The Olympics is a sporting event engraved into the lives of all people, read about how it started, and where we are today.

THE MODERN OLYMPIC ENCYCLOPEDIA

Ancient Olympic Games

As is common knowledge, the early Olympic Games took place in ancient Greece. It consisted of numerous competitions that took place between various ancient Greek city-states’ and kingdoms’ representatives and featured several chariot racing, athletic and combat events.

The games took place so sincerely that a war or struggle between any of the participating kingdoms or city-states used to be postponed till the end of the games. There are numerous estimates about the date of origination of the Olympics. However, experts around the world have accepted the year to be 776 B.C, based on the imprints of the winners’ footrace, which was held once every four years in Olympia.

Legends and Myths

The history of the ancient Olympic Games is full of legends and mystique. A popular myth amongst the Greek folk says that Zeus and his son Heracles were the forebears, with Heracles being the person who named the games “Olympic” and decided that they will be held once in 4 years. Another myth suggests that Heracles built the Olympic stadium in Olympia in order to honor his father Zeus, and after it was completed, he walked a distance of 200 steps in a straight line. He named this distance “one stadion”, which later became a unit of measuring distance. One more legend persists that the games were based upon “Olympic truce”, a well-known Greek concept.

Ancient Olympic Events

The ancient Olympic Games comprised of various running events, equestrian events, boxing events, wrestling events and a pentathlon. The pentathlon was a long event consisting of javelin and discuss throws, wrestling, a footrace and a jumping event. Representatives of city-states and kingdoms competed in the true spirit of sport and fought hard to bring glory to their respective regions. It is widely believed that Coroebus, who was a cook from the city-state of Elis, became the first Olympic champion.

Religious Importance

The ancient Olympics were considered to be games of high religious significance. Apart from the sporting events, numerous sacrifices to Pelops and Zeus took place during the games. Widely known for his famous chariot race with King Oenomaus, Pelops was the mythical king of Olympia. Hence, the winners of the numerous athletic and equestrian events were highly praised and their deeds were often penned down in poems which compared them to Pelops.

As mentioned before, the games were held in Olympia every four years. The period between one Olympic Games and the next was known as an Olympiad, which later became a time measuring unit for the Greeks. The games were an integral part of a larger cycle called the Panhellenic games, which, apart from the Olympics, comprised of the Isthmian Games, the Pythian Games and the Nemean Games.

The Termination of the Ancient Olympic Games

After attaining their peak in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C, the gradual decline of the Olympic Games began. Experts speculate that the reason behind this was the increasing influence of the Romans in Greece. There is no known official date when the games died, but the most widely accepted date is 393 AD, when Theodosius I declared the abolishment of all pagan practices and religions. After the death of the Olympic Games, it took almost 2 millennia to resurrect them again. They were finally restored in the year 1896, when Pierre de Coubertin, who is considered to be the father of the Modern Olympic Games, revived them.

 

Olympic Symbol – The Five Iconic Rings

The symbol of the Olympic Games is one of the most well recognized symbols in the world. It comprises of five intersecting rings of different and vivid colors; blue, black, red, yellow and green. Designed by none other than Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, the five rings represent the five different regions in the world which took to “Olympism” when the games were reinstated in the year 1896.

Robert Barney, the famous American historian, published an article in the magazine “Olympic Revue”, which is the official magazine of the IOC, in the year 1992. In the article, Barney explained that the idea of five intersecting rings must have come to the Baron’s mind when he was the president of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques, the body responsible for representing France at the IOC. The body was also founded because of the union of 2 different sports bodies and its logo, therefore, consisted of two intersecting rings. The idea behind the rings was given by well known Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, for whom a ring symbolized the human being and continuity.

Pierre De Coubertin said that the colors of the rings and the white background symbolize those colors which were present on the flags of all countries in the world at that time. The 1914 Olympic Congress was the event in which this symbol and the subsequent flag were to be adopted. However, it was cancelled because of World War I, which broke out in the summer of 1914. The symbol and the flag were later adopted and debuted at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.

During the build-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics, the Olympic Symbol was seen on a large scale for the first time. It became increasingly popular amongst the masses. The head of the Organizing Committee, Carl Diem, wished to organize a torchbearers’ ceremony in the Delphi stadium, where the historic Pythian Games were held. It was for this that he ordered a milestone to be built, with the Olympic symbol engraved on its sides. However, even after the ceremony was concluded, this milestone remained as it is and was spotted by two English authors years later. The authors later wrote that the origination of the Olympic Symbol took place in ancient Greece.

The contemporary IOC believes that the Olympic Rings reinforce the idea that the Olympic Movement welcomes all the countries to join and is truly international.

 

Who is Jesse Owens?

James Cleveland Owens, better known as Jesse Owens, was one of the most famous American track and field athletes of all time. He is best known for his exploits at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, where he won 4 gold medals, one each in 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 4X100 meter relay and long jump. In doing so, he also became the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal in the history of the Modern Olympics.

In the year 1936, Jesse Owens came to Berlin to represent the United States in the Olympics. The chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, was manipulating the games in order to portray a resurgent Nazi Germany to the world. He had a lot of faith in the German athletes and thought that they would help their country top the medal tally. Therefore, he went on to criticize ethnic Africans for the racial inferiority and maintained that the Aryans were the racially superior to all other races. However, Hitler was in for a shocker when Jesse Owens went on to win 4 gold medals on the trot, defeating Ralph Metcalfe in the 100 meter dash. He also won the long jump the very next day and humbly credited Luz Long for some useful and friendly advice. Incidentally, Owens beat Luz Long in the same event when it came between the two of them. He later went on to win the 200 meter dash and the 4X100 meter relay, a performance which was unequalled until Carl Lewis won the same events in 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Owens also became the first African-American athlete to receive a sponsorship, when Adi Dassler, the founder of prominent footwear company, Adidas, visited him in the Olympic Village before the games and persuaded him to wear Adidas shoes in the games. He became an instant favorite with the fans and was cheered whole heartedly by all the spectators who had come to witness the games. Even while walking on the streets, numerous German people came to seek his autograph. He was also one of the rare African-American athletes who enjoyed the same rights which the whites did.

In the year 1955, Jesse Owns was honored by President Dwight Eisenhower, who made him the Ambassador of Sports.

 

Salt Lake City, 2002

The 2002 Winter Olympics was a winter sport event that took place in Salt Lake City, United States. Officially recognized as “XIX Olympic Winter Games”, the event witnessed approximately 2500 athletes from 77 countries participating in 78 events.

This was the sixth time when the Olympic Games were being held in the United States. Along with the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee also managed to organize the 2002 Winter Paralympics. The mega event took place between the 8th and the 24th of February, 2002. It was also noted to be the largest Winter Olympics till that date and included ten previously unrecognized events. The games were regarded a huge success by the International Olympic Committee because it managed to raise more money with the help of fewer sponsors. The broadcasting and viewership of these games were also very notable, generating a viewership base of more than 2 billion people. At the conclusion of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee was left with a surplus of almost $40 million. This money was used to found the Utah Athletic Foundation, which undertook the responsibility of maintaining all the remaining Olympic venues in the city.

Salt Lake City got the opportunity to host the 2002 Winter Olympics when it surpassed Sion, Quebec and Östersund in the bidding process. The decision came through in the 104th session of the International Olympic Committee, which took place in Budapest.

Notable Highlights:

Grammy Award winner, LeAnn Rimes sang the official song of the 2002 Winter Olympics, “Light the Fire Within”, at the opening ceremony. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, again a Grammy Award winner, sang the “Star-Spangled Banner”, the United States’ national anthem. The opening ceremony also comprised of the flag that flew at New York’s Ground Zero and New York Police Department officer, Daniel Rodriguez singing the song, “God Bless America”.

The 2002 Winter Olympics is also known to be the first time when the games were opened by the President of the United States. They were also the first Olympics to be held after the retirement of IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge. Ole Einar Bjørndalen dominated the men’s events, winning a total of 4 gold medals. He was followed by Samppa Lajunen, who managed to win 3 gold medals. The ice hockey team of Canada defeated the United States’ team 5-2, ending an ice hockey gold medal drought of 50 years.

 

Establishment of the Winter Olympics

As is common knowledge, the Olympic Games are divided into 2 parts; the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. In the early years, the Summer and Winter games used to be held in one and the same year. However, in order to increase the level of smoothness in the preparation for the games, the Winter Olympics is now held 2 years after each of the Summer Olympics.

The first known winter-sports event to be held in the world was the Nordic Games, which were held in Sweden in the year 1901. Organized by General Viktor Gustaf Balck, the games were held once more in the years 1903 and 1905 and continued to take place till the year 1926, being held after a gap of four years each time. General Balck also happened to be a member of the International Olympic Committee and a close confidante of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Balck tried a lot to include winter games in the Olympic program but was unsuccessful till the year 1908. The Summer Olympics of 1908 comprised of 4 figure skating events Madge Syers and Ulrich Salchow managed to bag the individual titles.

The 1920 Summer Olympics held in the city of Antwerp, Belgium, witnessed a separate week dedicated for winter sports like Ice Hockey and figure skating. It was also decided that France, which was hosting the next Olympics in 1924, would also host a separate 11-day long event for winter sports. The destination for this event would be Chamonix. These games were regarded as a success as 16 nations were represented in it. Finland and Norway dominated these games, winning a total of 28 medals put together. Therefore, they were officially named as the “First Winter Olympic Games”. The International Olympic Committee later went on to appoint St. Moritz in Switzerland as the destination of the next Winter Olympics, which were to be held in the year 1928.