The Olympic Games begun at Olympia in Greece in 776 BC. The Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad, the four-year period between games. The games were staged in the wooded valley of Olympia in Elis. Here the Greeks erected statues and built temples in a grove dedicated to Zeus, supreme among the gods. The greatest shrine was an ivory and gold statue of Zeus. Created by the sculptor Phidias, it was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Scholars have speculated that the games in 776 BC were not the first games, but rather the first games held after they were organized into festivals held every four years as a result of a peace agreement between the city-states of Elis and Pisa. The Eleans traced the founding of the Olympic games to their King Iphitos, who was told by the Delphi Oracle to plant the olive tree from which the victors' wreaths were made.
According to Hippias of Elis, who compiled a list of Olympic victors c.400 BC, at first the only Olympic event was a 200-yard dash, called a stadium. This was the only event until 724 BC, when a two-stadia race was added. Two years later the 24-stadia event began, and in 708 the pentathlon was added and wrestling became part of the games. This pentathlon, a five-event match consisted of running, wrestling, leaping, throwing the discus, and hurling the javelin. In time boxing, a chariot race, and other events were included.
According to the tradition of Hippias of Elis ca. 400 BC, the events of the Olympic Games were added to the program in the following order.
4-horse chariot race
race in armor
2-horse chariot race
There are several Greek myths about how the games were started. The most common myth was the story of the hero Pelops, after whom the Peloponnese is named ("Pelops’ isle"). The story of Pelops was displayed prominently on the east pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus. Pelops was a prince from Lydia in Asia Minor who sought the hand of Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oinomaos of Pisa. Oinomaos challenged his daughter's suitors to a chariot race under the guarantee that any young man who won the chariot race could have Hippodamia as a wife. Any young man who lost the race would be beheaded, and the heads would be used as decoration for the palace of Oinomaos. With the help of his charioteer Myrtilos, Pelops devised a plan to beat Oinomaos in the chariot race. Pelops and Myrtilos secretly replaced the bronze linchpins of the King's chariot with linchpins made of wax. When Oinomaos was about to pass Pelops in the chariot race, the wax melted and Oinomaos was thrown to his death. Pelops married Hippodamia and instituted the Olympic games to celebrate his victory. A different version of the myth refers to the Olympic games as funeral games in the memory of Oinomaos.
Another myth about the origin of the Olympic Games comes from the Tenth Olympian Ode of the poet Pindar. He tells the story of how Herakles, on his fifth labor, had to clean the stables of King Augeas of Elis. Herakles approached Augeas and promised to clean the stables for the price of one-tenth of the king's cattle. Augeas agreed, and Herakles rerouted the Kladeos and Alpheos rivers to flow through the stables. Augeas did not fulfill his promise, however, and after Herakles had finished his labors he returned to Elis and waged war on Augeas. Herakles sacked the city of Elis and instituted the Olympic Games in honor of his father, Zeus. It is said that Herakles taught men how to wrestle and measured out the stadium, or the length of the footrace.
The ancient Greeks were highly competitive and believed strongly in the concept of "agon", or "competition" or "contest". The ultimate Greek goal was to be the best. All aspects of life, especially athletics, were centered around this concept. It was therefore considered one of the greatest honors to win a victory at Olympia. The fact that the only prize given at Olympia was an olive wreath illustrates this point. The athletes competed for honor, not for material goods.
Athletics were of prime importance to the Greeks. The education of boys concentrated on athletics and music as well as academic subjects such as philosophy. Education took place in the gymnasion and the palaistra as well as the academy.
In ancient Greece, games were closely connected to the worship of the gods and heroes. Games were held as part of religious ceremonies in honor of deceased heroes, a concept displayed in the funeral games for Patroklos in Book 23 of Homer's epic poem, The Iliad. Games were also held in the context of many ancient fertility festivals. The games at Olympia were connected with both the funeral games of Oinomaos, established by Pelops, and a fertility cult involving any number of gods and goddesses who were worshipped at the site. The Olympic games began to be usurped by the prominent cult of Zeus, and eventually lost much of their religious character.
The Greek calendar was based on the conception of the four-year Olympiad. When Greek historians referred to dates, they most often referred to a year (i.e., first, second, third, fourth) within the Olympiad that the event occurred. The winner of the stadium race in a given year had the Olympiad named in honor of him. The first Olympiad is therefore known as that of Koroibos of Elis, the winner of the stadium race in 776 BC.
The sacred truce was instituted during the month of the Olympiad. Messengers known as "spondorophoroi" carried the word of the truce and announced the date of the games all over the Greek world. The truce called for a cessation of all hostilities for a period of one month (later three months) to allow for the safe travel of athletes to and from Olympia. Armies and armed individuals were barred from entering the sanctuary. In addition, no death penalties could be carried out during the period of the truce.
From the beginning, the games at Olympia served as a bond between Greeks and strengthened the Greek sense of national unity. During the Hellenistic period, Greeks who came to live in foreign surroundings such as Syria, Asia, and Egypt, strove to hold on to their culture. One of the ways to achieve this was to build athletic facilities and continue their athletic traditions. They organized competitions, and sent competitors from their towns to compete in the Panhellenic games.
In the 2nd century A.D., Roman citizenship was extended to everyone within the Roman empire. From then on, the participation of many competitors from outside of Greece in the Olympic games, gave them to a degree, international nature.
When the Greek government reinstated the games in 1896, this international character of the competitions was preserved by Baron de Coubertin. Now, 16 centuries later, the Olympic games attract competitors from countries all over the world.
The best amateur athletes in the world match skill and endurance in a series of contests called the Olympic Games. Almost every nation sends teams of selected athletes to take part. The purposes of the Olympic Games are to foster the ideal of a "sound mind in a sound body" and to promote friendship among nations.
The modern Olympic Games are named for athletic contests held in ancient Greece for almost 12 centuries. They were banned in AD 394 but were revived and made international in 1896. The Winter Games were added in 1924. World War I and World War II forced cancellation of the Olympics in 1916, 1940, and 1944, but they resumed in 1948 and are held every four years. After 1992 the Winter and Summer Games were no longer held within the same calendar year. Winter Games were scheduled for 1994, after only a two-year interval, and every four years thereafter. The Summer Games were scheduled for 1996, and every four years thereafter.
Summer sports include archery, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian events (horseback riding), fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, handball, judo, rowing, shooting, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, weight lifting, wrestling, and yachting. Winter events include skating, skiing, bobsledding, luge, tobogganing, ice hockey, and the biathlon (skiing-shooting).
The most exacting track and field event is the decathlon (from the Greek words deka, meaning "ten," and athlon, "contest"). Contestants compete in ten different running, jumping, and throwing events. The athlete scoring the greatest total number of points is the winner. The pentathlon, consisting of five such events, was discontinued after 1924. It was restored in the 1948 games as the modern pentathlon, based upon five military skills--fencing, riding, running, shooting, and swimming. The marathon race, covering 26 miles 385 yards, honors the ancient Greek runner Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory against the Persians.
Women take part in separate summer and winter events. Ten new women's summer competitions added in 1984 included the marathon and a 49-mile cycling event. The pentathlon, introduced in 1964, was replaced by the heptathlon, which consists of 100-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump, javelin throw, and 200- and 800-meter races. Additional events for women in the 1992 Winter and Summer Games included the biathlon, 10-kilometer walk, baseball, and judo.
One of the most dramatic feats of the Olympics was the triumph of the United States track and field team in 1896. Competing as unofficial representatives, the ten-man squad reached Athens barely in time to participate. They won nine out of 12 events.
In 1912 Jim Thorpe, a Native American, became the only man to win both the decathlon and pentathlon in one year. Officials canceled his record and took back his medals when they learned that he had played professional baseball. His medals were restored posthumously in 1982 (see Thorpe). In track and field, Jesse Owens, a black American, won four gold medals including a team medal in 1936 (see Owens). The first woman to win three individual gold medals was Fanny Blankers-Koen of The Netherlands. The first athletes to win the decathlon twice were Bob Mathias of the United States, in 1948 and 1952, and Daley Thompson of Great Britain, in 1980 and 1984. The first perfect 10.0 in Olympic gymnastics was scored by Nadia Comaneci of Romania, who received seven perfect scores and three gold medals in 1976.
In the 1964 Winter Games the Soviet speed skater Lidya Skoblikova was the first athlete to win four individual gold medals. Her feat was duplicated in the 1968 Summer Games by the Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska.
In 1972 the United States swimmer Mark Spitz won a record seven gold medals at a single Olympics. Swimmers John Naber of the United States and Kornelia Ender of East Germany each won four gold medals in the Summer Games in 1976.
The all-time individual medal winner was the American track athlete Ray C. Ewry, who won eight events in the 1900, 1904, and 1908 Games.
The 1972 Summer Games in Munich, West Germany, became a tragedy when Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Olympic team members from Israel. In a protest against a New Zealand rugby tour of South Africa about 30 African nations boycotted the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, Que. To protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan more than 60 countries, led by the United States, withdrew from the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. The Soviet Union, which first participated in 1952, withdrew from the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Scandals rocked the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. Ten athletes were disqualified after drug tests revealed steroid abuse. Charges of bias and incompetence in the officiating at the boxing events led to two-year suspensions for five Korean boxers and officials and several other judges and referees.
The 1992 games were unusual in that there were no more Soviet teams; the Soviet Union had split up in December 1991. The teams that participated from its former republics, sometimes still wearing the old Soviet uniforms, represented either now-independent Baltic states or the Commonwealth of Independent States, which had been formed from 11 of the former Soviet republics. Nevertheless, at the Winter Games in Albertville the Commonwealth's United Team came in second, after Germany, in number of medals won.
In the 1896 Olympic Games there were fewer than 500 athletes representing 13 nations. In 1988 the Seoul games drew entries from a record total of 160 countries. While the number of athletes who competed in Los Angeles did not surpass the high of 10,000 set at Munich in 1972, the 1984 games set records for the largest total attendance--almost 5.8 million people--and the most gold medals for one country--83 for the United States.
The centennial Olympic Games opened in Atlanta, Ga., with more than 10,000 athletes from a record 197 nations in attendance. The opening ceremonies, which began 16 days of athletic competition, featured a tribute to the ancient Greek games and slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Former world heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch, which completed a 84-day, 15,000-mile (24,000-kilometer) trek across the United States. The games featured 28 delegations that were participating for the first time, including athletes from the Czech Republic, FYROM, and Burundi, and Palestinians competing under the name Palestine. Tight security and Atlanta's hot and humid August weather were major concerns for Olympic organizers and those attending the games. In spite of security precautions, a homemade pipe bomb loaded with nails and screws exploded at a late-night concert in Centennial Olympic Park, killing one person and wounding more than 100 others. In addition, a Turkish television cameraman died of a heart attack while running to film the blast. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
The development and governance of the modern games are vested in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), founded in Paris in 1894. Its headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland. The original committee had 14 members; today there are about 70. These individuals are considered ambassadors from the committee to their national sports organizations and are dedicated to promoting amateur athletics. Normally there is only one member from each country. Presidents of the IOC are elected for an eight-year term and eligible for succeeding four-year terms.
Each country sending teams to the games must have its own National Olympic Committee. By 1988 there were 167 such committees. One responsibility of a national committee is arranging for its team's participation in the games, providing equipment, and getting the team to the game site and into specially arranged housing.
Official Olympic Anthem (Greek & English)
The Olympic Hymn (given below in Greek and English) was written by Costis Palamas, one of Greece's most famous poets, in 1893 and was set to music by Spiros Samaras in 1896. The Hymn was adopted as the Official Olympic Hymn by the International Olympic Committee in 1957.
Αρχαίο Πνεύμ' αθάνατον, αγνέ
Immortal spirit of antiquity,
Father of the true, beautiful and good,
Descend, appear, shed over us thy light
Upon this ground and under this sky
Which has first witnessed thy unperishable
Give life and animation to those noble games!
Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors
In the race and in strife!
Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!
Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple
To which all nations throng to adore thee,
Oh immortal spirit of antiquity.
The Olympic rings were designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. They comprise five intertwined rings in the colors blue, yellow, black, green, and red, set upon a white background. These intertwined rings represent the unity of the five continents. The rings were introduced at the Antwerp Games in 1920.
The rings are also featured on the Olympic flag which is hoisted at the start of each celebration of the Olympics. The flag is three meters long and two meters wide.
The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius," which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger."
The Olympic Creed states: "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 Flame or Olympic Fire is a symbol of the Olympic Games. It commemorates the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus. In Ancient Greece a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. The fire was reintroduced at the Olympics in 1928. As with the Ancient Olympics, once the flame has been lit, it is kept burning throughout the celebration of the Olympics, and is extinguished at end of the closing ceremony of the Games.
The Olympic Torch Relay, which culminates in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at theOpening Ceremony of each Games, was introduced in 1936 at the Berlin Games. It was created to symbolize the link between the ancient and modern Olympic Games.
The Torch is lighted in Olympia several months before the opening celebration of the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece, and brought to the host city by runners carrying the torch in relay. The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final torch bearer runs to the cauldron and, using the torch, starts the flame in the stadium.
The traditional part of the ceremony starts with a parade of nations, during which most participating athletes march into the stadium country by country. One athlete from each country carries the flag of his or her nation, leading the entourage of other athletes from that country. After all nations have entered, the organizing country's head of state formally opens the Olympics.
The Olympic Anthem is then played, and the Olympic flag is hoisted in the stadium. The runner before the last in the Olympic Flame Relay brings the torch into the stadium, passing the flame to the last carrier. The last torch bearer then lights the fire in the stadium's cauldron. This is followed by the release of doves, symbolising peace. Finally, the flag bearers of all countries circle a rostrum, where one athlete and one referee will give the Olympic Oath, stating that they will compete and judge according to the rules.
The athletes march around the stadium randomly, instead of nation by nation. The Olympic fire is then extinguished, and the Olympic flag is lowered, folded, and presented to the mayor of the host city of the next Olympic Games. The IOC president ends the ceremonies by declaring the Games closed.
Olympic medals are awarded to those individuals or teams placing first, second, and third in each event. The first place winner receives a gold-plated medal of silver, which is commonly referred to as the "gold medal." Second and third places receive medals of silver and bronze respectively. The silver used in the first and second place medals must be at least 92.5% pure. The "gold" medals must be gilded with at least six grams of pure gold. Medals also carry the name of the sport contested.
The front sides of the medals awarded at the Games of the Olympiads feature an image of a Hellenic goddess holding a laurel wreath with the Athens Coliseum in the background. Since 1972, local Olympic organizing committees have been allowed to create a design for the back sides of the medals.
The medals given at the Olympic Winter Games differ from the traditional medals given at the Summer Games. Each Organizing Committee designs its own medals that must be approved by the IOC.
Competitors who finish in the 1st through 8th places in an Olympic event receive an award diploma. The IOC awards commemorative pins to each athlete who participates in the Olympic Games.
Host cities of Olympic Games
Since their resumption in their modern form in 1896 in Athens, the Olympic Games took place in the following cities:
Cancelled (was due in Berlin)
Cancelled (was due in Tokyo)
Cancelled (was due in Helsinki)
1896 - Athens, Greece
The very first modern Olympic Games opened in the first week of April 1896. Since the Greek government had been unable to fund construction of a stadium, a wealthy Greek architect, Georgios Averoff, donated one million drachmas (over $100,000) to restore the Panathenaic Stadium, originally built in 330 BCE, with white marble for the Olympic Games.
Since the Games were not well publicized internationally, contestants were not nationally chosen but rather came individually and at their own expense. Some contestants were tourists who happened to be in the area during the Games. Athletes wore their athletic club uniform rather than a national team one.
Pole vaulting, sprints, shot put, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, target shooting, tennis, marathon and gymnastics were all events at the first Olympics. The swimming events were held in the Bay of Zea in the Aegean Sea. Gold medalist, Alfred Hoyos Guttmann described it: "I won ahead of the others with a big lead, but my greatest struggle was against the towering twelve-foot waves and the terribly cold water." (Guttmann, pg. 19) Approximately 300 athletes participated, representing thirteen countries.
* Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 8.
** Pierre de Coubertin as quoted in "Olympic Games," Britannica.com (Retrieved August 10, 2000 from the World Wide Web. http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/2/0,5716,115022+1+108519,00.html).
1900 - Paris, France
The 1900 Olympics, hosted by his own country, greatly disappointed Pierre de Coubertin. Coubertin and the IOC lost control when the French government took over the organizing and planning of the Games.
At the same time of the Olympic Games, Paris was also hosting the World Exhibition, an international fair of immense size. Because of the fair, the Olympics were poorly organized and poorly publicized.
Though more athletes attended the 1900 Games than in 1896, the conditions that greeted the contestants were abysmal. Scheduling conflicts were so great that many contestants never made it to their events. And even when they did make it, athletes found the area for the running events to be on grass (rather than on cinder track) and uneven; the discus and hammer throwers often found that there wasn't enough room to throw so their shots landed in the trees; the hurdles were made out of broken telephone poles; and the swimming events were conducted in the Seine River which had an extremely strong current.
Runners in the marathon suspected the French participants of cheating since the American runners reached the finish line without having the French athletes pass them, only to find the French runners already at the finish line seemingly refreshed. The confusion was so great that many participants had not realized that they had participated in the Olympics.
It was in the 1900 Olympic Games that women first participated as contestants.
At least 1,066 athletes participated, representing 19 countries.
1904 - St. Louis, United States
Unfortunately, St. Louis was hosting the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition (a large fair celebrating the 100th anniversary celebration of the Louisiana Purchase) at the same time as the Games. Again, having a city hosting a large fair plus the Games hurt the Olympic Games.
There was an uproar about the marathon. After Fred Lorz (United States) was seized with cramps during the marathon, he was picked up by a car, which after chugging along for a little while, broke down about five miles from the stadium. Feeling much better, Lorz walked into the stadium and, to his surprise, was hailed as the winner of the marathon. Lorz was almost crowned with the olive wreath before the truth was discovered.
A major problem for the 1904 Olympics was that it was held far from Europe. The fact that European participants would have to make a trans-Atlantic voyage plus a long train ride to Missouri to get there, not to mention that many Europeans envisioned St. Louis as small town on the wilderness frontier, made international participation very weak.
Though twelve countries were represented, only a little over 100 of the 681 athletes participating were from outside of the U.S. and most of those were from Canada. No athletes represented England, France, or Sweden.
During the 1904 Olympics, boxing was added as an Olympic sport.
1906 - Athens, Greece
In an attempt to regain enthusiasm for the Olympic Games, the IOC started Games that would be held every four years (between the regular Olympic Games) in Greece. In 1906, the Games were held in Athens. It was in here that the United States first had an official U.S. team plus wore official team uniforms.
The enthusiasm for these Games was great and the Games seemed to regain their popularity. Unfortunately, because of political unrest in Greece around 1910, the Games were cancelled for that year and never continued.
Though originally the 1906 Games were officially considered Olympic Games, the IOC now considers them the "Unofficial Olympic Games" and they are not included in Olympic records.
Twenty countries were represented by 887 athletes.
1908 - London, England
The 1908 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to be hosted by Rome, but the 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius caused the Games to be relocated to London.
These Games were much better organized than the previous regularly scheduled Olympic Games (they were even the first to have an opening ceremony), yet they were marred by politics and nationalism. Britain's recent refusal to give Ireland its independence caused Irish athletes to boycott the Games and caused contestants from the U.S to not dip the American flag to the British royalty during the opening ceremony (a tradition the U.S. continues to this day).
There was also controversy over the 400-meter final heat. As four runners came into the final stretch, W.C. Robbins (U.S.) was first, followed by J.C. Carpenter (U.S.), with British Wyndham Halswelle coming in third, and followed by a fourth runner from the U.S. As Carpenter and Halswelle (second and third runners) swung out to pass Robbins, someone shouted "Foul!" Though Carpenter (the U.S. runner who had been in second) finished first, with Robbins (U.S.) in second, and Halswelle (U.K.) in third, the British officials accused Carpenter of blocking and elbowing Halswelle and voided the whole race. The race was ordered to be rerun, but since the American runners refused to redo the race, Halswelle ran the race all by himself to win the gold.
It was in the 1908 Olympic Games that the exact distance of a marathon was established as 26 miles and 365 yards. Diving was added to the events for this year.Approximately 2,000 athletes participated, representing 22 countries
The 1912 Olympics at Stockholm were known as the "Swedish Masterpiece" because they were so well organized. Avery Brundage, IOC president from 1952 to 1972, described these Games: "The efficiency and almost mathematical precision with which the events were handled and the formal correctness of the arrangements made a great impression on me."*
The Games also benefited from the use of electric timing devices and a public address system which were first used at these Olympic Games.
Jim Thorpe and Hannes Kolehmainen made a big impression during the 1912 Olympics. Jim Thorpe, a Native American from the U.S., overwhelmingly won both the pentathlon and the decathlon - an amazing feat. King Gustav said to Thorpe, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." Thorpe answered, "Thanks, King." Finland's Hannes Kolehmainen, one of the "Flying Finns," won three gold medals from the 5,000-meter race (made world record time), the 10,000-meter race, and the 8,000-meter cross-country run.
Approximately 2,500 athletes attended these Games, representing 28 countries.
* Avery Brundage as quote in Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History
of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992)
1916 - Not Held
Though the 1916 Olympic Games were scheduled to be held in Berlin, World War I caused the
Olympic Games to be cancelled.
1920 - Antwerp, Belgium
The 1920 Olympic Games followed closely the ending of World War I. The world had seen much bloodshed. Should the aggressors of the war be invited to the Olympic Games? The Olympic ideals stated that all countries should be allowed entrance into the Games. Though Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Hungary were not forbidden to come, they were also not sent an invitation by the Organizing Committee. These countries were again not invited to the 1924 Olympic Games. In addition, the newly formed Soviet Union decided not to attend. (Athletes from the Soviet Union did not reappear at the Olympics until 1952.)
Since the war had ravaged throughout Europe, funding and materials for the Games was difficult to acquire. When the athletes arrived in Antwerp, construction had not been completed. Besides the stadium being unfinished, the athletes were housed in cramped quarters and slept on folding cots.
Though this year was the first that the official Olympic flag was flown, not many were there to see it. The number of spectators was so low - mainly because people could not afford tickets after the war - that Belgium lost over 600 million francs from hosting the Games.
On a more positive note, the 1920 Games was notable for the first appearance of Paavo Nurmi, one of the "Flying Finns." Nurmi was a runner who was ran like a mechanical man - body erect, always at an even pace. Nurmi even carried a stopwatch with him as he ran so that he could evenly pace himself. Nurmi returned to run in the 1924 and the 1928 Olympic Games winning, in total, seven gold medals.
More than 2,500 athletes competed, representing 29 countries.
1924 - Paris, France
As an honor to the retiring IOC founder and president Pierre de Coubertin (and at his request) the 1924 Olympic Games were held in Paris.
After much debate, winter sports were added to the Olympic Games this year. The winter events were held in January and February, creating a tradition that the winter events would be held a few months before the summer events (this tradition ended in 1992). Because of problems determining amateur status, tennis was taken off the list of events after the 1924 Olympics and were not readded until 1988.
Paavo Nurmi, called a "superman," was back running and won gold in the 1,500-meter (set an Olympic record), 5,000-meter (set an Olympic record), and the 10,000-meter cross-country run. Nurmi was also a member of the winning Finnish teams on the 3,000-meter relay and the 10,000-meter relay.
It was this Olympics that became fictionalized in the Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire in 1981.
In all, over 3,000 athletes participated in the events, representing 44
1928 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Olympic flame made its debut at these Olympic Games. Also making its debut were track-and-field events and gymnastics for women. There had been much resistance to these additions by Coubertin and others who feared that having women compete in these events would cause them to either become "masculine" or to ruin their health and make them unable to have children.*
About 3,000 athletes participated, representing 46 countries.
* Allen Guttmann. The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 45.
1932 - Los Angeles, U.S.
For a while it seemed as if no one was going to attend the 1932 Olympic Games. Six months before the Games were to begin, not a single country had responded to the official invitations. Then they started to trickle in. The world was mired in the Great Depression which made the expense of traveling to California seem nearly as insurmountable as the distance.
Neither had many of the spectator tickets been sold and it seemed that the Memorial Coliseum, which had been expanded to 105,000 seats for the occasion, would be relatively empty. Then, a few Hollywood stars (including Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Mary Pickford) offered to entertain the crowd and ticket sales picked up.
Los Angeles had constructed the very first Olympic Village for the Games. The Olympic Village consisted of 321 acres in Baldwin Hills and offered 550 two-bedroom portable bungalows for the male athletes, a hospital, post office, library, and a large number of eating establishments to feed the athletes. The female athletes were housed in the Chapman Park Hotel downtown, which offered more luxuries than the bungalows. The 1932 Olympic Games also debuted the first photo-finish cameras as well as the victory platform.
There were two minor incidents worth reporting. Finnish Paavo Nurmi, who had been one of the Olympic heroes in the past several Olympic Games, was considered to have turned professional, thus was not allowed to compete. While mounted on the victory platform, Italian Luigi Beccali, winner of the gold medal in the 1,500-meter race, gave the Fascist salute. Mildred "Babe" Didrikson made history at the 1932 Olympic Games. Babe won the gold medal for both the 80-meter hurdles (new world record) and the javelin (new world record), and won silver in the high jump. Babe later became a very successful professional golfer.
Approximately 1,300 athletes participated, representing 37 countries.
1936 - Berlin, Germany
The IOC had awarded the Games to Berlin in 1931 with no idea that Adolf Hitler was to take power in Germany two years later. By 1936, the Nazis had control over Germany and had already begun to implement their racist policies. There was international debate as to whether the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany should be boycotted. The United States was extremely close to boycotting but at the last minute decided to accept the invitation to attend.
The Nazis saw the event as a way to promote their ideology. They built four grandiose stadiums, swimming pools, an outdoor theater, a polo field, and an Olympic Village that had 150 cottages for the male athletes. Throughout the Games, the Olympic complex was covered in Nazi banners. Leni Riefenstahl, a famous Nazi propaganda filmaker, filmed these Olympic Games and made them into her movie Olympia.
These Games were the first ones televised and were the first to use telex transmissions of the results. Also debuting at these Olympics was the torch relay.
Jesse Owens, a black athlete from the United States, was the star of the 1936 Olympic Games. Owens, the "Tan Cyclone," brought home four gold medals: the 100-meter dash, the long jump (made an Olympic record), the 200-meter sprint around a turn (made a world record), and part of the team for the 400-meter relay.
About 4,000 athletes participated, representing 49 countries.
1940 - Not Held
The 1940 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan,
but several countries planned to boycott the Games there because Japan was
waging an aggressive war in Asia and then Japan itself decided the Games would
be a distraction to their military goals. The Games were then rescheduled to be
held in Helsinki, Finland, but the start of World War II in 1939 caused
the Games to be cancelled.
1948 - London, England
Though World War II was over, Europe was still ravaged from the war. When it was announced that the Olympic Games would be resumed, many debated whether it was wise to have a festival when many European countries were in ruins and the people near starvation. To limit England's responsibility to feed all the athletes, it was agreed that the participants would bring their own food. Surplus food was donated to British hospitals.
No new facilities were built for these Games, but the Wembley Stadium had survived the war and proved adequate. No Olympic Village was erected; the male athletes were housed at an army camp in Uxbridge and the women housed at Southlands College in dormitories.
Germany and Japan, the aggressors of World War II, were not invited to participate.
There was one major snafu at the Games. Though the United States had won the 400-meter relay by a full eighteen feet, a judge ruled that one of the U.S. team members had passed the baton outside of the passing zone. Thus, the U.S. team was disqualified. The medals were handed out, the national anthems were played. The United States officially protested the ruling and after careful review of the films and photographs taken of the baton pass, the judges decided that the pass had been completely legal; thus the United States team was the real winner. The British team had to give up their gold medals and received silver medals (which had been given up by the Italian team). The Italian team then received the bronze medals which had been given up by the Hungarian team.
Though there had been much debate as to whether or not to hold the 1948
Olympic Games, the Games turned out to be very popular and a great success.
Approximately 4,000 athletes participated, representing 59 countries.
1952 - Helsinki, Finland
The 1952 Olympic Games were largely a reflection of the Cold War. The Soviet Union, after having been out of the Games since 1912, decided to rejoin the competition. The Soviets, instead of joining the other athletes in the Olympic Village, set up their own Olympic Village for Eastern bloc countries in Otaniemi, near the Soviet naval base at Porkkala. Soviet athletes were chaperoned by Soviet officials everywhere they went in an effort to prevent communication with athletes from the West.
The competition of East versus West dominated the atmosphere. Bob Mathias (United States), winner for the second time of the decathlon, described the atmosphere at the Games: "There were many more pressures on American athletes because of the Russians. . . . They were in a sense the real enemy. You just loved to beat 'em. You just had to beat 'em. . . . This feeling was strong down through the entire team."*
Approximately 5,000 athletes participated in the Games, representing 69 countries.
* Bob Mathias as quoted in Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History
of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992)
1956 - Melbourne, Australia
The 1956 Olympic Games hosted by Melbourne were the first Olympics held in the Southern Hemisphere; thus the Games were held in November and December.
Unfortunately, the Games were marred by two political events that occurred before the opening of the Games. Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon boycotted the Games to protest the invasion of Egypt by Israel (which was coordinated by both Britain and France in a dispute over the Suez Canal). The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland boycotted the Games to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Budapest, Hungary in order to quash an uprising.
The closing ceremonies were introduced during the 1956 Olympic Games.
Because of the two political events and the distance to Australia, only 3,500
athletes from 57 countries participated in the Games.
1960 - Rome, Italy
It had been Coubertin's wish since 1904 to have the Olympics hosted in Rome: "I desired Rome only because I wanted Olympism, after its return from the excursion to utilitarian America, to don once again the sumptuous toga, woven of art and philosophy, in which I had always wanted to clothe her."* Fifty-six years later, Coubertin's wish was fulfilled.
Italy created a mixture of modern and ancient sites to hold the contests. An Olympic Stadium and a Sports Palace were built for the Games while the Basilica of Maxentius and the Baths of Caracalla were restored to host the wrestling and gymnastic events respectively.
The 1960 Olympic Games were the first Olympics to be fully covered by television.
Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia surprisingly won the gold medal in the marathon - with bare feet. Bikila won the gold again in 1964. United States athlete Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, won a gold medal in light heavyweight boxing.
Unfortunately, there was a ruling problem on the 100-meter free-style swim. John Devitt (Australia) and Lance Larson (United States) had been neck and neck during the last segment of the race. Though they both finished at about the same time, most of the audience, the sports reporters, and the swimmers themselves believed Larson (U.S.) had won. However, the three judges ruled that Devitt (Australia) had won. Even though the official times showed a faster time for Larson than for Devitt, the ruling held.
Approximately 5,000 athletes participated, representing 83 countries.
* Pierre de Coubertin as quote in Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A
History of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992)
1964 - Tokyo, Japan
The 1964 Olympic Games were marred by the absence of Indonesia, North Korea, and South Africa. Both Indonesia and North Korea voluntarily withdrew their teams from the competition when several of their contestants were found to be disqualified (those athletes who had participated in the New Emerging Forces Games in Jakarta in 1963 were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games).
South Africa was banned from participating in the Olympic Games by the IOC because of South Africa's racist policy of apartheid.
The 1964 Olympic Games debuted the first use of computers to keep results.
About 5,000 athletes participated, representing 93 countries.
1968 - Mexico City, Mexico
Only ten days before the 1968 Olympic Games were to open, the Mexican army surrounded a group of students who were protesting against the Mexican government at the Plaza of Three Cultures and opened fire into the crowd. It is estimated that 267 were killed and over 1,000 were wounded.
During the Olympic Games, political statements were also made. Tommie Smith and John Carlos (both from the U.S.) won the gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meter race. When they stood (barefoot) upon the victory platform, during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner," they each raised one hand, covered by a black glove, in a Black Power salute (picture). Their gesture was meant to bring attention to the conditions of blacks in the United States. This act, since it went against the ideals of the Olympic Games, caused the two athletes to be expelled from the Games. The IOC stated, "The basic principle of the Olympic Games is that politics plays no part whatsoever in them. U.S. athletes violated this universally accepted principle . . . to advertise domestic political views."*
Dick Fosbury (United States) drew attention not because of any political statement, but because of his unorthodox jumping technique. Though there had been several techniques previously used to get over the high jump bar, Fosbury jumped over the bar backwards and head first. This form of jumping became known as the "Fosbury flop."
Bob Beamon (United States) made headlines by an amazing long jump. Known as an erratic jumper because he often took off with the wrong foot, Beamon tore down the runway, jumped with the correct foot, cycled through the air with his legs, and landed at 8.90 meters (making a world record 63 centimeters beyond the old record).
Many athletes felt that the high altitude of Mexico City affected the events, helping some athletes and hindering others. In response to complaints about the high altitude, Avery Brundage, the IOC president, stated, "The Olympic Games belong to all the world, not the part of it at sea level."**
It was at the 1968 Olympic Games that drug testing debuted.
Though these Games were filled with political statements, they were very popular Games. Approximately 5,500 athletes participated, representing 112 countries.
* John Durant, Highlights of the Olympics: From Ancient Times to the
Present (New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1973) 185.
** Avery Brundage as quoted in Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 133.
1972 - Munich, West Germany
The 1972 Olympic Games will probably be best remembered for the murder of eleven Israeli Olympians. On September 5, a day before the Games were to begin, eight Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympic Village and seized eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team. Two of the hostages were able to wound two of their captors before they were killed. The terrorists requested the release of 234 Palestinians that were being held in Israel. During a failed attempt at rescue, all of the remaining hostages and five of the terrorists were killed, three terrorists were wounded.
The IOC decided that the Games should go on. The following day there was a memorial service for the victims and the Olympic flags were flown at half staff. The opening of the Olympics was postponed one day. The decision of the IOC to continue the Games after such a horrific event was controversial.
More controversies were to affect these Games. During the Olympic Games a dispute arose during the basketball game between the Soviet Union and the United States. With one second left on the clock, and the score in favor of the Americans at 50-49, the horn sounded. The Soviet coach had called a time-out. The clock was reset to three seconds and played out. The Soviets still hadn't scored and for some reason, the clock was again set back to three seconds. This time, Soviet player Alexander Belov made a basket and the game ended at 50-51 in the Soviet's favor. Though the timekeeper and one of the referees stated that the additional three seconds was completely illegal, the Soviets were allowed to keep the gold.
In an amazing feat, Mark Spitz (United States) dominated the swimming events and won seven gold medals.More than 7,000 athletes participated, representing 122 countries
The 1976 Olympic Games were marred by boycotts and drug allegations. Before the Olympic Games, New Zealand's rugby team toured South Africa (still mired in apartheid) and played against them. Because of this, much of the rest of Africa threatened the IOC to ban New Zealand from the Olympic Games or they would boycott the Games. Since the IOC had no control over the playing of rugby, the IOC tried to persuade the Africans not to use the Olympics as retaliation. In the end, 26 African countries boycotted the Games.
Also, Taiwan was excluded from the Games when Canada would not recognize them as the Republic of China.
The drug allegations were rampant at these Olympics. Though most of the allegations were not proven, many athletes, especially the East German women swimmers, were accused of using anabolic steroids. When Shirley Babashoff (United States) accused her rivals of using anabolic steroids because of their big muscles and deep voices, an official from the East German team responded: "They came to swim, not to sing."*
The Games were also a financial disaster for Quebec. Since Quebec built, and built, and built for the Games, they spent the enormous figure of $2 billion, placing them in debt for decades.
On a more positive note, these Olympic Games saw the rise of the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci who won three gold medals.
Approximately 6,000 athletes participated, representing 88 countries.
* Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games.
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 146.
1980 - Moscow, Soviet Union
The 1980 Olympic Games were most notable for the largest boycott of an Olympics in history. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the United States and 61 other countries decided to boycott the Olympics (France, Great Britain, Italy, and Sweden did not join the boycott).Approximately 5,000 athletes participated, representing 81 countries
The Soviets, in retaliation for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games, boycotted the 1984 Olympics. Along with the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Cuba, fourteen other countries boycotted the Games.
Though these countries boycotted, there was a newcomer to the 1984 Olympics - China participated in the Games for the first time since 1932.
After the serious economic problems caused by the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, the 1984 Olympic Games saw, for the first time ever, corporate sponsors for the Games. In this first year, the Games had 43 companies who were licensed to sell "official" Olympic products. Allowing corporate sponsors caused the 1984 Olympic Games to be the first Games to turn a profit ($225 million) since 1932.
Mary Lou Retton, who received perfect scores in her final two events, became the first American woman to win an individual gold medal in gymnastics.
Approximately 6,000 athletes participated, representing 140
1988 - Seoul, South Korea
In disgust at not being considered a co-host of the Seoul Olympic Games, North Korea boycotted the Games. Only Ethiopia and Cuba joined North Korea's boycott; thus the 1988 Olympics turned out to be a very large, exciting, and competitive event.
The amateur rule, which had plagued athletes and officials alike since the beginning of the Olympic Games, was finally overturned in 1986. It was now up to individual sports groups to determine whether or not "professionals" should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. This new rule allowed tennis to return to the Olympic Games, not having appeared since 1924 when it was eliminated because of professional/amateur difficulties.
Drug tests resulted in the banishment of several athletes from these Olympic Games. Ten athletes, including Canadian champion of the 100-meter run Ben Johnson, were disqualified for their use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
East Germany's Kristin Otto won six gold metals in swimming and Florence Griffith Joyner ("FloJo") of the United States attracted attention by both her speed and her flamboyant outfits.
Approximately 8,500 athletes participated, representing 159
1992 - Barcelona, Spain
The first Olympic Games in three decades without a boycott was hosted by the Spanish city of Barcelona. Athletes from most of the new countries of the former Soviet Union competed as the "Unified Team" and for the first time since 1964, Germany competed as a unified country. South Africa also rejoined the Games having eliminated apartheid.
Baseball, a demonstration sport in earlier Games, was added to the Olympic roster.
The amateur rule that was overturned for the 1988 Olympic Games, allowed the United States to send the "Dream Team," a basketball team made up of a number of the most famous U.S. professional basketball players, to the Olympics.
Gymnast Vitaly Sherbo of Belarus won six gold medals.
Approximately 9,300 athletes participated, representing 169
1996 - Atlanta, United States
The 1996 Games were the first Games convened without any governmental support, which led to a commercialization of the Games that disappointed some critics.
A pipe bomb exploded in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park which killed two people but the motive or group responsible was never determined.
Carl Lewis of the United States won his ninth gold medal.
Approximately 10,000 athletes participated, representing 197 countries (including Hong Kong and the Palestinian Authority).2000 - Sydney, Australia
In 2004 the Olympic Games returned to Greece, the home of both the ancient Olympics and the first modern Olympics. For the first time ever a record 201 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated in the Olympic Games. The overall tally for events on the programme was 301 (one more than in Sydney 2000). Popularity in the Games reached soared to new highs as 3.9 billion people had access to the television coverage compared to 3.6 billion for Sydney 2000. Women's wrestling was included in the program for the first time. Swimmer Michael Phelps won 6 gold medals and set a single-Games record with 8 total medals. Leontien Ziljaard-van Moorsel became the first female cyclist to earn 4 career gold medals and 6 total medals, while canoeist Birgit Fischer became the first athlete in any sport to win two medals in each of 5 Olympics. Runner Hicham El Guerrouj won both the 1,500m and the 5,000m, while on the women's side Kelly Holmes triumphed in both the 800m and the 1,500m. In team play, Argentina won the men's football tournament without giving up a goal, and the U.S. softball team won by outscoring their opponents 51-1.
The 2008 Summer Olympic games will take place in Beijing, China, making it a fitting time to write about the Olympics.
Beijing got the Summer Olympic games July 13, 2001, during the 112 International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Moscow beating Toronto, Paris, Istanbul and Osaka. It was a great victory for China, their vice premier of China, Li Lanqing, declared: “The winning of the 2008 Olympic bid is an example of the international recognition of China’s social stability, economic progress and the healthy life of the Chinese people.”
In preparation of the Olympic games, Beijing’s subway system had undergone a massive increase, more than doubling it’s previous size. Also, the Beijing Capital International Airport will get a new five-level emergency alert system for extreme weather and security threats. Whoa.
The slogan for the 2008 Olympics is “One World, One Dream”, which calls upon the whole world to join in the Olympic spirit and build a better future for humanity. It was selected from over 210,000 entries submitted from all over the world.
There has been some controversy over how China has been treating Tibet and this has spilled over into the Beijing Olympics. In fact, some supporters of Tibet have declared that they would boycott the 2008 Summer Olympics games in protest.
Nevertheless, the games will carry on. Here are the sports to be contested at the Beijing games, with the number of events to be contested in each sport is indicated in parentheses.
* Diving (8 )
* Swimming (34)
* Synchronized swimming (2)
* Water polo (2)
* Archery (4)
* Athletics (47)
* Badminton (5)
* Baseball (1)
* Basketball (2)
* Boxing (11)
* Canoeing (16)
* Cycling (18 )
* Equestrian (6)
* Fencing (10)
* Field hockey (2)
* Football (2)
* Gymnastics (18 )
* Handball (2)
* Judo (14)
* Modern pentathlon (2)
* Rowing (14)
* Sailing (11)
* Shooting (15)
* Softball (1)
* Table tennis (4)
* Taekwondo (8 )
* Tennis (4)
* Triathlon (2)
* Volleyball (4)
* Weightlifting (15)
* Wrestling (18 )
The 411 on the Olympics
In anticipation of the upcoming Olympics, it is natural that some background on the games will be brought up and written about. So isn’t it only fitting that I write about it too?
The Olympics originated in ancient Greece. It was held every fourth year, like the modern Olympics. But with a few twists. Women were not allowed to compete if they were married nor could they compete personally, but were allowed to enter equestrian events as the owner of a chariot team or an individual horse, and win that way. Oh, and the other thing? All the participants were naked.
But fortunately (or unfortunately) the Olympics were abolished in the early Christian era, along with the naked-ness.
The Olympics were brought back in 1850, in the modest town of Much Wenlock, Shropshire by Doctor William Penny Brookes. He believed the men of the town spent far too much time in the pub and came up with the modern Olympics to occupy their time. Though the Olympics hasn’t helped the modern day men who still spend far too much time in the pub.
Doctor Brookes founded the National Olympics Foundation in 1865 and staged the first Olympics at London’s Crystal Palace. However, it was snubbed by the top sportsmen for lack of funding.
The modern Olympics was revived in Athens, Greece by a French man called Pierre de Coubertin.
Around that time, the world was starting to communicate and connect through telegraph and train. Also, the athletes from different countries were starting challenge each other. And so, de Coubertin thought it would be a good idea to get all the different countries to compete and that is why he revived the Olympics.
The Olympics Revived
The modern day Olympics were started again in 1896 in Athens, Greece, and they continued to be held every fourth year. However, they were not held during the World Wars 1 and 2.
The Olympic Games was not without its fair share of drama. In the 1972 Munich games, 11 members of the Israeli team were taken hostage by a terrorist group called Black September. Five German snipers were chosen to rescue them, but they failed. All 11 hostages died, along with 1 German police officer. The 1972 Munich games came to be known as the Munich Massacre.
There used to be two Olympics in the same year, the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics, both held separately. But in 1986, the IOC decided to reschedule the Summer and Winter Games by alternating between them every 2 years: each would still be held in four-year cycles, but two years apart from one another.
The Lillehammer Games in 1994 were the first Winter Olympics to be held without the Summer Games in the same year; in a non-leap, even year.
It has been decided that the 2010 Winter games will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; the 2012 Summer games in London, United Kingdom; and the 2014 Winter games in Sochi, Russia.
The opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing will be held in the Beijing National Stadium, and will begin at 8:00 pm CST (12:00 UTC) on 8 August 2008. It has been announced that Canada’s Celine Dion and Taiwan’s Jay Chou will both perform during the opening ceremony.
On July 21, NBC announced that the Opening Ceremony would include performances by a cast of 15,000 and declared that it would be the most spectacular Olympics Opening Ceremony ever produced.