The Olympic Saga

Sports have been the source of pleasure and energy for the societies since ages, but when people thought of better living, better buildings and better cities to live in, they not only became civilized in lifestyle, but also in approach. Societies thought of formally organizing almost all spheres of life, and sports were no exception.
During those times when lives were not that hectic and when people used to have more leisure time for sports and art, the idea of Olympic was born and it has now journeyed through several ages to come to the upcoming form of the much awaited 08-08-2008 Beijing Olympics.

The ancient Olympic Games were founded by Heracles, a son of Zeus. However, we do not have any documented records for this primitive event. The first Olympic Games for which we have written records were held in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. Though the games were held frequently even before 776 BC, it was not with the name of ‘Olympiad’. During the 776 BC Olympic Games, a naked runner, Coroebus, who was a cook by profession, won stade – a run of approximately 192 meters making himself the very first Olympic champion in history.

The Olympics were held in honor of the Greek gods and were of religious importance. Sacrifices and ceremonies were made during Olympics to honor the gods. The number of events kept on increasing with time and finally reached twenty. Winners of the events were greatly admired and were immortalized in poems and statues. The sporting fiesta was held after a period of four years and Greeks used Olympiads as one of their methods to count years!

However, the ancient traditional Olympics lost themselves in time. After nearly 1500 years in 1890, a young French Pierre de Coubertin formed a sports organization for the revival of Olympics. This organization was named as Union des Sociétés Francaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA). This organization went on to organize the first Olympic games and is now known as International Olympic Committee (IOC). The first Olympics were organized in April, 1896 in the ancient metropolitan city of Greece – Athens. However, inspite of the richness, the Greek government held itself out of funds for construction of stadium for the first Olympics. Then, a wealthy Greek architect, Georgios Averoff, donated one million drachmas (over $100,000) to restore the Panathenaic Stadium of Athens, where first Olympics were held. Due to lack of international publicity, contestants of Olympics were not chosen at a national but rather came individually and at their own expense. Some contestants were tourists who happened to be in the area during the Games!

Games like Pole vaulting, sprints, shot put, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, target shooting, tennis, marathon and gymnastics were played during the first Olympics. The swimming events were held in the Bay of Zea in the Aegean Sea. James B. Connolly of United States, winner of the hop, step, and jump was the first champion of the first modern Olympic Games.

Since the first modern Olympics were organized in Greece, till now also, during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the procession of athletes is always led by the Greek team, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order (in the language of the hosting country), except for the last team which is always the team of the hosting country!

Saurabh Shrama

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