The Olympic Games

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The Olympic Games

The Olympic Games are an international sports festival that began in

ancient Greece. The original Greek games were staged every fourth year for

several hundred years, until they were abolished in the early Christian era.

The revival of the Olympic Games took place in 1896, and since then they have

been staged every fourth year, except during World War I and World War II.

Perhaps the basic difference between the ancient and modern Olympics is

that the former was the ancient Greeks' way of saluting their gods, whereas the

modern Games are a manner of saluting the athletic talents of citizens of all

nations. The original Olympics featured competition in music, oratory, and

theater performances as well. The modern Games have a more expansive athletic

agenda, and for two and one-half weeks they are supposed to replace the rancor

of international conflict with friendly competition. In recent times, however,

that lofty ideal has not always been attained.

The earliest reliable date that recorded history gives for the first

Olympics is 776 BC, although virtually all historians presume that the Games

began well before then.

It is certain that during the midsummer of 776 BC a festival was held at

Olympia on the highly civilized eastern coast of the Peloponnesian peninsula.

That festival remained a regularly scheduled event, taking place during the pre-

Christian golden age of Greece. As a testimony to the religious nature of the

Games, which were held in honor of Zeus, the most important god in the ancient

Greek pantheon, all wars would cease during the contests. According to the

earliest records, only one athletic event was held in the ancient Olympics--a

foot race of about 183 m (200 yd), or the length of the stadium. A cook,

Coroibus of Elis, was the first recorded winner. The first few Olympics had

only local appeal and were limited to one race on one day; only men were

allowed to compete or attend. A second race--twice the length of the stadium--

was added in the 14th Olympics, and a still longer race was added to the next

competition, four years later.

When the powerful, warlike Spartans began to compete, they influenced the

agenda. The 18th Olympics included wrestling and a pentathlon consisting of

running, jumping, spear throwing, discus throwing, and wrestling. Boxing was

added at the 23rd Olympiad, and the games continued to expand, with the addition

of chariot racing and other sports. In the 37th Olympiad the format was

extended to five days of competition.

The growth of the Games fostered "professionalism" among the competitors,

and the Olympic ideals waned as royalty began to compete for personal gain,
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