The Olympic Games
The ancient Greeks took their health and physical fitness seriously. Many Greek physicians linked exercise with health. Greek valued strength, speed and valor in men. No wonder birth of Olympics (the original Olympics of the ancient world) took place in Olympia. Greece in 776 BC. Ancient Olympics was held like a festival or celebration beginning with rituals and ceremonies & games held for several days. In fact, nude men participated in running, lifting weights, boxing, throwing discus & javelin in front of packed stadium. They believe that Olympics were the celebration of the achievements of human body. It was also considered as religious festival held in honour of Zeus, Greek god at Olympia. According to the legend, it was founded by Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene. The lighting and bearing of torch was an integral part of Greek ceremonies held at night. Inspiration & flames lit by the race of sun always burned in Olympia. These games were held every four years and period between two celebrations was called “Olympiad’. There were about 20 events held between 5th — 6th century B.C
Unfortunately, the importance of this game declined with Roman power taking over Greece. Olympic games was revived in 19th century — a Greek philanthropist Evangelos Zappas, revived it and first Modem International Olympic games was held at Athens city square in 1859. Later, baron, Pierre de Coubertin, Frenchman founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in 1894, which is the supreme authority. Maintaining the ideals of ancient games; the first IOC Olympic Games took places in Athens in 1896. The number of participants increased and was not restricted to Greece. The second IOC Olympic Games took place in 1900, in Paris and women, for the first time were allowed to compete. Olympic Games grew and its aim to spread peace through sports was recognized. The Modem era Olympics had an Olympics symbol and were used in 1974. It has five inter connected rings of different colors. Before, 1970, games were opened to amateur competitors and by in 1980 it was opened to professional athletics in various games.
The modern Olympic Games have Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics held and hosted separately. Olympics grew from 241 participants in 1896 to 11,100 competitors (i.e. 202 participant nations) at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Mowing professional athletes and attracting sponsorship from big companies solved financial problems because of the large number of athletes, spectators, events infrastructure and media involved it is a difficult and expensive task for host cities, to organize Olympics. Olympics has faced lot of problems like, boycott (protest), doping or use of performance enhancing drugs by athletics, wars, terrorist threat and so on but still it has its charm and is immensely valued by sports persons all over the world.
The present president of IOC is Jacques Rogge and under his leadership the tradition, standards and values are still maintained.
The Olympic Games, from torch bearing relay, opening ceremony (spectacle watched by millions), athletic events, matches, closing ceremony, medal ceremony is biggest sporting event. Currently there are 35 sports, 53 disciplines and more than 400 events.
In the opening ceremony, the march of the participating nation is led by Greece (because of historical status) and the host country marches last. The ceremony is showcase of traditional, cultural display of host country (with music and dances) and very colorful. The President of IOC makes a speech. invites the head of the state who declares the games open. The Olympic flag (5 colored rings intertwined, represent the five continents and the white background represent the field) is hosted with Olympic anthem. The oath is taken (to compete and judge according to the rules) and the torch is brought to light the stadium cauldron.
Children and sportsperson watch most of the events and are always eager to know the performance of their countrymen. Gold, silver and bronze medals are given with the certificate and wreaths to the winners. In ancient days, the winner was presented with a crown of Olive leaves. The respected national flags of the winners are raised. The gold winner’s flag is always in the center and raised above the others. Also, the anthem of gold winning country is sung, It’s a proud movement for the winner.
Olympic Games with its Greek aura and an event spreading peace and harmony through sports is more valuable and important to winners and competitor, because it is held once in four years.