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Ancient Olympics Report

Ancient Olympics

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The Ancient Olympic Games were religious and athletic festivals held every four years at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. Competition was among representatives of several city-states and kingdoms of Ancient Greece. These Games featured mainly athletic but also combat sports such as wrestling and the pankration, horse and chariot racing events. It has been widely written that during the Games, all conflicts among the participating city-states were postponed until the Games were finished. This cessation of hostilities was known as the Olympic peace or truce.[3] This idea is a modern myth because the Greeks never suspended their wars. The truce did allow those religious pilgrims who were traveling to Olympia to pass through warring territories unmolested because they were protected by Zeus.[4] The origin of the Olympics is shrouded in mystery and legend;[5] one of the most popular myths identifies Heracles and his father Zeus as the progenitors of the Games.[6][7][8] According to legend, it was Heracles who first called the Games "Olympic" and established the custom of holding them every four years.[9] The myth continues that after Heracles completed his twelve labors, he built the Olympic Stadium as an honor to Zeus. Following its completion, he walked in a straight line for 200 steps and called this distance a "stadion" (Greek: στάδιον, Latin: stadium, "stage"), which later became a unit of distance. The most widely accepted inception date for the Ancient Olympics is 776 BC; this is based on inscriptions, found at Olympia, listing the winners of a footrace held every four years starting in 776 BC.[10] The Ancient Games featured running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race, and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, pankration, and equestrian events.[11][12] Tradition has it that Coroebus, a cook from the city of Elis, was the first Olympic champion.[13]
The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honoring both Zeus (whose famous statue by Phidias stood in his temple at Olympia) and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia. Pelops was famous for his chariot race with King Oenomaus of Pisatis.[14] The winners of the events were admired and immortalized in poems and statues.[15] The Games were held every four years, and this period, known as an Olympiad, was used by Greeks as one of their units of time measurement. The Games were part of a cycle known as the Panhellenic Games, which included the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games, and the Isthmian Games.[16]
The Olympic Games reached their zenith in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece. While there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Games officially ended, the most commonly held date is 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I decreed that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated.[17] Another date commonly cited is 426 AD, when his successor, Theodosius II, ordered the destruction of all Greek temples.[18]

Changes and adaptations

After the success of the 1896 Games, the Olympics entered a period of stagnation that threatened their survival. The Olympic Games held at the Paris Exposition in 1900 and the World's fair at St. Louis in 1904 were side-shows. The Games at Paris did not have a stadium; but was notable for being the first time women took part in the Games. When the St. Louis Games were celebrated roughly 650 athletes participated, but 580 were from the United States. The homogeneous nature of these celebrations was a low point for the Olympic Movement.[41] The Games rebounded when the 1906 Intercalated Games (so-called because they were the second Games held within the third Olympiad) were held in Athens. These Games are not officially recognized by the IOC and no Intercalated Games have been held since. The Games attracted a broad international field of participants and generated great public interest. This marked the beginning of a rise in both the popularity and the size of the Olympics.[42]


In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, determined to promote the rehabitation of soldiers after World War II, organized a multi-sport event between several hospitals to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics. Guttmann's event, known then as the Stoke Mandeville Games, became an annual sports festival. Over the next twelve years, Guttmann and others continued their efforts to use sports as an avenue to healing. For the 1960 Olympic Games, in Rome, Guttmann brought 400 athletes to compete in the "Parallel Olympics", which became known as the first Paralympics. Since then, the Paralympics have been held in every Olympic year. Since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the host city for the Olympics has also played host to the Paralympics.[45] In 2001 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) signed an agreement guaranteeing that host cities would be contracted to manage both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.[46][47] The agreement came into effect at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Recent games

From 241 participants representing 14 nations in 1896, the Games have grown to about 10,500 competitors from 204 nations at the 2008 Summer Olympics.[56] The scope and scale of the Winter Olympics is smaller. For example, Turin hosted 2,508 athletes from 80 nations competing in 84 events during the 2006 Winter Olympics.[57] During the Games most athletes and officials are housed in the Olympic Village. This village is intended to be a self-contained home for all the Olympic participants, and is furnished with cafeterias, health clinics, and locations for religious expression.[58]
The IOC allowed the formation of National Olympic Committees representing nations that did not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that other international organizations demand. As a result, colonies and dependencies are permitted to compete at Olympic Games. 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.[59] The current version of the Charter allows for the establishment of new National Olympic Committees to represent nation which qualify as "an independent State recognised by the international community".[60] Therefore, it did not allow the formation of National Olympic Committees for Sint Maarten and Curaçao when they gained the same constitutional status as Aruba in 2010, although the IOC had recognized the Aruban Olympic Committee in 1986.[61][62]

Economic and social impact on host cities and countries

Many economists are skeptical about the economic benefits of hosting the Olympic Games, emphasizing that such "mega-events" often have large costs while yielding relatively few tangible benefits in the long run. Conversely hosting (or even bidding for) the Olympics appears to increase the host country's exports, as the host or candidate country sends a signal about trade openness when bidding to host the Games.[63] Moreover, research suggests that hosting the Summer Olympics has a strong positive effect on the philanthropic contributions of corporations headquartered in the host city, which seems to benefit the local nonprofit sector. This positive effect begins in the years leading up to the Games and might persist for several years afterwards, although not permanently. This finding suggests that hosting the Olympics might create opportunities for cities to influence local corporations in ways that benefit the local nonprofit sector and civil society.[64] The Games have also had significant negative effects on host communities; for example, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions reports that the Olympics displaced more than two million people over two decades, often disproportionately affecting disadvantaged groups.[65]
The ancient Olympics had fewer events than modern games, and only freeborn Greek men were allowed to participate, although there were victorious women car owners. Athletes from any Greek city-state and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai, the officers in charge, allowed King Alexander I of Macedonia to participate in the games only after having tested his Greek ancestry. The games were always held in Olympia instead of moving between different places as is the practice with the modern Olympics. The winners at the Olympic Games were honored, and their feats chronicled for future generations.

The ancient Olympic Games were both a religious festival and an athletic event. The games were celebrated in honor of the Greek god Zeus, and in the average day of the games, 100 oxen would be sacrificed to him. Over time Olympia, site of the games, became a central place for the worship of the head of the Greek pantheon and a temple, built by the Greek architect Libon was erected on top of the mountain. The temple was one of the largest doric temples in Greece. The sculptor Pheidias created a statue of the god made of gold and ivory. It was 42 feet (13 m) tall. He was placed on a throne in the temple. The statue became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

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