What is the origin of Olympic Games?

Olympic Games gather, each four years, the best sportsmen of the whole world, around a multitude of sporting disciplines and competitions. This sportive worldwide manifestation, which permits to populations to meet and to measure the ones to the others, causes keen interest and crowds enthusiasm. But what is the exact origin of Olympic Games?

Olympia, cradle of Olympic Games

Olympic Games at Antiquity
Olympic Games at Antiquity
Olympic Games have existed for near 3,000 years. Created in Greece in 776 before Christ, they draw their history in Antiquity. Their name comes from on of the Greek places where passed the first sportive competitions: Olympia. But at the beginning, they were called « Panhellenic » Games because they gathered athletes from four « provinces » of Greek world, at a time when Greece was not a state yet. Alternatively, Olympia and Delphi and Isthmus and Nemea sites organized competitions. Their inhabitants, as well as people originate from colonies of Greek world (Italy, North Africa, and Asia Minor), came in masse to participate or to assist to it. At that time, that sportive manifestation gave to everybody the feeling to own to a common culture and religion. In fact « Panhellenic » Games had a mystic dimension: they permitted to Greeks to celebrate gods.

The most important Games took place in Olympia, that explains that, centuries later, they only conserved that name. More than 40,000 people surge on the site of each manifestation, but many of them only came as spectators. In fact, to pretend to participate to those games, it has to be able to respond to three big criterions: athlete should be a Greek and a free man. So women, foreigners and slaves were excluded from competitions. Besides, the majority of participants were very rich. Four weeks before games, preselections were organized in order that only the best athletes could participate.

Course of antique Olympic Games

Fight events at Antique Olympic Games
Fight events at Antique Olympic Games
At the Antic time, Olympic Games lasted in average five days and competitions only concern individual sports. Pentathlon gathered five track events: throwing discus, long jump, throwing javelin, racing and wresltle. If an athlete succeeded to win the three first competitions (length, discus and javelin), he was automatically declared winner and the two last track events were cancelled. But that occurred rarely. At that time, wrestling, brawl (similar to boxing) and pankration represented fight sports. Horse racings, quadriga courses (with four horses) and mounted racings, were equally organized. During Antiquity, Olympic Games only reward winner, there were neither podium nor silver and bronze medals. The unique winner was given a crown of foliage in savage olive and a red wool ribbon called « tænia ». At that time, Greeks thought that Gods decided alone to give victory to an athlete.

Winners of Olympic Games did not perceive any remuneration but became notables in their origin town and this status permitted them to have access to politic functions. Respected by all, they were treated as heroes until the end of their life. It was not rare that they make erect a statue in their honour and that they stamped coins with their effigy, because their victory in Olympic Games filled with a big pride inhabitants of their town.

France is at origin of modern Olympic Games creation

Olympic flag has existed since 1913
Olympic flag has existed since 1913
Modern Olympic Games were introduced in 1896 by French baron Pierre de Coubertin. Helped by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), founded in Paris two years earlier (1894), he succeeded to restore Antic Olympic Games. From that date, the immense sportive world manifestation such as we know it (or almost) takes place each four years (except during the two World Wars period). Almost thirty years after Games renovation, winter Olympic Games are introduced. They are celebrated for the first time in 1924 in Chamonix, in France! Besides, Pierre de Coubertin is at the origin of Olympic oath: « Faster, higher, stronger… » (in Latin, Citius, Altius, Fortius). He is also the man who drew the famous Olympic flag in 1913.

The Olympic flame ritual was introduced in 1936. When Olympic Games, it is not only question of sports and of performances. That world manifestation covers a particular symbolic for nations. The flag is one of representations: the five interlaced rings symbolize in fact the five continents united by olympism. As well as at time of Antic Greece, Olympic Games permit more cohesion between populations. They are founded on excellence and respect and friendship, tolerance values. Surpassing oneself through sport implicates in fact rules respect, self respect and others respect.

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Written by Florence GUILLAUME, December 29th 2010.
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Themes approached and treated in this publication : competitions, flame, games, olympic, sportmen, sports