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History of the Olympic Games
Games in honor of the Greek gods
The Olympic Games have their origins in Greece, in Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula. The myth says that the demigod Heracles founded the games in honor of his father Zeus, the highest god of the Greek world of gods.
Historical records from the 4th century BC date the first games to 776 BC. At least there are winners lists that go back to this point in time.
Until the year 724 BC, the games consisted of just one stadium run. A "stadium" is an ancient Greek unit of measurement that is approximately 192.28 meters. Over the years, more and more sports have been added.
First further running competitions, then various fist and wrestling matches as well as the Pentathlon. This ancient pentathlon consisted of discus throwing, long jump, javelin throwing, running and wrestling. From 680 BC onwards, various equestrian competitions were gradually introduced.
Participation was initially restricted
Only young Athenians of Greek descent were allowed to take part in the first Olympic Games. This rule was relaxed over time and the games were open to all athletes from the region. However, these had to be full citizens of a Greek city-state, were not allowed to have committed any crime and were not born out of wedlock.
All athletes had to arrive at the Olympics by a certain time before the start of the Games. Who came too late was disqualified. Since the athletes competed against each other in several disciplines, the games traditionally took place for six days and had a specific sequence, which also included festivals and offerings to the gods.
Athletes cheat at competitions - the Olympics are banned
Over time, the focus was less on cult and more on sport. The judges examined the participants before the games. Those who were not fit enough were not admitted to the competition.
The competitors developed more and more from amateurs to professional athletes who spent years preparing for the competitions. A normal citizen could not afford this, so participation was mostly only possible for athletes from well-heeled families.
The winners no longer had to pay taxes and were fed the rest of their lives at state expense. In addition, they were celebrated in their honor for days after the games. A victory meant fame. This irritated the athletes, so that more and more of them cheated in the competitions.
In the year 67 AD, Emperor Nero took part in the games and won by bribery in six disciplines - including the chariot race, even though he fell from the chariot while driving.
So the games lost value. In addition, the belief in the Greek gods decreased during this time. The Christian faith became popular and eventually became the state religion of Rome in 380 AD. Finally, the Christian Emperor Theodosius banned the Olympic Games in AD 394. They were, in his opinion, a pagan cult.
The Olympics are being revived
More than 1,500 years later, on June 23, 1894, it was decided to reinstate the Olympic Games. The idea for this came from Pierre de Coubertin, a French student who studied pedagogy. He got to know the English boarding school education on study trips through England.
In physical education, ambition and the ability to work in a team were conveyed and the students received this enthusiastically. Coubertin recognized that sport had to be the ideal way to bring young people from all over the world together.
Almost at the same time, the German archaeologist Ernst Curtis found the remains of the ancient Olympic venues. Fascinated by these finds, Coubertin came up with the idea of reviving the games - in a modern version for all nations.
Sports enthusiasts from all over the world came together and formed the first International Olympic Committee (IOC). They selected the sports that would become Olympic disciplines and established the first rules.
The first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in April 1896. However, it was primarily Greeks who competed. Participants from other nations are said to have happened to be tourists or embassy employees who worked in Athens. The games were too unknown or the way to Athens too far for the athletes.
Only male amateur athletes were allowed in these first games. However, women were allowed to participate in the games in the years that followed, first in the disciplines of golf and tennis.
Gradually, more competitions were added. The amateur paragraph in the rules of the Olympic Games was not deleted until 1981. This said that the participants are not allowed to earn any money with sports.
Sport and politics
Coubertin wanted the Olympic Games to be apolitical and freely accessible to every nation. So that they could not be misused for political purposes, Coubertin only allowed the respective governors and representatives of the host country one prescribed sentence in the opening ceremony to open the games:
"I hereby declare the Olympic Games of ..., with which the ... Olympics of the modern era will be celebrated, opened." Coubertin designed the official symbol of the Olympic Games - the five interconnected rings - in 1913. The rings symbolize the five continents.
Although intended to be apolitical, the Olympic Games have been used repeatedly for political purposes in the past. This was also the case in 1936, when the Summer Games took place in Berlin. The National Socialists used this opportunity to put their regime in the international public in a better light and staged an apparently tolerant competition.
The 1980 Games in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles coincided with the Cold War. A total of 64 countries from the Islamic and Western world did not take part in Moscow, including the USA and Germany. The return coach followed four years later: The games in Los Angeles were boycotted by 18 socialist countries, including the Soviet Union and the GDR.
The division into summer and winter games has existed since 1924. Since that time, the summer games in particular have developed from a small sporting event for amateur athletes to a major sporting event that is watched by the whole world every four years.
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