. The winning country of the Games was the United States. Since the very beginning, women could not compete or even watch the Games. They would be put to death in the ancient days if they were caught competing or watching. The first women to ever be allowed to compete in the Olympics was in 1912.
The winter Olympics came to be in 1924 in Chamonix, France. Winter Olympics were excepted in the VIII Olympiad. It was suggested that the Baron did not like the idea of having a separate meet for winter and summer events. He felt it would weaken the Olympic movement. The Baron was wrong.(Grolier Inc. 85)
The first Olympics to be held in the United States was in 1904 at St. Louis, Missouri. For the first time the United States had a real team, selected by an American Olympic Committee, headed by President, Theodore Roosevelt of 1906.
One reason for the rise in competition was because people were going to the United States and learning their way of coaching then going back into their homeland and coaching the “American Way”.(Kieran 72)
The United States easily took the winning position of the 1896, 1900, 1904, and 1908 Olympic Games. By 1912, the Olympics were well-known throughout the world and other countries were getting involved. The United States will probably always be a competitor in anything that is competitive throughout the world.(Kieran 20-62)
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