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A History of the Olympic Games

Jun 24, 2008
There are many stories on how the Olympic Games started in ancient Greece. One story unfolds that it was Heracles who first established the Games after concluding his twelve labors to honor his father, the deity Zeus. Another legend tells that it was the guardians of an infant Zeus who founded the Games by competing in the first footrace. Or perhaps it was Zeus himself who created the Olympic Games after he defeated his father Cronus to become the King of Gods. Whatever the story of how the Olympic Games originated, one constant is clear: the ancient Olympic Games were held as a tribute to Zeus.

Unlike the modern Olympics, the host city of the ancient Olympic Games did not change. It was always held in Olympia, Greece. Olympia is also known for the Temple of Zeus where the ivory and gold statue of Zeus can be found. The statue was proclaimed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World which again speaks of the importance of the gods in the Greek life and culture.

The Olympics served as a meeting place and festival where every four years, athletes and spectators would gather to compete and honor the gods. However, only free Greek men were allowed to compete. Women were barred from competing and only maidens were allowed to attend the Games. To the winners at the Olympic Games, great honor came to them from their home villages. Statues were erected in their image and their legend grew in stories. One could say that this is not much different from today's sporting heros.

The oldest records of the Olympic Games date back to 776 BC but the Games might have started as early as 884 BC. The Olympics thrived for many centuries and grew in events and participants. However, as the Roman Empire's power infiltrated Greece, Emperor Theodosius I outlawed the Olympics as a pagan festival in 393 AD. The Olympics laid dormant for nearly 1500 years until a French historian, Pierre de Coubertin, officially revived the Olympics by setting up the International Olympic Committee to organize the Games. Athens, Greece became the host city of the first modern Olympics in 1896. In keeping with ancient traditions, the Olympics are held in four year cycles known as the Olympiad. However, the host city now changes to spread the goodwill and the Olympic spirit to other nations.

The Olympics has certainly come a long way from ancient times but the wealth of history that surrounds the spectacle remains. Perhaps that is why the Olympics will continue to capture the imagination of a worldwide audience throughout the ages.
About the Author
Olympic Blvd is the place for all things related to the Olympic Games. To celebrate the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, check out the Beijing FUWA mascots souvenirs we have available in a variety of FUWA mascot plush dolls.
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