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March 18, 2016


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The Ancient Olympic Games

The Olympic Games were first held in 776 BC at Olympia in Ancient Greece as part of a religious festival. They were one of four game festivals held in Ancient Greece: The Isthmians, The Nemeans, The Pythians and The Olympics. The Olympic Games were so important to the Ancient Greeks that wars were stopped while they were held.

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Ancient Olympic champions were highly revered. They received a crown made from olive leaves, were entitled to have statues made of themselves placed at Olympia, and were believed to bring their hometowns into favour with the Greek gods. It was also common for champions to have all their meals paid for at the public's expense or to get front-row seats at theatres.

Athletes at the Ancient Games could compete in boxing, chariot races, running, wrestling or the pentathlon which included the discus and javelin throw, jumping, wrestling and running.

Women did not participate in the Ancient Olympic Games and married women were not even allowed to watch the games. However, a separate festival in honor of Hera, the wife of Zeus, included running races for unmarried girls. Also barred from participating in the games were athletes not born in Greece.

The Ancient Olympic Games were held for 1,000 years until the Roman Emperor, Theodosius,abolished them in 394 AD because he felt they were a pagan festival.

The Modern Olympic Games

The vision of a Modern Olympic Games came from French Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Coubertin wanted the Games to promote friendship between countries, unite humankind through sport and create world peace.

At first Coubertin's proposal for a Modern Games was not taken seriously, but he finally convinced a group of representatives from 13 different countries to support his plan. Coubertin and the representatives formed the International Olympic Committee in 1894. The IOC continues to govern the Games today. The committee agreed on a few fundamental codes: every four years a different city would host the Games, modern events would replace ancient sports and a strict code of amateurism would be maintained.

Coubertin led the IOC until 1925. His passion for the Games was so great that when he died his heart was placed in a column in front of the eternal Olympic flame that burns in Olympia.

A brief history of the Modern Games shows that Coubertin's dream of promoting world peace through sport has not yet been realized. However, the Games have served as a festival that brings world class athletes and their fans together for a few weeks every four years.

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