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History of the Olympic Games, Ancient to Modern

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The Ancient Olympic Games to the Modern Olympic Games

History of the Ancient Olympic Games (776 BC to AD 395)

The Ancient Olympic Games were held at Olympia in Greece in the town of Elis, Greece. Olympia is considered the "birth-place of the Olympic Games".

The games began in 776 B.C. to honour Zeus. According to mythology, Pelops, the king of the Peloponnese was their founder. And, from 776 BC to AD 395 the games continued. An incredibly impressive span of over 1,000 years. Similar to the Modern Olympic Games, the ancient Greek Olympics festival was held every 4 years.

The centerpiece of the olympic grounds at Olympia was the Temple of Zeus. And, inside was the enormous statue (one of the seven wonders of the world) of Zeus. The ancient Olympic games were held in honor of Zeus, the supreme God in Greek mythology.

The early Olympic games were very much a religious event. And in fact, the Games ended until 393 AD, when Roman Emperor Theodosius I said they had become "too pagan".

Hundreds of years passed and Olympia turned to ruins. It was not until 1766 when Olympia was rediscovered by Richard Chandler and archaelogical digs began.

There were several main buildings on the Olympia grounds where events and other activities were held. These buildings included: the stadium, gymnasium, palaistra, bath, swimming pool, and hippodrome. Bathing was of great importance in those ancient times. The hippodrome was for horse racing. The palaestra for wrestling and boxing.

It is believed 40,000 people watched events at "The Stadium".

Sports played at the Ancient Olympics included:

Originally the games centered around running, with several foot races. Of course, the race which originated in ancient times that gets the most attention thousands of years later is the marathon. Eventually, the ancient Olympic Games included boxing, wrestling, the pentathlon, horse racing, chariot racing, and equestrian events. The pentathlon included the discus, jumping, javelin, running, and wrestling: quite a distinct grouping of diverse activities.

Winners of the ancient olympic events were given an olive wreath, properly called 'kotinos'. Olive trees were considered sacred in Greece. In fact there was a specific olive tree, called "Callistephanos Elaia", that they used to make the olives wreathes.

The Olympic Games we have all come to know were not all that different from the games that are celebrated today. But there were striking differences as well. In the Ancient Olympic Games women were not allowed to compete at all. And, it is only in the last 20 years that women in the Olympics has grown noticeably and impressively.

The Modern Olympics

The Games were revived by a Frenchman named Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He was motivated by a passionate interest in the importance of physical exercise, particularly for younger people, as a means to balance education.

Though Olympia�s ruins were discovered in 1766, they were not fully uncovered until 1881. And that was another item of great interest to Coubertin. The rediscovery of Olympia also helped to fuel general interest in reviving the ancient olympic games.

The modern Olympic games began in 1896. Fittingly, the location was Athens, Greece. Though the modern Olympics would not return to Greece again until 2004.

Coubertin was also the main reason why the second modern Olympic Games were held in Paris, France in 1900.

Coubertin was President of the IOC from 1896 to 1925.

Visit here: for an overview of the Modern Olympic Games, year by year.

The Official Olympic Sites
· All Games
· Summer: Beijing 2008
· Winter: Torino 2006
· Summer: Athens 2004
· Winter: Salt Lake City 2002
· Summer: Sydney 2000
· Winter: Nagano 1998
· Summer: Atlanta 1996
· Winter: Lillehammer 1994
· Summer: Barcelona 1992
· Winter: Albertville 1992
· Summer: Seoul 1988
· Winter: Calgary 1988
· Summer: Los Angeles 1984
· Winter: Sarajevo 1984
· Summer: Moscow 1980
· Winter: Lake Placid 1980
· Summer: Montreal 1976
· Winter: Innsbruck 1976
· Summer: Munich 1972
· Winter: Sapporo 1972
· Summer: Mexico City 1968
· Winter: Grenoble 1968
· Summer: Tokyo 1964
· Winter: Innsbruck 1964
· Summer: Rome 1960
· Winter: Squaw Valley 1960
· Summer: Melbourne 1956
· Winter: Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956
· Summer: Helsinki 1952
· Winter: Oslo 1952
· Summer: London 1948
· Winter: St. Moritz 1948
· Summer: 1944- No games WWII
· Winter: 1944- No games WWII
· Summer: 1940- No games WWII
· Winter: 1940- No games WWII
· Summer: Berlin 1936
· Winter: Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936
· Summer: Los Angeles 1932
· Winter: Lake Placid 1932
· Summer: Amsterdam 1928
· Winter: St. Moritz 1928
· Summer: Paris 1924
· Winter: Chamonix 1924
· Summer: Antwerp 1920
· Summer: 1916- No games WWI
· Summer: Stockholm 1912
· Summer: London 1908
· Summer: St. Louis 1904
· Summer: Paris 1900
· Summer: Athens 1896
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