Published on December 4th, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Fitness Jargonbuster: Olympics
We all know the Olympic Games as a fun athletic event that happens every four years. Countries show off their wealth and culture, while the best athletes of the world compete against each other in many types of sports. Olympic records are achieved and medals are won. Each athlete who wins an Olympic medal earns fame and glory. We often hear of the dark side of the games as well. Doping, cheating and crazy orgies often ruin the pristine image the Olympics try to achieve. This article is all about how the Olympic games came to be and what they really represent in antiquity and today.
A Brief History of the Olympics
The ancient Greek myth says that the Olympics were founded by the son of Zeus, Hercules himself. The first historical records of the ancient Olympic games spoke of a race in 776BCE where a naked runner named Coroebus (a baker by trade) won an impressive victory leaving his fellow athletes far behind. The games continued to be played every four years for nearly 1200 years until the emperor Theodosius I abolished them, because he considered them pagan and ungodly. As we all know they were later revived by Pierre de Coubertin in 1920.
The ancient games were nothing like today’s super event. They were quite large for their time, but neither did the whole world participate nor was there so much emphasis on wealth as there is today. There were fewer games played back them. Mainly races of various kinds, discus throwing, spear throwing and hand to hand combat.
During the games everyone had to stop waging war and it was strictly forbidden to carry weapons anywhere near the event. It was a time of peace and achievement. To partake in the games you simply had to be able bodied and male. This is why many ancient Olympiad winners had also different occupations other than athleticism. Philosophers, politician and humble workers alike took part. Slaves and women could not take part in the games. Because the athletes were often almost naked it was forbidden for married women to be spectators. Whether unmarried women were allowed is a matter of debate still.
Sadly it was the rise of Christian belief in the Byzantine Empire that gave an end to the Olympic Games, which had been played for over a millennium. The emperor Theodosius considered the games to be pagan and abolished them. A French man, named Pierre de Coubertin brought the games back in their more international and modern form. He tried to retain the ancient Olympic spirit of peace and valiant achievement, yet created the games in a grander way, more suited for an event seen by the whole world.
A few facts about the modern Olympics
Today being an Olympic athlete can only be achieved by professional athletes and the games have become a more elite expression of physical prowess. This has brought many vices with it, since extreme competition between athletes and the extreme stakes drive many athletes to use illegal means to win. Doping is a sad and constant truth in the Olympics. No matter how much the athletes are checked, there is always a new drug and a different way to take it.
Careers are ruined within an instant just because a brilliant athlete lost his grip or stumbled. For every winner there are hundreds of losers who got nothing out of the experience but disappointment.
Countries spend millions on new stadium and impressive performances for the opening ceremonies, to show off their power and culture. This often draws the negative attention of the public, since the money could have been spent more wisely on infrastructure. The immense cost of hosting an Olympic Game is something most countries of the world simply can’t bare and this turns the games into an achievement of the elite.
The ideals of the Olympics have always been commendable: Peaceful competition, physical prowess and eternal glory. As with all great plans the truth never reaches the image if the ideal, yet the Olympics still are and will be one of the great human achievements nonetheless.