A Brief Review of the Olympics from Greece 776 BC To London 2012

About three millennia ago free Greek males began gathering for racing contests in honor of Zeus.  The race was called a stade, roughly 180 meters. Heracles, son of Zeus, founded the games for men. Women were not allowed at these contests.

Based on legend and myth, Hera, Queen of the Gods, instituted a festival for young women to come together every five years to complete in a race. The battle of the sexes began between Zeus and Hera in Ancient Greece over Heracles.

After Greece was conquered by Rome, Rome gave the games their own twist and importance.  The common man could not compete because the games became professional; only well-trained and sponsored athletes were allowed.

Finally, in order to stamp out pagan influences in the Empire, Emperor Theodosius in the 390s, urged by the Church, καταργέω (katargeó) or ended the games.  It is of interest that in the New Testament the games were never condemned, especially by the Nazarene Teacher in the Gospels or the great theologian Paul in his writings.  It would seem that a number of things are condemned by the Church over the last 1700 years which have no basis in the New Testament.

For the next fifteen hundred years the games would remain inert. Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator and historian, pushed, pleaded, prodded and probably prayed to revive the games. Dimitrios Vikelas, a Greek poet and author, joined the crusade to revive the games, but not in Paris—in Athens.

The International Olympic Committee was formed. Dimitrios Vikelas was the first chairman.  The committee had 14 members.

April 6, 1896 241 male athletes from 14 nations attended the first games in Athens.  There were 43 events.

The 1896 Olympic Anthem was composed by Spiros Samaras, composer, and Kostis Palamas, poet. The English words are

Immortal spirit of antiquity,
Father of the true, beautiful and good,
Descend, appear, shed over us thy light
Upon this ground and under this sky
Which has first witnessed thy unperishable fame.
Give life and animation to those noble games!
Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors
In the race and in strife!
Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!
Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple
To which all nations throng to adore thee.

It would be in Paris at the 1900 Games that women (22 of them) would compete for the first time.  They have been more than up to the challenge since then. http://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/women.htm; http://www.olympic.org/Documents/Reference_documents_Factsheets/Women_in_Olympic_Movement.pdf

At the 1936 Berlin Games Adolf Hitler wanted the world to see his New Germany, his Third Reich.  He tried unsuccessfully to bar Jews and Blacks from the games. He took out his frustration on the Romani (Gypsies) who were rounded up “to clean up” Berlin and placed in a “special” camp.

The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. From left on the podium are bronze medalist Jajima of Japan, gold medalist Jesse Owens of the United States and silver medalist Lutz Long of Germany. Long and German Olympic officials give the Nazi salute, while Owens gives a traditional salute. Photo: AP

Because of the World Wars the games were cancelled in 1916, 1940, and 1944. It is of note that the 1916 Games were scheduled for Berlin and the 1940 Games for Tokyo and Helsinki.

The 1920 Games were held in Antwerp, Belgium. The 1948 Games were held in London since it was the chosen site for the cancelled 1944 Games. Japan and German were not invited to send a delegation.  Because of the ravages and economics of the War no special Olympic Village was constructed for the female and male athletes from 59 countries.

The 1972 Summer Games in Munich saw the brutal attack by the 8-man group Black September.  11 Israelis, 5 members of Black September and one West German police officer died in the exchange, but the games would continue.

Some nations (the USA 1980 and the Soviet Union 1948 & 1984) have boycotted the games for political reasons. These decisions have dishonored the athletes from these countries.

President Jimmy Carter calling for a U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics on NBCís “Meet the Press.”
On April 12, after American hostages had been taken in Iran, an initially reluctant United States Olympic Committee voted to withdraw the United States team from the Moscow Games. Those Olympics, which opened in July, were not televised in the United States. Although the Soviet Unionís team participated in the February 1980 Winter Games at Lake Placid, N.Y., the U.S.S.R. got a measure of revenge by boycotting the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
New York Times

The games are supposed to be above politics.  They are to enhance a culture of friendship and cooperation between nations every four years as various men and women from the four corners of this planet traversing the cosmos come together to share a spirit of mutual respect and sportsmanship.

This will be London’s third time hosting the Games.  The first was in 1908.

Amidst a storm of adversity Britain’s relay team caused the biggest relay upset in Olympic history by winning gold in Athens 2004
Mark Lewis-Francis, Marlon Devonish, Darren Campbell and Jason Gardener celebrate winning the men’s 4x100m gold. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

May the London Games (July 27-August 12) XXX Olympiad live up to the spirit which is reflected in the above 1896 anthem.  May there be peace and no violence of any kind.

G. D. Williams       © 2012



London 2012



John Williams: Summons The Heroes 1996 Atlanta Games


Olympic Games 1968-2008 (fanfare, official theme, songs and best moments)


Céline Dion – The Power Of The Dream (Atlanta Olympics 1996)


Forever Friends 2008 Closing Ceremonies Beijing


The Ancient Olympics





Dimitrios Vikelas (February 15, 1835 – July 20, 1908)

Pierre de Coubertin (January 1, 1863-September 2, 1937)

Spyridon-Filiskos Samaras (November 29, 1861-April 7, 1917)

Kostis Palamas (January 13, 1859-February 27, 1943)

Olympic Hymn



The Tlatelolco Massacre 1968



September 5, 1972 Munich Massacre