THE mere name ‘Olympics’ brings to our mind colourful ceremonies, contestants marching down with their flags (representing their nations), doves, balloons and most of all the lighting of the Olympic flame. The feeling of excitement that suffuses each person and team is contagious.
The first recorded Olympic contest took place in the stadium of Olympia in 776 B.C. This stadium stood in the valley of Olympia in western Greece and could seat 40,000 spectators. For many years the Olympics were meant only for male contestants and spectators. Athletics played an important part in the religious festivals of the ancient Greeks. It was believed that such competitions pleased the spirits of the dead. The religious festivals honoured the gods and were held once every four years which probably began before 1400 B.C.
Over a period of time, four national festivals developed — the Isthmian, Nemean, Olympic, and Pythian games. The Olympics games, which ranked as the most important, honoured Zeus, the king of gods. The Olympics were held every four years. The only event in the first 13 Olympiads was a footrace of about 180m. Wrestling and the pentathlon — which originally consisted of the discus throw; javelin throw, long jump, a sprint and wrestling — were added to the competition in 708 B.C. Boxing was added in 688 B.C and the four-horse chariot race in 680 B.C, respectively. A savage and sometime a deadly sport called pancratium, which combined boxing and wrestling, was introduced in 648 B.C.
The discovery of the early Olympic site gave Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator, the idea of organising a modern, international Olympics. He believed and thought that international sports competitions would promote world peace. So, in 1894, he presented this idea to an international meeting on amateur sports. The group voted to organise the games, and formed the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896 in Athens, Greece. Women first competed in these modern games in 1900. Since then the Olympics have been the scene of numerous exciting achievements. Now the Olympic Games bring together thousands of the worlds’ finest athletes. No other sports event attracts as much attention. Several million people attend the games, and millions throughout the world watch them live on television.
Colourful ceremonies combine with athletic competition to create a magical moment in the world of sports event. The opening ceremony is particularly impressive. The athletes of Greece march into the stadium first, in honour of the original Olympics held in ancient Greece. The other athletes follow, according to the alphabetical order of the country. The host country enters last.
The most dramatic moment of the opening ceremony is the lighting of the Olympic flame. Cross-country runners bring a lighted torch from the valley of Olympia, Greece. Thousands of runners take part in the journey, which starts four weeks before the opening of the games. Planes and ships transport the torch across mountains and seas. The final runner carries the torch into the stadium, circles the track and lights the Olympic flame. the flame is kept burning until the end of the games. This custom started in 1936.
The modern Olympics
were organised to encourage world peace and friendship and to promote
amateur athletics. The Olympic symbol consists of five interlocking
rings that represent the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe
and North and South America. The rings are black, blue, green, red and
yellow. The flag of every nation competing in the games has at least one
of these colours. The Olympic motto is citius, altius, fortius which
means faster, higher, stronger, respectively. Despite the high ideals
behind the Olympics, the games have often been a centre of controversy