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Origins of the Summer Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games are not historically documented until 776 BC, but it is widely accepted that they had been in practice from as early as the 13th century BC.

There are several Greek legends that speak of the beginnings of the Summer Olympic Games. One indicates that it was begun when Herakles won a race then asked that the race be run every four years. Another legend mentions King Iphitos who asked the Oracle of Delphi how to deal with a current war that was ravaging his country. The Oracle advised him to hold games in honor of the gods, which would require a truce. Whatever the origins of the Olympic tradition, it is obvious that it was originally of a religious nature.


The Olympics in Ancient Greece

The history of the Summer Olympic begins in Olympia, where they were first held. The ceremonies held for the winners were similar to those we hold today but instead of medals they received palm branches to hold and red ribbons which were tied around their heads and hands as a sign of their victory. At the completion of the games there was another ceremony and they would be crowned with a wreath of olive branches. When the athletes returned home they were often awarded large sums of money and fame, just like our present day Olympic athletes.


The Sports of Ancient Olympic Games

The ancient Olympic Games had their roots in only one competition, a foot race called the stadion or stade. It was the distance of one stade, or sprinting from one end of the stadium to the other which measured about 200 meters. The earliest known documents that mention the Olympic Games are from 776 BC, and Coroibus of Elis is listed as the winner of the race. The events included the stade, the diaulos, which was similar to the 400 meter race and the Pentathlon. The Pentathlon was another ancient sport and included the stade, the diaulos and a long race called the dolichos which was from 1400 meters to 4800 meters. There was also a race called the Hoplitodromos and entailed running about a mile in armor weighing from 50 to 60 pounds. This was particularly grueling and was a display of military strength, speed and stamina. Also included were boxing and wrestling, as well as the equestrian sports of riding and chariot racing.


The Athletes of Ancient Olympic Games

The athletes that participated in the ancient Olympic Games were of the highest quality and prestige. They performed nude as the body was viewed as a thing of great beauty. Only Greek speaking men were allowed to compete in the ancient Games, however these men came from all the different areas in Greek city-states and colonies. The athletes had to qualify and meet the requirements of the Games. Women were not only excluded from participating in the games, but they were not allowed to observe them, as this was considered a sacred activity only for men.

The ancient Greeks had established a long and valuable tradition in their Olympic Games. They were celebrated every four years during August and September. They held the Games until the forth century BC when the Roman Emperor Theodosius, abolished them due to their pagan roots.


The Beginning of the Modern Games

The modern Olympic Games have much in common with those of ancient Greece. They were reestablished by a French aristocrat, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who urged the founding of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. The committee originally scheduled the first modern Summer Olympic Games for the year 1900, but later pushed that date back to 1896. They were held in Athens Greece during the first week of April. The games included 14 countries and had over 200 participants, but most of them were Greek. Women were not allowed to compete in the 1896 Summer Olympic Games and did not make an appearance until the year 1900, when they competed in lawn tennis and golf.

The1936 Summer Olympics were held in Germany, amidst the Nazi regime of pre-World War II. We see the beauty and spirit of the 1936 Summer Olympics in the amazing victory of Jesse Owens who won four gold medals all while dealing with the immense pressure of racism and hate. Hitler was looking forward to showcasing his supposedly superior German Arian athletes but Jesse Owens proved him wrong by winning a gold medal in the 100 meters, 200 meters, the long jump and the four person 100 meter relay. The 1936 Summer Olympics was truly a memorable and important step in the right direction towards racial equality and justice.

The1936 Summer Olympics were held in Germany, amidst the Nazi regime of pre-World War II. We see the beauty and spirit of the 1936 Summer Olympics in the amazing victory of Jesse Owens who won four gold medals all while dealing with the immense pressure of racism and hate. Hitler was looking forward to showcasing his supposedly superior German Arian athletes but Jesse Owens proved him wrong by winning a gold medal in the 100 meters, 200 meters, the long jump and the four person 100 meter relay. The 1936 Summer Olympics was truly a memorable and important step in the right direction towards racial equality and justice.

The 1996 Summer Olympics repeated the feelings from the 1972 Winter Olympics when a terrorist group kidnapped 7 Israeli athletes. The 1996 Summer Olympics are remembered most for the terrorist attack that killed one and injured over a hundred more, but the games continued. There was a large turn out with 196 countries competing. The 1996 Summer Olympic Games heralded two new sports, softball, and soccer, and the US women won the gold medal in both new sports. Michael Johnson won double gold medals in the 200 meter and the 400 meter as did a French woman Marie Jose Perac.

The 2000 Summer Olympics show another record turnout and bridging of hostility for the Games. 199 nations gathered to celebrate, and North Korea and South Korea united to enter the field under the same flag and uniform. Ian Thorpe of Australia broke his own world record in the 400 meter freestyle and managed to take four medals, three of which were gold. The 2000 Summer Olympics show the US softball team defending its previous win with a new medal and Michael Johnson wins the gold in the 400 meter. The 2000 Summer Olympics also marked the turning of a new century the first Olympic Games to be celebrated in the 21 century.

The Olympic Games just as before, continue to evolve and change with more sports being added and more people being eligible. The History of the Olympic Games spans thousands of years, and continues today to bridge the gap between countries. All differences between people can be put aside for the glory of the games.