History Of Olympic Games
The history of Olympic Games is divided into the ancient and the modern games. The first games were a pagan honor to the god Zeus and started sometime around the ninth century B.C. They were abolished about 394 A.D. Some detail is known about the early Olympic Games, but the modern games are covered in detail on the Olympic Game website and in print books.
Ancient Games. The history of the Olympic Games begins with the competitions in Olympia, without moving to any other venue. Competitions were limited to men and only those who were free and spoke Greek. The city towns sent the best athletes, and winners came home to huge celebrations and accolades. The ancient games were big on wrestling, running and boxing. Other events involved horseback riding and, of course, chariot racing. The Pentathlon, an event that required wrestling, running, jumping, discus throwing and javelin competition was huge. The Pankration event required boxing, and this was before the use of boxing gloves and head gear, and also made the athlete compete in wrestling. The only thing forbidden in this competition was gouging, as in taking out the opponent's eyes, and biting. Fans of ultimate fighting might enjoy this event. Prizes for winners included a leaf wreath worn on the head and a temporary statue. The winners also became the Paris Hilton of their hometown with invitations to all the happening events and free meals at all local restaurants. All the glory went to the victor.
Modern Games. Looking at the history of the Olympic Games over the modern period starts with the first game in 1896. The games lasted only ten days in April and were hosted in Athens by the Greek government. Fourteen countries attended the games and the countries of Great Britain, France, Greece and Germany brought the largest number of competitors. Important events included the traditional marathon, won by the host country at the first contest, and swimming which required that a boat take competitors out to sea and throw them in the ocean-a true sink or swim event. The first modern games featured events that included: artistic gymnastics, field, road and track athletics; both road and track cycling; fencing; shooting; swimming; tennis; weightlifting and Greco-Roman wrestling. That was it. No basketball or volleyball, simply a host of basic athletic events. The next modern game was held four years later in Paris in 1900. The first modern Olympic Games were held in the United States in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri. The location was chosen because planners thought it was a natural. The World's Fair was held in the city in the same year and the city was full of sports fans. The official Olympic Games website calls the games of 1904 a bit lacking. The events were spread out all over the city in a time before most folks had quick transportation to get to all the venues.
Important Events. The Olympics weren't held during the world wars. Some of the Olympic Games developed notorious histories because of the host country and the fact that certain countries boycotted the games. Many people thought it odd that an athletic event that was designed in the modern period to promote world peace would allow war or a boycott to interfere, but both interrupted the flow of the history of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games held in Berlin in 1936 created an interesting world situation and provided the topic for many modern history books focusing on Hitler's display and self-promotion of his home athletes. Unfortunately for Hitler, African American athlete Jesse Owen took four gold medals and the hearts of the world.
Innovations. The St. Louis Olympic Games were the first in history to award medals in gold, silver and bronze. The Olympic Games in 1936 were the first to feature televised coverage of the events, although not in the modern sense that we view the Olympics on television today. Adolph Hitler was so confident that his German athletes would take many awards that he had over two-dozen special television viewing rooms set up around the Olympic Stadium area. The locals could enter the rooms for free to see the competitions.