The History of the Olympic Games

The History of the Olympic Games

, 4 min reading time

The Olympic games started thousands of years ago. We have written a brief history to teach you everything you need to know about the history of this spectacular four yearly event that brings the whole world together.

776 BC - The Beginning

The first games can be traced all the way back to 776 BC in the city of Olympia, Greece. The games were not as varied as they are now and there are records of a 192m race which was won by a cook called Coroebus.
The Name
The name for the Olympics comes from the location of Olympia where the games were held. It was a sacred site to the western coast of southern Greece. Ancient historians even named the time between each game as an Olympiad - a measure of four years.
The Reason
The ancient Greek Gods are deep in the reason for the creation of these games, although the exact starting point and who they were created by is unclear. They were very religious in ancient Greece and would hold many religious festivals and celebrations throughout the year. The games were held in honour of the most revered of all the Gods - Zeus. At Olympia - where the first games were held - there was a statue of Zeus standing at 13 metres tall as well as the temple which contained the enormous statue of Zeus. The sanctuary of Zeus (or Altis) was the name given to the area containing the temple of Zeus along with other temples, statues, alters and treasuries - all relevant to the Olympic games. The games were also a way to invite people from cities all over the country to come together - helping promote good relationships between all parts of Greece.
The Ancient Olympic Events
These started off as a one-day event, progressing to a three then five day event as they introduced more and more events. The early games only included one running event: Stade - a 192 metre race along the length of the stadium (this is where the word for stadium comes from)

724 BC - 52 Years on the Olympics Grew

After 13 Olympic games, two more events were added: Diaulos - a race of approx. 400 metres (two lengths of the stadium) Dolichos - a longer distance race, possibly around 5000 metres as it is said to be around 20 length of the stadium. Then, in 708 BC the following event was added to the Olympic games: Pentathlon - consisted of five events; a race on foot, a long jump, discus and javelin throws and a wrestling match. 688 BC - Boxing joined as one of the events 680 BC - Chariot racing 648 BC - Pankration made its Olympic debut - a primitive martial art combining wrestling with boxing The other events we know to have been part of the ancient games were other equestrian events including horses or horses and chariots, wrestling as an individual event and events just for boys.

250 BC - Olympic Games Decline

In 250 BC the Olympic games began its ancient decline. The Roman Empire had conquered Greece at this point and the quality of the games declined from this point onward. In AD 67, Emperor Nero entered himself into the chariot race and declared himself the winner - despite tumbling from his chariot half way through the race!

AD 393 - The End of an Era

In AD 393 Emperor Theodosius I banned all festivals with any kind of pagan heritage, which included the Olympic games. The Olympics had been going for over 1200 years, and after many acts of vandalism, flood and earthquake the once sacred place of Olympia disappeared.

The Olympics Reborn

So how did the modern day version of these games appear every fours years on our calendars? In 1875 archaeological digs by German archaeologists unearthed the ancient site of Olympia, which went on to inspire Pierre de Coubertin the founder of the modern games. In 1896 the very first modern games took place in Athens, Greece with 280 sportsmen (no women) taking part in 43 different events.

Things you may not know about the Olympics

  • The passing of the Olympic torch from previous host city to the next was a tradition created by Carl Diem the chief organiser of the Berlin games - coopted by Nazi Germany as a tool for their propaganda.
  • The Olympic rings represents the union of five continents - but not the continents themselves.
  • The Olympic motto is three Latin words: Citius - Altius - Fortius which means: Faster - Higher - Stronger
  • The colours on the Olympic flag are all the colours that were included in the flags of the participant countries at the time it was created.
  • Greece always processes as the first country during the opening ceremony - everyone else is alphabetically apart from the host country who follow up the procession at the back.


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