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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Origins of the Olympics Merge With Myth

The Origins of the Olympics Merge With Myth

There’s a big discrepancy between the origins of the Olympics in ancient Greece and the modern Olympics which began anew in 1896, accented by a time lapse of more than 1,500 years.

Prior to Greek Emperor Theodosius halting the ancient games in AD 391, the Greeks had held the Olympics at four-year intervals for nearly 1,200 years, and Greek mythology says the athletic and early-on music event began long before that.

Myth, history, and miscellaneous comments concerning the ancient and modern Olympics include:

* One myth says the first Olympics occurred before recorded history when Cronos and Zeus wrestled at Olympia

* Another myth says Pelops founded the Olympic games either to purify himself or thank the gods after, with the help of Poseidon, he killed King Oenamaus of Pisa in a rigged chariot race, then married the king’s daughter

* A third Greek myth says Hercules held the first Olympic Games to honor his father, Zeus

* 776 BC Traditional date of first Olympics

* 750-550 BC Colonization period in Greece emphasized athletic and musical competitions; early games attended by athletes from Greece, Italy, Sicily, Asia, Africa, and Spain

* Olympic winners, representing polis (city-states) crowned with olive wreaths; sometimes fed for remainder of their lives, but never paid

* Only female allowed to watch Games, Priestess of Demeter

* Ancient Olympic sports included running, boxing, equestrian, jumping, wrestling, discus, javelin, pankration (old martial art where only biting and eye gouging were illegal)

* 708 BC Introduction of pentathlon (discus, javelin, jumping, running, and wrestling combined)

* 391 AD Greek Emperor Theodosius ends Ancient Olympic Games

* 1896 First modern Olympics in Athens includes athletes from 14 nations

* April 6, 1896 James Connolly, U.S., wins triple jump; first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years

* 1924 First Winter Olympics, in Chamonix, France

* 1968 Politicized Olympics in Mexico City … hundreds of Mexican protesting students killed by government troops 10 days before Olympics; U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stage Black Power protest on awards stand

* 2008 205 countries participate in Summer Olympics, Beijing, China

The name Olympics is derived from the name of a district in southern Greece where the original Olympics were held, Olympia.

What began thousands of years ago as a religious athletic and musical event for Greeks, then lay dormant for more than 1,500 years, came back to life in 1896 thanks to a wealthy Greek architect, Georgios Averoff.

The Olympics were cancelled in 1916, 1940, and 1944 because of wars, and has been hindered by political unrest in other years. In addition to the troubles of 1968, U.S. President Jimmy Carter refused to allow U.S. athletes to attend the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The origins of the Olympics have evolved from one country to more than 200, and from religion and musical flavors to ones tasting more and more of politics.

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