Olympic Games


On 6 April 1896 at Athens, King George I of Greece opened the Ist Olympic Games of modern times. An audience of over 60,000 had gathered in the city's newly refurbished Panathinaiko Stadium to witness the opening ceremony. The Games had been reintroduced, after a gap of 1503 years, on a much larger scale this time, inviting the whole world.

Panathinaiko Stadium

This time, 14 nationalities participated in 43 events. A total of 241 athletes (all male) participated. Jim Connolly (USA) won the triple jump and thus became the Ist Olympic Champion in modern history. 108 years later, Games were again organized in Athens. 202 NOC's participated in 28 sports, 37 disciplines and 301 events. A total of 10,975 athletes besides officials participated in the games.

Jim Connlly

Ever since their renaissance over 100 years ago, Olympic Games have become the greatest sports event in the world. No matter how many world or continental championship wins an athlete may gain, to compete in the Olympic Games will remain his or her supreme ambition and a lifetime dream. 

Ancient Olympics

The Heritage of the Games

A few Arcadian deserters came in  - men who had nothing to live on and wanted employment; they were taken to Xerxes and questioned about what the Greeks were doing. There was one Persian in particular who put the question, and he was told in reply that the Greeks were celebrating the Olympic festival, where they were watching athletic contests and chariot-races. When he asked what the prize was for which they contended, the Arcadians mentioned the wreath of olive-leaves which it is our custom to give. This drew from Tritanaechmes, the son of Artabanus, a remark which proved his true nobility of character-though it made Xerxes call him a coward; for when he learned that the prize was not money but a wreath, he could not help crying out in front of everybody, God heavens, Mardonius, what kind of men are these that you have brought us to fight against-men who compete with one another for no material reward, but only for honour !


Battle of Marathon

And these men of honour confront the Persian Army (for Greece and Persia were the two super powers to the then known world) and in the 'Battle of Marathon' Greek forces attained a victory in 490 B.C. Phadaphides (the messenger) runs 26 miles (42.195 Km) carrying the message of victory to the King at the court in Athens. "We have won", he delivers the message, drops and dies.'Marathon race' is being run by almost all nationalities World over today. It is being run over centuries now, following the footprints of Phadaphides , distance remaining the same. During 28 Olympic Games, Marathon race was run on its actual course, the course followed by Phadaphides 2495 years ago. Message of victory run was converted into an Athletic event. Such was the relationship between Athletics and the Greek culture.


Athletics, as a vehicle of the Greek ideal and not just a physical exertion of the body is rooted in ancient Greece. Athletics is part of the concept and goal of upbringing and education. The Olympic Games not only promoted the Greek type of body, but also cultivated competition, elevated Greek art and bonded Greek people together.

Classical Greece provided the model for the perfect and ideal man in its search for morality and physical perfection. This is the notion of the Greek ideal of Kalokagathia (Benevolence) , a classic humanistic ideal, inherent in the Olympic Games. The broad range of varied athletic events included in the ancient Olympics lasted for more than a thousand years and was the epitome of the ancient Greek way of life.

Olympia's ancient past holds eternal elements of a lasting worth and to evaluate them is to acquire a deeper knowledge of modern man. These symbolic ideals stemming out of the sacred place of antiquity, and the institution of the ancient Olympic Games are something the modern world looks to even today. 

Greek classical tradition considered athletics an inextricable part of social and religious life. Today, the Olympic Games are a multi-faceted cosmopolitan event. The legendary name "Olympics", however, is still a reference to the origins of the Games despite the fact that the modern day Olympics are a far cry from their ancient forerunner. In the mind of the reviver of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre De Coubertin , and the supporters of the Olympic movement, Olympia was the place they always returned to in search of the humanistic ideals underlying the concept.


Pierre De Coubertin

After establishing the torch-bearing race in 1936 , every four years the eyes of the contemporary world turns to Olympia since this is where the flame of the winter and summer Olympic Games is kept burning, thus reminding us of the concepts on which the modern games are founded.

The Olympic Games target young and old alike while billions of viewers worldwide tune in to the televised games. The five circles of the Olympics emblem is one of the mostly widely recognized the world over while the ancient custom of truce during the Olympic Games is a lesson we can learn from and claim for our times. "I walk among the ancient ruins of the Games" , wrote Coubertin in 1927 during one of his visits to ancient Olympia. "They seem like dead giants, lying in the place where they battled and struggled, with the will to survive drawn upon their faces. I can almost hear the buzz of the Olympic Games coming from the banks of the Cladeus river, the notes from the trumpets and lyres still suspended in the air. I can just see the men and the women, the riverbanks swarming with animals and people, their colourful robes shimmering in the brilliant sun".

Greece's hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games gave thousands of visitors the opportunity to visit the sacred site of ancient Olympia. And if some restless souls could hear to the footfalls of the athletes still racing around the ancient stadium, then they could very well perceive the dream of the romantic reviver of the Olympics, who may also seem just a bit 'ancient' in the eyes of modern day viewers watching the Olympics in the comfort of their homes.


A great universal event, such as the Olympic Games, could not have been created in just one era. The first Olympic Games were born of myths but also sprang from tangible realities and hard work of years. According to legend, the first to compete at ancient Olympia, Greece were the Gods of Mt.Olympus.


'Zeus' fought with 'Cronus' for the throne of the Gods and commemorated his win by creating the Games during which 'Apollo' beat 'Hermes' in stadium running, and 'Ares' in Boxing. Another legend has it that the first of Iliads 'Aethios' founded the first games in the area, lending his name to the World Athletes.

According to another myth, the demi-god 'Hercules' founded the Games. And there are so many other myths.


According to the earliest written records, the ancient Olympic Games date back to 776 BC. The ancient plains of Olympia, famous as the location of magnificent temples dedicated to the god Zeus and the goddess Hera , served as the Games' permanent site. For nearly 12 centuries, the Games were staged every four years, until the Roman Emperor Theodosius prohibited their continuation, believing them to be a "pagan" ritual attracting excessive public attention on athletic and spiritual affairs.

The fact that the ancient Games were dedicated to the Greek gods made he competition a strongly religious event, combining spiritual aspects of various theological rituals with the trials of sport.

Programme of Events

As the Games developed, so did a framework of procedures that remained largely unchanged throughout the duration of the
ancient Games: -

Day one The oath, the animal sacrifices.

Second day , Sprint, Wrestling, Boxing, Pangratio.

Day three Chariot races, the Long Jump, Discus Throw, Javelin Throw, Sprints.

Day four Hecatomb, Sprints, Diavlos, Long distance race, Wrestling, Boxing, Pangratio, Footrace in armour.

Fifth day winners enter the temple of Zeus. Award ceremony.

Ancient Contests

Athletics Take Shape . The athletic contests in ancient Greece were part of the religious rituals. Their aim was two-fold: to honour the heroes and gods and to educate young men and prepare them for battle. The contests were modeled on survival and defence techniques.

Foot racing . Running, was a vital need and that is why it was the first and only contest in the first thirteen Olympiads. The distance run by the athletes was 600 feet long or one stadium (192.27 meters).  This unit of measurement, the stadium, also lent its name to the place in which the games were held. The next two games to appear in the early Olympiads were the Diavlos (two stadiums in length) and Dolichos (twenty stadiums) included during 524 BC and 520 BC respectively.

Much later, we have the introduction of the hoplite footrace in which the athletes competed in full army regalia (helmet, shield and shin guards) running two to four stadiums, thus transferring military exercises to athletics, which in fact was also considered to be true of other events as well.

Pentathlon . Was introduced during the 18 th Olympiad (708 BC) and it included five separate contests: foot racing, javelin and discus throwing, jumping and wrestling. This combination of contests aimed at the balanced development of physical skills, one of the highest ideals in athletics, the javelin and discus throwing and wrestling are very similar to what they are today. Jumping, however, is different now a days from what it was in antiquity. They jumped carrying weights to give the athletes momentum while their attempts were accompanied by flute playing.

Boxing .  The forerunner of modern-day boxing, the hands were wrapped in straps of leather and later in Roman Times, the athletes wore special boxing gloves reinforced with iron and lead. Boxing was introduced during 688 BC.

Wrestling . Included during 632 BC.

Pankratio .  Was a dangerous sport, a cross between Wrestling and Boxing and was the harshest of all the events. All holds were allowed, while only the use of teeth and nails was forbidden. The event was introduced during 648 BC.

Horse Racing and Chariot Racing .  Introduced after the 25 th Olympiad. These were particularly popular contests with a long tradition, and were considered aristocratic since the upkeep of horses was a costly affair. Championships for heralds and trumpeters were added during the 96 th Olympiad and they demonstrated the significance the ancients placed on music.


There were eventually a total of 23 different events included in the programme throughout the entire history of the ancient games. However, all of them were never held at one time.

Participation more important than Victory .  The concept of amateurism was very much alive in classical Greece, but in a different guise than it is today. Champions were not allowed to profit at the ancient Games, but there was an expectation that they would benefit upon a "heroic" return to their own city-states. At the ancient Olympic Games, the ultimate prize was the awarding of an olive wreath (kotinos ). 'Kotinos' is a universal symbol, indicating freedom, hope and simplicity. Indeed, such was the level of acclaim given to victors that three-time winners often had statues of themselves erected. Winners also received various gifts and honours, including exemption from taxation. With the displacement of the amateur ideal by professional athletes competing for monetary rewards, the Games fell into decline.

Women's Games .  Married women were not allowed to participate in or to watch the ancient Olympic Games. However, maidens could indeed attend the competition, and the Priestess of Demeter , goddess of fertility, was given the honoured seating next to the Stadium altar. Although the ancient Olympic Games did not allow for female participation, the Herea Games, staged every four years to honour Hera, wife of Zeus , gave female athletes the chance to compete.

The Ancient Olympic Games Discontinued . The four year cycle of the ancient Olympic Games continued unbroken (with over 290 Games being held) well into the period of Roman conquest, but the Games finally met their demise with the Christian Emperor Theodosius, who decreed in 393 AD that all such 'pagan cults' be banned. The games came to an end after a life span of 1170 years.

Prominent Olympians . Few prominent Olympians of the ancient Olympics were:-

Koroibos of Elis , the winner of stadion during 776 BC.

Leonidas of Rodes finished first in three of the running events in four successive games from 164 -152 BC.

Hermogenes of Xanthos, won 8 crowns in three successive games 81-89 AD.

Polites won three running events during one day in AD 69 and was called 'traistes or tripler'.

Milon of Kroton won six successive men's titles in wrestling between 540-516 BC.

Revival . Although the person credited with re-introducing the Olympic Games to the modern world is the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin , classical Greek archaeology may have provided a stimulus of its own. The ancient site of Olympia, buried under river-silt until its rediscovery in 1766, was no significant site for explorations and excavations until the 1870's. Under the leadership of the German archaeologist, Ernst Curtius , the site revealed many treasures, including a splendid sculpture of Hermes retrieved from the temple of Hera. Some historians contend that Curtius , inspired by his marvelous findings at Olympia, made the initial suggestion to revive the ancient Olympic games - an idea brought to fruition by Coubertin .

Whatever the source of his inspiration, it was Baron Pierre de Coubertin who was ultimately responsible for reviving the Games. His enthusiasm for the Games derived from its similarities to the French education system in combining games with moral and social education . It was Coubertin who established the modern Olympic Games as a marriage of sportsmanship and Hellenic classicism. Following two international meetings of the "Union des Societes Francaises de Sports Athletiques" (USFSA) at Sorbonne in 1892 and 1894,where Coubertin first tabled, and later refined and enlarged upon his proposals, the movement of Olympic revival was born.

The International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Movement . On 23 June 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC), an international non-governmental, non-profit organisation charged with the responsibility of supervising and organizing the Olympic Games. Coubertin then founded the Olympic Movement, which currently consists of the IOC, the International Sports Federations, the National Olympic Committees, the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, the National Sports Associations and other clubs, and, of course, the athletes themselves. 


On 6 April 1896, an estimated crowd of 60,000 gathered to watch the Games-quite possible one of the largest peaceful public gatherings of its time. The first modern Olympic Games featured over 40 events in ten sports. Some records suggest that while 14 nations were represented, over two thirds of the competing athletes were Greek. Most of the sporting events were made up of individual competitions, the only team event being gymnastics. Although the running, wrestling, long jump and discus throwing events survived from the ancient Games, many of the other competitions, such as fencing, cycling and shooting were new to the modern Games.

Ever since 1896, the Games have become a regular feature, putting together the most handsome, the smartest, the best in the world. They invite the athletes, the officials, the organisers, the engineers, the doctors, the media men and people from all walks of life. It is a call to humanity, irrespective of cast, creed and culture. It is a call for educating minds, it is a call for unification, for wherein, the religions, casts and cultures divide, sports unite.

For wherein, Athens Olympics is numbered as 28 th ,in fact it is 25 th in the series, for 6 th , 12th and 13 th could not be organized because of the world wars.


The Olympic Flag . It was Pierre de Coubertin who conceived the idea of the Olympic flag (five coloured interlocking rings on a white background). Almost a century after the flag's creation, the six colours, those of the rings (blue, yellow, black, green, red) and that of the background, still maintain their symbolism as they are found on all the flags of the world. The Olympic symbol, the five interlocking rings, represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of the athletes of the world at the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games Motto . The Motto of the Olympic Games is Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

The Olympic Anthem . The Olympic hymn was written by the Greek national poet, Costis Palamas, with music composed by Spiros Samaras and was first sung at the 1896 Games. It was during the 1958 Olympic Games in Tokyo that the IOC adopted this hymn as the official Olympic anthem.

The Olympic Creed . The 1896 Games was also the birthplace of the Olympic creed. As stated by Pierre de Coubertin, the creed is as follows: " 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 Oath .  At the Opening Ceremony of each Games one athlete from the host country gives the Olympic oath on behalf of all the competing athletes. This particular gesture of sportsmanship was introduced at the 1920 Games in Belgium. The words of the oath are:

"In the name of all the competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams".

A coach or team official takes a similar oath at each Opening Ceremony.

The Olympic Flame and Torch . The Olympic flame is one of the most visible symbols of the modern Games. Its tradition has survived from the Games of ancient Greece, where as sacred flame, ignited by the sun, burned continually on the altar of the goddess Hera. The modern Olympic flame was first lit in 1928 at the Amsterdam Olympic Games , where it burned throughout the Games. The flame embodies the ideals of purity, the endeavour for perfection, the struggle for victory, friendship and peace - all themes of the Olympic Games.  The tradition of the Olympic torch began at the Berlin Games in 1936. As in ancient times, the torch is lit by the sun in ancient Olympia and then passed from runner to runner in a relay to the host city, where it is used to light the Olympic Stadium's flame during the Games Opening Ceremony. The flame then burns until it is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony. In August 2004 the Olympic torch was lit for the first time since the revival of the modern Olympic Games, in the country of their birth.

Olympic Truce . The Olympic Truce, or " Ekecheiria ", as it is called in Greek, has its origins in the ancient Olympic Games, where warring states would lay down their arms seven days prior to, during and seven days after the Games for the sake of peaceful competition. Greece, in cooperation with the IOC, had set up an Olympic Truce Foundation to promote this practice for the modern Games. Leading figures - including former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, ATHENS 2004. President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Minister of Foreign Affairs George Papandreou, and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan joined together on 10 May 2001 to address the UN General Assembly on this noble initiative. The Torch Relay is closely connected to this effort. For the 2004 Olympic Games, the torch, a symbol of global unity, brotherhood and peace, traveled to all five continents, and for the first time in history visited the continents of Africa and Latin America.


  • 1896 Olympic Games at Athens
  • 1900 Olympic Games at Paris
  • 1904 Olympic Games at St. Louis
  • 1908 Olympic Games at London
  • 1912 Olympic Games at Stockholm
  • 1916 Olympic Games - Not held
  • 1920 Olympic Games at Antwerp
  • 1924 Olympic Games at Paris
  • 1928 Olympic Games at Amsterdam
  • 1932 Olympic Games at Los Angeles
  • 1936 Olympic Games at Berlin
  • 1940 Olympic Games - Not held
  • 1944 Olympic Games - Not held
  • 1948 Olympic Games at London
  • 1952 Olympic Games at Helsinki
  • 1956 Olympic Games at Melbourne
  • 1960 Olympic Games at Rome
  • 1964 Olympic Games at Tokyo
  • 1968 Olympic Games at Mexico
  • 1972 Olympic Games at Munich
  • 1976 Olympic Games at Montreal
  • 1980 Olympic Games at Moscow
  • 1984 Olympic Games at Los Angeles
  • 1988 Olympic Games at Seoul
  • 1992 Olympic Games at Barcelona
  • 1996 Olympic Games at Atlanta
  • 2000 Olympic Games at Sydney
  • 2004 Olympic Games at Athens
  • 2008 Olympic Games at China
  • 2012 Olympic Games at London
  • 2016 Olympic Games at Rio


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