”The Olympic Games are the quadrennial celebration of the springtime of humanity”
Pierre de Coubertin
With the Rio Olympics slowly settling into the history books and the Rio Paralympics taking place this week it is important to look back at such events with grace and gratitude as they remind us why sports are so important and why we all need to engage in athleticism in the course of our lifetime. While all Modern Olympic Games have been faced with uncertainty and struggles as far as facilities, infrastructures, financial costs and civic matters nothing ever came close to shattering the Olympic spirit. Sports and fitness bring people together. The Olympics are a prime example of nations, of different people from all around the world gathering together, and competing with each other to first surpass mental and physical limits and consequently civil and social boundaries in respect to something greater. Peace, Freedom, Passion, Love, and Honor.
A Brief History of Olympics
The Olympic Games began at Olympia in Greece in 776 BC. The Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad, the four-year period between games. The games were staged in the wooded valley of Olympia in Elis. There the Greeks erected statues and built temples in a grove dedicated to Zeus, supreme among the gods. Scholars have speculated that the games in 776 BC were not the first games, but rather the first games held after they were organized into festivals held every four years as a result of a peace agreement between the city-states of Elis and Pisa. The victors of these early games were crowned with wreaths from a sacred olive tree that grew behind the temple of Zeus. The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I. The ancient Olympic Games lasted for 1170 years. The successful campaign to revive the Olympics was started in France by Baron Pierre de Coubertin late in the 19th century. The first of the modern Summer Games opened on Sunday, March 24, 1896, in Athens, Greece. The first race was won by an American college student named James Connolly.
The Importance of Ancient Greek Athletics
The ancient Greeks were highly competitive and believed strongly in the concept of “agon”, or “competition” or “contest”. The ultimate Greek goal was to be the best. All aspects of life, especially athletics, were centered around this concept. It was therefore considered one of the greatest honors to win a victory at Olympia. The fact that the only prize given at Olympia was an olive wreath illustrates this point. The athletes competed for honor, not for material goods.
Athletics were of prime importance to the Greeks. The education of boys concentrated on athletics and music as well as academic subjects such as philosophy. Education took place in the gymnasion and the palaistra as well as the academy.
The Sacred Truce
The sacred truce was instituted during the month of the Olympiad. Messengers known as “spondorophoroi” carried the word of the truce and announced the date of the games all over the Greek world. The truce called for a cessation of all hostilities for a period of one month (later three months) to allow for the safe travel of athletes to and from Olympia. Armies and armed individuals were barred from entering the sanctuary. In addition, no death penalties could be carried out during the period of the truce.
Modern Olympic Games
The best amateur athletes in the world match skill and endurance in a series of contests called the Olympic Games. Almost every nation sends teams of selected athletes to take part. The purposes of the Olympic Games are to foster the ideal of a “sound mind in a sound body” and to promote friendship among nations.
The modern Olympic Games are named for athletic contests held in ancient Greece for almost 12 centuries. They were banned in AD 394 but were revived and made international in 1896. The Winter Games were added in 1924. World War I and World War II forced cancellation of the Olympics in 1916, 1940, and 1944, but they resumed in 1948 and are held every four years. After 1992 the Winter and Summer Games were no longer held within the same calendar year. Winter Games were scheduled for 1994, after only a two-year interval, and every four years thereafter. The Summer Games were scheduled for 1996, and every four years thereafter. Read More
The Athletes Tribune
Being an athlete and representing your country in the biggest sports festival in the world is not only beautiful but gracious as well. Athletes of that magnitude emit respect and prestige. Through their efforts, we all witness human’s ever-changing limits. The hardships and countless hours of practice they have devoted to their piece of art can forever change the world.
Their performances reflect their struggles and the best will always prevail. At times records are broken and memorable moments are carved in history. An athlete in an Olympic stadium will showcase his values. This can be a highlighting of a great man or the unveiling of low character. Whatever it is, these athletes through their actions and performance have a direct impact on the spectators and the people watching. They will inspire the following generations to take part into Greatness that is athleticism and aspire to live a better life and exceed their mental and physical limits.
Athletes are role models and as that, need to behave with grace, respect, courage, and maturity on and off the field.
The Spectators View
Being a spectator of the Olympic Games has its own glory.
Firstly you are taking part in the greatest sports celebration, enjoying great performances and offering your support to all these athletes. In truth, spectators are very important to athletes. They offer extra motivation and confidence. When an athlete is afraid to set a higher standard spectators always help him and give him that extra edge. When athletes are tired, exhausted or even injured, a huge elevating applause from the crowd can help them finish the race. As a spectator, you help athletes surpass their limits and justify all their efforts and hardships.
Being a spectator is not only about the excitement and the thrill. It isn’t simply taking time off your daily routine. With participating and watching closely these sports events you are becoming part of something greater than yourself and distribute to the whole. When a record is broken, when a great performance takes place we should all feel a sense of achievement. This just shows that our capabilities as human beings are countless and forever unknown.
Events of such magnitude are always great especially in troubled times like the ones we are living. With the frequent terrorist attacks, the uncertainty, and economic instability, the wars taking place in the Middle East and the political system slowing changing its status we all need to take a step back and participate in something greater than ourselves. In a world driven by ego and self-interest, we need act more and more as a voice of selflessness.
Taking part in the Olympic Games either as an athlete or as a spectator is noble. We should all be inspired but the ancient Greek idea of “agon”, or “competition” or “contest”. The goal of every human being should be to become the best they can be. We shouldn’t aspire for mediocrity but greatness.
Such concept needs to be fulfilled not by tearing each other down but by building ourselves up. Through our personal and social actions, our life’s work and the legacy will leave behind for the world to see.
Ευγενής Άμιλλα (good sportsmanship) should be the driving force of our lives. The Olympic Games were founded on this exact principle and we need to remember that there are superior things in life than money, fancy clothes, and nice drinks.
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.
Pierre de Coubertin
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