Haaaaa… The Olympic games! …. Great, aren’t they?
Do you know where the story begins?
Well, once upon a time, a long, long time ago in Ancient Greece at the foot of the highest mountain in Greece, Mount Olympus, the very first Olympic games were held in 776 years BCE (before the common era).
Greece was one of the most advanced countries in the world. The ancient Greeks were very clever and hardworking. And they invented some fantastic, useful and brilliant things like maths, politics, philosophy, central heating, shower and crane for lifting heavy things.
And you know where the words “olympic” come from, don’t you? – From Mount Olympus.
The ancient Greeks believed that the twelve Olympic gods lived on top of the mountain.
So every year they would gather at the foot of the Mount Olympus to ask for special favours and to say Thank You Very Much and give presents to the gods.
After that they put on contest, which came to be known as the Olympic Games.
Well, it’s not like today. You couldn’t watch them on TV, eating crisps on the sofa.
You had to be there.
The ancient Greeks competed in the nude! Oh, yes, they did! But why?
Well, the weather is pretty hot in Greece and also because the Olympic Games celebrated the achievements of the human body. The athletes used the olive oil to make their skin smooth and make their bodies look muscly.
And who could compete in these games?
No women! They were busy looking after the children, of course.
You had to be a free man and not a slave.
And you had to be able to speak Greek.
So, what sports did they play?
For the first 13 games the ancient Greeks featured just running.
Talking about running. Have you heard about “marathon”? …. the very toughest of all running races.
Marathon is a town in Greece about 26 miles from Athens.
490 BC there was a huge a fierce battle at Marathon. And the message boy was given the horrible job of running the whole way back to Athens to tell everyone that Greeks had won the battle. He made it all the way to Athens and managed to gasp “The Greeks have won” before he dropped dead on the ground. That’s why the race of 26 miles is still called “the marathon” today.
But over time new exciting contest like boxing, chariot races, mule racing and even a foot race where the competitors wore a whole suit of armor. The combined running, jumping, wrestling and throwing discs and javelins known as the pentathlon and pankration inspired world class competition.
In addition to sporting events contests were held in music, singing and poetry.
Back then they decided to hold these games once every four years. This four-year period was known by Greeks as an Olympiad. They used it in their diaries and calendars to measure time.
The Olympic Games were stopped when the Romans conquered Greece. In 393 AD the Roman emperor Theodosius banned the worship of gods and forced everyone to convert Christianity. He banned the Olympic Games because they were not Christian.
1500 (fifteen hundred) years later, in 1896, Baron Pier de Coubertin organized the first modern Olympic Games.
He was a rich French nobleman who was very interested in education. When he was a young man he went to England to visit a boy school called Rugby.
“It’s fantastic! Sport makes the boy strong. It gives them the discipline and makes them healthy and happy! It’s wonderful!”
He wanted to go back to the sport ideas of the ancient Olympic contest and put on a competition between the countries. But first he had to persuade everyone to agree to his idea. When he told people about his plan they said: “It’s crazy! It will never work!”
But he didn’t give up and in 1896 the first modern Olympic games were held back in Greece, the country that invented the whole idea.
218 people from 13 countries took part in them. The games slowly grew under the guidance of Coubertin who founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894.
In the 1900 Games women were allowed to take part for the first time.
Have you got any idea why the Olympic symbol look like this?
The five rings represent the five continents and the colours are in all the national flags that compete.
Today the summer and winter Olympics bring together the international world class athletes together by the thousands, united fans by the billions for the world’s foremost competitions.
The Olympic motto is Citius! Altius! Fortius! which is Latin for Faster! Higher! Stronger!
Three cheers for the Olympics!