The Olympic Games, often referred to as the Olympics, is a global sports event that brings together athletes from around the world to compete in various sports and disciplines. The history of the Olympic Games is rich and spans thousands of years. Read here to learn about the story of the Olympics.
The proposal from the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 (LA28) to include five new sports has been accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session held in Mumbai. Cricket (T20), Baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse, and squash will be in the program at LA28.
The history of the Games goes back around 3,000 years, to the Peloponnese in Ancient Greece. Sports contests organized at Olympia took place every four years and acquired the name Olympic Games.
The exact reasons for the birth of the Games are still unknown, as history has become mixed up with mythology.
Ancient Olympics (c. 776 BCE – 394 CE)
The origins of the Olympics can be traced back to ancient Greece, with the first recorded Olympic Games held in Olympia in 776 BCE.
These ancient games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the Greek god Zeus. They featured athletic competitions, including foot races, discus throwing, and combat sports like wrestling and boxing.
- In addition to the Olympics, there were other major Panhellenic Games held in ancient Greece, including the Pythian Games at Delphi and the Isthmian Games at Corinth.
- These games attracted athletes from various Greek city-states and helped foster a sense of unity among the Greek people.
- The four-year interval between the Ancient Games editions was named an “Olympiad”, and was used for dating purposes at the time: time was counted in Olympiads rather than years.
There were originally three main criteria for participating in the ancient Olympic Games.
- The athlete had to be male, of Greek origin, and freeborn. Women (exceptions were made for owners of horses), slaves, and foreigners were excluded.
- After the conquest of Greece by Rome in 146 BC, the Romans were able to join the Greek athletes.
The Olympic Games continued for several centuries but declined during the Roman period. The games were banned by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I in 394 CE, marking the end of the ancient Olympics.
Revival of the Modern Olympics (Late 19th Century)
The idea of reviving the Olympic Games was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator, in the late 19th century.
- He believed that the Olympics could promote international understanding and goodwill through athletic competition.
- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was founded in 1894, and the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.
The modern Olympics quickly gained popularity and expanded to include various sports and events.
- Women competed for the first time at the 1900 Games in Paris. Of a total of 997 athletes, 22 women competed in five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf.
- Since 1991, any new sport seeking to join the Olympic program must have women’s competitions.
- With the addition of women’s boxing to the Olympic program, the 2012 Games in London were the first in which women competed in all the sports on the program.
- In the early years, the Olympics were strictly for amateur athletes. However, this changed over time, and the Olympics gradually opened up to professional athletes, allowing them to participate.
- The Games have also been the stage for political protests and boycotts, with notable incidents occurring during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.
The Winter Olympics were introduced in 1924, and the Paralympic Games for athletes with disabilities began in the mid-20th century.
- The first Winter Games were held in Chamonix (France), in 1924. Initially called the “International Winter Sports Week”, this event was renamed the “1st Olympic Winter Games” only in 1926 at the IOC Session in Lisbon.
From 1924 to 1992, the Summer and Winter Games were each held in the same year, every four years.
- After 1992, the Summer and Winter Games are each still held every four years but the Summer Games are celebrated during the first year of an Olympiad, and the Winter Games are held in the third year.
In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition involving 16 World War II veterans with spinal cord-related injuries in Stoke Mandeville, England. Four years later, competitors from Holland joined, and the international movement, now known as the Paralympic Movement, was born.
The Olympic Games have continued to evolve, introducing new sports and disciplines, such as basketball, snowboarding, and skateboarding.
The number of participating nations has also increased, reflecting the global nature of the event.
The Olympic Games are not just about sports but also promote values like friendship, respect, and excellence. The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger).
The next Olympics will be held in:
- In Paris, France, in 2024.
- In Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, in Italy, in 2026.
- In Los Angeles, USA, in 2028.
- In Brisbane, Australia, in 2032.
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee is the guardian of the Olympic Games and the leader of the Olympic Movement.
- It acts as a catalyst for collaboration between all Olympic stakeholders, including the athletes, the National Olympic Committees, the International Federations, the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, the Worldwide Olympic Partners and Olympic broadcast partners.
- It also collaborates with public and private authorities including the United Nations and other international organisations.
The modern Olympics face challenges related to issues like doping, commercialization, and the environmental impact of hosting the games. There is also ongoing debate about the choice of host cities and the cost of organizing the event.
- Hosting the Olympic Games is a massive financial undertaking for the host city and country. The costs of infrastructure development, security, and event organization can lead to substantial financial burdens and the risk of cost overruns.
- The environmental impact of hosting the Games is a growing concern. There is pressure to ensure sustainable practices in infrastructure development, transportation, and event management. Host cities are encouraged to consider long-term benefits beyond the Games.
- Security threats are a constant challenge for Olympic organizers. Protecting athletes, officials, and spectators from potential terrorist attacks or security breaches requires extensive planning and resources.
- Ensuring a level playing field and preventing doping scandals remains a challenge. Anti-doping measures are continually evolving to detect and deter cheating by athletes.
- The physical and mental well-being of athletes is increasingly in focus. Issues like athlete abuse, harassment, and the pressures of competition need to be addressed to create a healthy and safe environment for competitors.
- Developing extensive infrastructure for the Games often results in underutilized facilities post-event. Ensuring a productive and sustainable legacy for these structures is a challenge.
- Geopolitical tensions can impact the participation of certain countries or disrupt the diplomatic and peaceful spirit of the Games.
- Public support for hosting the Games can fluctuate, with some host cities experiencing significant opposition due to concerns about costs, displacement of residents, and other factors.
- Climate-related challenges, such as extreme weather conditions or environmental changes, can affect the scheduling and safety of outdoor events.
- Advances in technology impact the Games, from improving athletic performance to enhancing the viewing experience.
- Ensuring the ethical conduct of officials and administrators is a constant challenge. Concerns about corruption, transparency, and fair decision-making need to be addressed.
The Olympic Games have become one of the world’s most-watched and celebrated sporting events, bringing together athletes and nations in the spirit of competition and international cooperation. The Games continue to evolve, adapt to contemporary challenges, and uphold their historical values.
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-Article by Swathi Satish