“As in the daytime there is no star in the sky warmer and brighter than the sun, likewise there is no competition greater than the Olympic Games.”Pindar, Greek lyric poet, 5th century BC
The ancient Greeks first had the idea of getting men together every four years to hold and witness sporting events (in those days women did not participate, though they had their own, independent, events). The idea was to have the best athletes from all over Greece gather in one field and compete every four years. All wars and fighting had to stop while the athletes and their supporters came together in the town of Olympia for a few days to compete in a few events, mostly related to warfare (throwing the javelin, running, wrestling, boxing and chariot racing).
The first written reference to the Games is 776 BC. They lasted until 389 AD. The idea of having the modern Games was suggested in the mid 19th century but they weren’t a world event until 1896. Besides being postponed because of wars, they have been held since then every four years in different cities around the world.
The Olympic Games have many important symbols that most people recognize. The five rings that appear on the Olympic flag (coloured yellow, green, blue, black and red) were introduced in 1914. They represent the five continents of Africa, the Americas, Australia, Asia and Europe. The flag is raised in the host city and then flown to the next one where it is kept until the next Games. The Olympic torch, a major part of the ancient Games, was brought back in 1928 and is carried with great fanfare and publicity to the host city where it lights the burning flame of the Games. It is kept burning until the close of the Games. The torch symbolizes purity, the drive for perfection and the struggle for victory.
The rousing Olympic anthem is the simply named “Olympic Music” by John Williams, who wrote it for the 1984 Olympics, held in Los Angeles. What you hear first are the forty or so notes played on horns which form the “Bugler’s Dream” (also called “Olympic Fanfare”) by Leo Arnaud, first played in the 1968 Games.
The torch, fanfare and flag are clearly evident in the Opening Ceremony, when everyone formally welcomes the participants and the Games can begin. Here we find the dramatic and colourful March of Nations, in which all the athletes from each country go into the venue to the sound of their country’s anthem and march behind their flags, thus becoming representatives of their countries.
One part of the Opening Ceremony that tries to keep the spirit of the Games and sportsmanship alive is when one athlete, representing all those participating, takes the Athlete’s Oath:
“In the name of all the competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport, and the honour of our teams.”
In the ancient Games, only the winner was celebrated. Each winner was given a simple crown of olive leaves to wear on his head. This was the only reward for his victory. Those who came in second or third got nothing. Interestingly, when the Games started again in 1896, silver medals were given to the first place winners. Later in 1904 in the St. Louis Games, gold was the top prize. Now, of course we have gold for first place, silver for second and bronze for third.
The Olympics’ official motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”. This is Latin for “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”. This is said to represent the Olympic spirit, supposed to be present throughout the Games and generally held to be a celebration of brotherhood, competition, sportsmanship, goodwill and peace. The Games help us see how similar we are, and help us celebrate our humanity.
As in ancient times, those who participate in the Games are famous for the rest of their lives. Today, it’s estimated that some 100,000 people have competed in the Games. These athletes, all supposed to be amateurs (people who play and get no money for their play), have to qualify or win regional and national events. They often play on their countries’ national teams. If they are ill or can’t make it for an event, they have substitutes. When they start playing, they become competitors or opponents on the playing field.
Officials, referees, scorekeepers and umpires monitor their play, and judges score their performances. Spectators watch the events, and fans cheer the athletes on.
Helping the athletes in their chosen sports are their trainers and coaches. Helping the athletes in their business affairs are their agents and managers. Sometimes athletes have sponsors and after the Games are over the athletes become spokesmen for companies.
The Olympic Games also require people to take on the jobs of announcers, commentators and broadcasters. These people comment on, report and describe the events that are happening and tell us about the standings of the countries and the athletes who play the Games.
Unfortunate events in world history (the 1972 Munich Olympics and 9/11) mean that security is a major concern for the Games. Thus the Olympics also employs those who are responsible for the safe-being of the athletes and spectators, including police (city, provincial and federal) and even national troops or soldiers. They are pitted against ‘common’ criminals (thieves, pickpockets, vandals…) and terrorists.
In addition, the support staff get the fields, grounds and arenas ready and help to maintain the equipment and facilities.
Sourcing: Shanepedia Archives 2012
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