Long ago ancient Greeks often waged wars. Small states
suffered and lost much even if they did not take any side and
stayed out of wars. The ruler of such a small state, Elis,
wanted to live in peace with all neighbours. He was a good
di plomat because his negotiations were successful and Elis
was recognized a neutral state. To celebrate this achievement,
he organized athletic games.
In the beginning this feast lasted one day, but later a
whole month was devoted to it. All wars and feuds were
stopped by special heralds who rode in all directions of Greece.
The games were held every four years in Olympia on the
territory of Elis. The first games which later were called
the Olympic Games were held about a thousand years before
Usually the Olympic Games began before the middle of the
summer. Best athletes arrived from many Greek states to
Olympia to compete in running, long jumps, throwing of discus
and javelin and wrestling. In the course of time fist fighting
(boxing) and chariot races were also included in the Games.
All athletes took an oath that they had been preparing,
well for the Games and promised to compete honestly and
keep the rules of the sacred Olympics. Tbe athletes took part
in all.kinds of competitions. Winners were called "olympionics",
they were awarded olive wreaths and cups of olive oil. This
tradition has survived. In our time sportsmen often get cups
and wreaths for winning the first place in sports competitions.
The olympionics of ancient Greece became very popular.
Best craftsmen were chosen to make honourary cups, many
poets wrote and recited in public poems about the best athletes.
Sculptors made their statues which were put up at the birthplace
of the winners.
The Olympic Games were accompanied by arts festivals.
Poets recited their poems, singers sang hymns, dancers danced
and orators pronounced speeches :— all this in honour of the
Only men could take part in the Olympic Games. Women
were not allowed even to watch the competitions at the stadium
under the fear of death penalty. There was a single exception,
when a woman coached her son and accompanied him to the
stadium in men's clothes. That brave woman was spared the
penalty because her son excelled in many events.
Magnificent strong bodies inspired artists and sculptors.
They painted wall pictures and made statues of marble and
bronze, so now we can admire the corporal beauty of ancient
and eternally young discus thrower, javelin bearer and others.
The Olympic Games had been held for about eleven hundred
years, until the emperor Theodosius banned them for religious
reasons in 394 A. D.
The revival of the Olympic Games began long time
afterwards, in 1892, when a young French teacher Pierre de
Coubertiii made a public speech before the Union of French
sports clubs in Paris.
At that time many people in many countries practised various kinds of sports and games. They wanted to make friends and compete with sportsmen from other lands. Pierre de Coubertin understood the importance of sports which unified peoples of the world and served the cause of peace like in ancient time.
On the 23rd of June 1894 the International Congress of
amateur sportsmen made an important decision: to revive the
Olympic Games and to establish the International Olympic
Committee which would be responsible for the administration
of the modern Olympic Games. The first Committee consisted
of 12 members. Now 82 members of the International Olympic
Committee control the affairs of all member countries which
joined the Olympic movement.
I What did ancient Greeks do long ago?
2. What did the ruler of a small state want to do?
3. Why did the ruler organize athletic games?
4. How long did the first feast last?
5. When did the Olympic Games begin?
6. How were the winners called?
7. What were the Olympic Games accompanied by?
8. Who was not allowed to take part in the Olympic Games?
9. When did the revival of the Olympic Games begin?