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History of Olympics

From Ancient Olympics Guide

Even though the modern Olympic Games are held every four years, they bear little resemblance to the athletic contests held at Olympia in Greece in ancient times.

The games were open to competitors from all Greece, and the contests included chariot racing, horse racing, running, wrestling, boxing, and the pentathlon, a contest involving jumping, quoit- throwing, javelin- throwing, running and wrestling.

Scholars date the earliest contests at 776 B.C., more than two and a half thousand years ago. The first trophies that were won consisted not of gold medals and cups but of simple crowns of olive leaves. Women and slaves were admitted neither as contestants nor as spectators. The classical games ceased to be held probably about A.D.393.

Much of the credit for the revival of the Games held at Athens in 1896 goes to Baron- Pierre de Coubertin, a French classical scholar, who greatly admired the sporting ideals of the ancient Greeks. As an educationist and lover of amateurism he looked upon physical exercise as an essential feature of balanced education. Forty-two events were contested and new disciplines such as cycling, hurdling, the high jump, shooting and gymnastics were introduced.

One of the most popular events of the modern Olympics is marathon. This very tiring twenty-six mile foot race over an open course is the supreme test of the runners’ endurance. The marathon was not a part of the ancient Olympics although it originated in Greece.

And, finally a more recent development in the Olympics is the introduction of the winter games, which were started in 1924. They are held separately from the summer games but in the same year. The winter Olympics provide competition in skiing, speed and figure skating, ice hockey, and rifle shooting. Such cold weather sports could never have developed in the warm climate of Greece.

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