The Olympics is coming – Here’s some history26th Jul 2016 |
The history of the Olympics goes back much further than our modern iteration. We normally consider year 776 B.C. as the earliest date the Olympic games were held. The event was then meant as a tribute to Zeus, the god of thunder, on mount Olympia in Greece. Only Greek speaking participants were allowed to participate and every city state of Greece sent representatives to the games. As Romans started to have more influence in Greece, the games slowly stopped being held. The rise of Christianity is also commonly considered a contributing factor for the games disappearance.
The word “Olympic” started coming into usage for describing sporting events again in the 1600s, and many events were held at this time. But it wasn’t until 1896 that the first modern Olympic Games were introduced. Back then, only 24 athletes from 14 countries participated, but present day games have over 10.000 representatives from 204 countries. In the beginning, Olympic Games were mostly centred around Europe, Australia and North America, and it would take over 50 years before Asia and Latin America got to host their own games. Asia’s first Olympics were held in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964, and Latin America followed in 1968, with Mexico’s Olympics. After this year’s Rio Olympics, Africa will be the only continent not to host the games.
But the Olympic Games’ success weren’t writ in stone, when they were reintroduced at the end of the 19th century. Although the 1896 Olympics were considered a success, the following two games, in Paris and Saint-Louis, were no more than side shows to bigger events. But thankfully IOC took hold of the reigns, and the following Olympics in London, 1908, and Stockholm, 1912, were stand-alone games given the attention they deserved. The former was actually the longest Olympics Games ever held, with a 6-month duration!
The Games are naturally meant to be politically neutral, as the sheer number of countries involved would guarantee that at least a few are on less than favourable terms. But the Olympics has still seen their fair share of political drama over the years. The gold medal runs of Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics, 1935, were seen as a big blow to Hitler’s theories of Germanic supremacy at the time. The most famous definite political act, however, was in the 1968 Olympics, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists on the podium to show their support for the American Civil Rights Movement – only 6 months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.