The Olympic Gamesby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Discuss the origins of the Olympic games in Ancient Greece and how they have evolved into the modern games participated in today.
The Olympic dream is and has been for thousands of years a dream of millions of young boys and girls worldwide. The Games bring the hearts of nations together. They give people the passion to be determined and stay focused on the prize. In 2004, the Olympic Games were held in Greece, the homeland of the games, in the city of Athens. How have the modern games changed since those the first Olympics, and how are they different from the ancient games held thousands of years ago?
The ancient Greek Olympic Games were first held in 776 B.C. They were part of a religious month-long festival that was held in honor of the greatest of all Greek gods, Zeus. This became the most important festival in the Greek world. The Games were held in the sacred place of Olympia in Elis for five days, during the hottest days of the whole year. They were held once every four years, and the period between two consecutive Games were known as an Olympiad. They were held for an amazing 1170 years until 393 when they were banned along with all “pagan” festivals by the Byzantine Emperor, Theodosius I.
At first, the only competition in the Olympics was one race. However, more sports and disciplines were added over the course of time. They included boxing, the discus throw, equestrian events which included horse and chariot races, the javelin throw, the long jump, running, and wrestling. There was also pankration, which was a combination of wrestling, boxing, and kicking. Finally, there was the pentathlon, which tested an athlete’s abilities in five different disciplines. These five disciplines were the javelin and discus throws, the long jump, running, and wrestling. The winners of these events were given a crown of wild olives. Only men were allowed to compete.
Now it may seem that a crown made out of olives was a very little thing for an athlete to train years to earn. But that wasn’t the only prize an Olympic victor received. No, the greatest thing he received for his victory was honor of being idolized in his hometown. He would become rich. Not only that, but he was also honored in art such as paintings, stamps, pottery, coins, and even literature. Winning athletes from the city-state of Athens even received what was like a pension plan. He would receive a free meal in the city hall every day for the rest of his life. Not bad, eh?
The Olympic Games weren’t only about sport; they were a symbol of Pan-hellenic unity. It was a time when all the men of Greece were assembled together. Wars would stop just for the Games and people from rival city-states would come together in peace. Not only the athletes were honored, but the best writers, poets, artists, and historians would reveal their work in contests. Although business and political treaties were made in honor of the Greek, and later, Roman Pantheon of gods, these treaties were often as capricious as the gods which they honored. After the games were banned, Christianity increased to become a more stabilizing political force in Europe.
In 1863 in France, a boy named Pierre Fredy, Baron de Coubertin, was born. As a young man, he traveled around the continent a lot. Through his travels, he saw first of all that athletics were beneficial for intellectual development and also the development of character. He once said, “"Peace…could be the product only of a better world; a better world could be brought about only by better individuals; and better individuals could be developed only by the give and take, the buffeting and battering, the stress and strain of fierce competition." These thoughts led to the idea of the revival of the Olympic Games, and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) was founded in the year 1894.
The ideologies of Darwinism had begun to take hold in Europe. The survival of the fittest nation through natural selection would bring power of arms to triumph over weaker nations in a show of ethnic and cultural superiority. These forces of nationalism drove European states to compete over colonies through posing and brinkmanship. The idea of the Olympic Games, like the successors to the first World's Fair in London 1851, fed the political need to establish a nation-state pecking order through patriotism. Secular Greeks particularly promoted the Olympics as they sought to resurrect a Greek identity that would diminish the influence of the Greek Orthodox Church in favor of the ancient idolizing of classical Greece. Like the early Romans who sought to assimilate differing cultures by adopting the Greek gods, the emerging Greek nation sought to colalesce the Slavic and Turkish diversity under the glorious banner classical Greece.
In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held in Greece, the homeland of the Games, in the city of Athens. In those first games, there were only less than 300 athletes from 14 countries in 43 different events, and all the athletes were men. However, the Olympics grew and changed quickly over the course of time. By the second Olympics, held in Paris, France, women were allowed to compete in the Games. There were 24 nations represented, over a thousand athletes, and almost a hundred events.
With each Olympiad, new traditions and memories were made. At the 1904 St. Louis Games, the gold, silver, and bronze medals for the top three competitors in an event was introduced. At the 1920 Antwerp games, the Olympic flag with the five different-colored rings was introduced, as well as the athlete’s oath. At the 1924 Paris Games, the Olympic motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius", (meaning “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”) was introduced. It was here that Eric Liddell refused to run on Sunday (as portraied in the film, "Chariots of Fire"). Also, in 1924, the first Olympic Winter Games were also held in Chamonix, France.
With the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Games came the first lighting of the Olympic flame, the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games had the first Olympic Village, and The Olympic torch relay was introduced for the 1936 Berlin Summer Games. That year Hilter was embarrassed on a global scale when his "pure Aryans" were soundly defeated by the African-American, Jesse Owens and men from other "mongrel" races.
In 1956, the Winter Games in Cortina, Italy and the Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia became the first ever televised Olympics. At the 1968 Mexico City games came the first athlete disqualified for using drugs. Like the ancient games, victorious athletes in the Olympics are now idolized. They are featured on everything from cereal boxes to sports products. One 30 second television commercial during the Olympics costs in excess of half a million dollars.
The Olympics increasingly honor Greek Mythology with the 2004 opening ceremonies being the most elaborate spectical to date. Although safety concerns may have decreased the ticket sales by a couple million from the year 2000 in Australia, the return of the Olympics to its homeland of Greece still had millions of spectators to watch athletes representing over 200 countries compete in nearly 300 events.
The Olympics aren’t only about competition, or winning; as Pierre deCoubertin has said, "The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." The Apostle Paul wrote near the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7).
Paul, who may have been familar with the A.D. 51 Olympics, compared the Olympics to the Christian life. Life is a race, Christians are the athletes, and the finish line is the destiny- heaven. Life isn’t always about winning, or getting ahead; the most important thing is to get past the struggles, and to have done your best. The crowns of wild olives and the Olympic medals are the "unfading crown of glory" (I Peter 5:4) we will receive when we enter into the very presence of God in heaven, when he looks at us and says, “well done, my good and faithful servant”. It will be a moment of glory and honor, just like the glory of the victor crossing the finish line. However, this time, all the glory will be to God. And the moment will last forever, when a thousand years are equal to a day. Yes, we will be among the millions of saved souls and angels in joyful assembly, singing “hallelujah, the Lord almighty reigns”.
“… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily
beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking
unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..”
"...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline
is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since
it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come..."
-1 Timothy 4:7-8
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
-1 Corinthians 9:24-27
1. What year were the first ancient Olympics first held?
a) 1394 B.C.
b) 776 B.C.
c) 393 A.D.
d) 1896 A.D.
2. Who banned the ancient Olympics, and why?
a) Queen Victoria, because the athletes were too smelly for her
b) The Pope, because he banned all religious festivals
c) Emperor Theodosius, because the athletes plotted to kill him
d) Emperor Theodosius, because he banned all religious festivals
3. Who revived the Olympics and started the modern Olympic movement?
a) Baron de Coubertin
b) The Red Baron
c) William Wright Jr.
d) Snoopy, the red baron
4. Which is not a modern Olympic tradition.
a) The Olympic Flame
b) The Olympic rings
c) Olive crowns
d) Olympic Medals
5. When is the finish line in the Christian life?
a) When a person is saved
b) When a person is baptized
c) When a person has served God for 10 years
d) When a person goes to heaven
Barrett, Matt “Olympia” Matt Barrett’s Greece Travel Guides http://www.greecetravel.com/olympia/
“History of the Modern Olympics” Australian Sports Commission ©
Australian Sports Commission
“The Olympic Games- Past and Present” ©2002 Busch Entertainment
Department of Computer Science, Dartmouth college “The Ancient Olympic Games Virtual Museum” Dartmouth College, © 2001-2003 http://minbar.cs.dartmouth.edu/greecom/olympics/
Tufts University “Ancient Olympic events” Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/sports.html
:”Coubertin: Founder Of the Modern Olympics” Olympic-Legacy.Com http://www.mediaconcerto.com/olympic/athens1896/coubertin_1896.php
“Olympic Games” International Olympic Committee © IOC 2004. All rights reserved. http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/index_uk.asp
THE CHURCH AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES, Dr. John McRay, New Testament Archaeology, Wheaton College, http://www.sugreece.gr/resources_txt1.asp
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