Ancient Olympics

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Greek mythology tells us that it was Hercules, the strongest of all men, who challenged his four brothers to a race before the Gods in the fields of Olympia and so began the Olympic Games, which took character of a festival of sport. The recorded history actually begins in 776 B.C. a point at which the Greeks marked their calendars in four-year periods called Olympiads.

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games became one of the worlds most enduring and hallowed institutions. They were celebrated continuously for almost 1,200 years. The athletes who won were lauded as heroes for life, and often elevated to the status of royalty in their hometowns. Statues were erected in their honor around the extraordinary Temple of Zeus, near the Sacred Grove of Altis and the stadium at Olympia.

In 393 A.D., the Roman Emperor Theodosius declared the Olympic Games corrupt and put an end to them. Earthquakes and floods buried Olympia and the temple of Zeus until the German excavations of the 1870's. When the statues emerged from the vaults of antiquity and the overwhelming cultural beauty of Greek sport was put on display Europe went into a frenzy for all things classical.

A young Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, found the sacred ground of Olympia particularly fascinating. In his inspiration, he conceived the idea of Modern Olympic Games and successfully proposed it to a gathering of the worlds leading sports authorities on 23 June 1894 in the Grand Hall of the Sorbonne in Paris.

Coubertins dream of creating the worlds greatest sporting event - a truly international spectacle that would travel among the capitals of the world every four years was always a means to a far greater end. Coubertin and his colleagueslike their heirs in the Modern Olympic Movementbelieved that global sport could become a global platform for peace.

During the last century, the Olympic Movement has succeeded in many ways beyond Coubertins dream. It has survived the traumas of two World Wars, endured the horrors of modern terrorism, suffered political boycotts and overcome economic hardships that threatened its very existence. Today, the Olympic Movement is stronger and healthier than ever.


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