So we’ve all got our tickets (or maybe not) to the greatest sporting event in the world and London is becoming full of Olympic spirit.
But where did it all begin? We take a quick look at the history of this famous event that originated in Ancient Greece.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, by Kevin Poh
The Ancient Olympics were created in Olympia (hence the name) over 2,700 years ago as part of a religious festival. These Olympics began in 776 BC in honour of the king of the Gods, Zeus, and inspired the modern Olympics that we know today.
Although it was many years ago, the majority of events at the Games were pretty similar to the ones we’ll be watching in London this July and included running, wrestling, boxing and javelin. The running track was much wider and longer than it is now (183 metres) with as many as 20 people being able to run at once.
Did you know…? Most athletes in Ancient Greece competed in the nude!
A Pankration Mosaic, by Dennis Jarvis
With fewer rules and regulations in competitive sport back then, some events were pretty dangerous and certainly wouldn’t be allowed today.
The pankration, or all-in wrestling, was one of the worst with lots of biting and poking people’s eyes out! Boxing was very different too with competitors wearing leather gloves and being allowed to carry on punching their opponent even when he was on the floor.
Did you know…? Fights had no time limit and continued until a competitor surrendered, lost consciousness or died!
The Colosseum in Rome by Sean King
Taking place every four years for around 1200 years, the Games continued to grow until Rome conquered Greece in the 100’s BC. The Romans replaced traditional events with gladiatorial contests as standards and sportsmanship began to decline.
Competitors in these Games were professional athletes who often took part in bloody and violent events. In 393 CE, the Roman emperor Theodosius I stopped the Games because of their pagan influences. It wasn’t until around 1,500 years later that they began again, thanks to French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin who constructed a committee to organise the Games (now the IOC).
Did you know…? Pierre de Coubertin won a gold medal for literature after introducing an arts competition at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.
Usain Bolt celebrating, by Thor Matthiasson
The first ever modern Games were held in Athens in 1896 with around 241 athletes from 14 nations taking part in 43 events.
Times were much slower than they are today with the American runner, Thomas Burke winning both the 100 metres in a time of 12 seconds and the 400 metres in 54.2 seconds. Today Jamaican Usain Bolt holds the world record for the 100 metres (9.58 seconds) and the 400 metres record is held by Michael Johnson of the USA, with a time of 43.18 seconds.
Did you know…? Although Usain Bolt is the fastest man ever, the first sport he played was actually cricket, where he was a talented fast bowler.
Many of the ancient Olympic sites such as the Columns of Olympian Zeus can still be found in Athens, Greece today. Click here for some great deals on hotels in Greece or visit Hotels4u for a range of accommodation in Rome.
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