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Olympic Games have an ennobling history behind its origination. The first
Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece and celebrated till
A.D. 393. However scholars differ in their opinions by claiming that Olympics
started sometime between beginning of 884 BC and end of 704 BC
A handful of legends and myths are popular thereby throwing
more light on the origin and development of Olympic Games. According to the
most popular legend, Heracles, the son of Zeus, was the creator of the Olympic
Games. He has constructed the Olympic stadium and other buildings in its periphery
as an honor of his father. It is said that he took a stroll of four hundred
strides and named this distance a "stadion”. In fact it is a Roman
word for "stadium ". Later it referred to a distance calculation unit.
This is also why a modern stadium track is measured as 400 meters in circumference;
it is the distance that a runner travels in one lap (1 stadium = 400 m).
Another interesting story is quite popular amongst people.
At this Olympic Games, it is said that a naked runner named Coroebus (a cook
from Elis), won the sole event at the Olympic Games and became the very first
champion in the annals of Olympic history.
There is another mythical story that is associated with the
beginning of first Olympic Games with the ancient Greek concept of ekecheiria
or Olympic Truce.
In ancient times the Olympic Games had religious importance.
Contests along with sacrifices and ceremonies honoring both Zeus and Pelops,
the divine hero and mythical king of Olympia became part and parcel of Olympics.
So much so, after the starting of first Olympic Games there
was no turning back. Soon the Olympic Games evolved as most important event
throughout ancient Greece that reached its zenith during 6th and 5th centuries
In short span of time, the number of events increased to 20.
Also joy of Olympics’ celebrations continued for several days.
Winners of the events were greatly admired and were immortalized
in poems and statues.
Olympic Games were held in every four years, and Olympiad is the time period between two celebrations. The Greeks used Olympiads as one of their methods to count years. The most famous Olympic athlete lived in these times: the sixth century BC wrestler Milo of Croton is the only athlete in history to win a victory in six Olympics. The coming of Romans to power in Greece brought about decline in the importance of Olympic Games. After Emperor Theodosius I proclaimed Christianity the religion of the Empire and banned pagan rites, the Olympic Games were outlawed as a pagan festival in 393 AD. In the ancient times only young men could participate. Interestingly competitors were usually nude. Inappropriate climatic condition has been cited as the reason. In addition it gratifies the festival as a celebration of the achievements of the human body. Upon winning the games, the victor would have not the prestige of being in first place but would also be presented with a crown of olive leaves. The olive branch becomes a sign of hope and peace. Although bearing a torch was integrated to all the ceremonies in Greece, it was not incorporated in the ancient Olympic Games. Also symbol formed by interconnecting rings, as we find in present day Olympics, was absent. In the early seventeenth century, an "Olympic Games" sports festival ran for several years at Chipping Campden in the English Cotswolds. Presently the local Cotswold Games have traced their origin to this festival. In the year 1850, an "Olympian Class" had started at Much Wenlock in Shropshire, England. This was renamed as "Wenlock Olympian Games" in the year 1859 and continued till day as the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games. A national Olympic Games was held by their founder, Dr William Penny Brookes, at Crystal Palace in London, in 1866. Every thing demands a revival and betterment. The Olympic Games too has undergone revival process. A rich Greek philanthropist namely Evangelos Zappas had undertaken the onus of sponsoring the revival of the first modern international Olympic Games. The first was organized in the city square of Athens in the year 1859. Later Zappas provided the necessary for restoring the ancient Panathenian stadium that was initially used for Olympic Games twice, once in the year 1870 and then again in 1875.
The interest in reviving the Olympics as an international event was boosted up further when the German archaeologists had discovered the remnants of ancient Olympia in the mid-nineteenth century. A crucial factor has contributed to the revival process. Almost 1500 years later, a young Frenchmen called Pierre de Coubertin began their revival. Also known as le Rénovateur, Coubertin was born in a French aristocrat family He was only 7 years old when France was overrun by the Germans defeated France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Some believed that it was Coubertin who had attributed the defeat of France not to their military skills but lack of vigor of the French soldiers. After thorough examination of the education systems of the German, British, and American children, Coubertin decided that it was exercise, especially the sports, that made a person well built and strong. He urgently felt the need of improving the aspect of physical education amongst the French people. Through sports he actually wanted to bring nations closer, thus bringing youths to compete in sports rather than involve in fighting. In the year 1890 he attended a festival of the Wenlock Olympian Society, and decided that the recovery of the Olympic Games would achieve both of his goals. Following the ideas of both Dr Brookes and the foundations of Evangelis Zappas Coubertin thought of forming the International Olympic Committee. In a congress he forwarded his ideas to the international arena at the Sorbonne University, in Paris that took place from June 16 to June 23, 1894. To organize Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed. The Greek man Demetrius Vikelas became its first president. A decision was taken that the first IOC Olympic Games would take place in the year 1896 in Athens. The Panathenian stadium that was used for Olympic Games both in 1870, and 1875 was renovated and reused for the Olympic Games that were held in Athens in the year 1896. At the first IOC Olympic Games, less than two hundred and fifty number of athletes participated .Although it was quite small in comparison with the modern standard, Olympic Games became the largest international sports event of the then period. The Greek officials and public were also very enthusiastic, and they even proposed to have the monopoly of organizing the Olympics. The IOC decided in different manner. In fact the second Olympic Games took place in Paris, France. Paris became the first Olympic Games where women got the permission to participate.