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Olympic games (111)

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The Ancient Games

   The Olympic Games is the evolution of the legendary conflicts among the Ancient Greek Gods. Historically recorded evidence dates the Games at circa 900 b.C. The very word for athlete derives from the name of Aethlius, King of Elis, our well known area of Olympia. The first verified record dates from 776 b.C. and, from then on, the Games were numbered at four-year intervals.
   At that period there was one competition event, the single stadium race and the first recorded Olympic winner was Coroibis, a native Elian. A stadium was 192.27 m. long, reputedly 60 times the length of Hercules' foot. Thirteen Olympiads later, in 724 b.C., a race of two-stadia, called diavlus, was initiated and in the following Olympiad we have the 24-stadia, known as dolichus. 708 b.C. marks the coming of the pentathlon, a combination of running, jumping, discus and javelin throwing, and wrestling. Running in armour, chariot racing and boxing were added in 648 b.C. along with pankration, a vicious form of boxing and wrestling. Now we have also some very peculiar events-contests, such as the... endurance in bugle blowing and other similarities of lesser sporting nature.
   For the next six centuries the fame of the Olympics spread to the remotest corners of the known world. Many celebrities came to Olympia to watch the games and among them quite a few of great political and financial output.
   Victors, in those early days, won a crown of wild olive-tree leaves. It was, though, known - but officially rejected - that many athletes received various material rewards, state favors etc, to the extend that some champions ended up becoming quite rich! For reasons not completely understood by us today, slaves as well as women were strictly forbidden, under capital penalty, not only to take part but even to attend the Games. There is recorded evidence of Velistiki who's chariot and horses won the contest, in 268 b.C., and therefore becoming a winner herself. She had to wait patiently outside the stadium for the judge to come out and present her with the trophy!
   With the coming of the Christian Era, the religious as well as the physical backgrounds of the Games received severe attacks. A non-stop decline takes tremendous sizes under the influence of the powerful Roman Empire. In a.D. 67 Rome witnessed their mad Emperor Nero being crowned winner of a chariot race despite the fact that he was the only contestant and, being drunk to stupor, did not even finish the distance! In Milan, in a.D. 398, Emperor Theodosius I, issued a decree that banned and prohibited the Games forever.
   The Games site at the Ancient Olympia were destroyed by several foreign invaders. Floods, landslides and earthquakes completed the obliteration. The world forgot the glory that once had been...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Olympia - Olympic games

Olympia (olumpia), usually called the Olympic games, the greatest of the national festivals of the Greeks. It was celebrated at Olympia in Elis, the name given to a small plain to the west of Pisa, which was bounded on the north and north-east by the mountains Cronion and Olympus, on the south by the river Alpheus, and on the west by the Cladeus, which flows into the Alpheus. Olympia does not appear to have been a town, but rather a collection of temples and public buildings, a full description of which does not come within the plan of this work. The whole district within the above-mentioned bounds was holy ground (temenos), sacred to Olympian Zeus, within which, on its northern side, was a quadrangular enclosure, of peculiar sanctity, called the Altis. The latter was in historic. times adorned with the most exquisite work that Hellenic art could produce in sculpture, painting, and architecture. Within it stood the temples of Olympian Zeus (Holumpieion), of Hera (Heraion), and the treasurehouses of many Hellenic states; while in the centre rose the high altar of Zeus, in sacrifice whereon he revealed his will to his chosen priests, the Iamidae (Pind. Olymp. vi.). Many relics of ancient art have been recently discovered in the Altis and the surrounding space, and much light has been thrown on the topography of Olympia, by excavations conducted according to the agreement made in 1874 between the Greek and German governments. For a minute, full, and highly interesting account of the results thus obtained, the reader may be referred to the work of Adolf Boetticher, Olympia, das Fest und seine Statte, 2nd edit., Berlin, 1886.
  The origin of the Olympic games is buried in obscurity. The legends of the Elean priests attributed the institution of the festival to the Idaean Heracles, and referred it to the time of Cronos. According to their account, Rhea committed her new-born Zeus to the Idaean Dactyli, also called Curetes, of whom five brothers, Heracles, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius, and Idas, came from Ida in Crete, to Olympia, where a temple had been erected to Cronos by the men of the golden age; and Heracles, the eldest, conquered his brothers in a foot-race, and was crowned with the wild olive-tree. Heracles hereupon established a contest, which was to be celebrated every five years, because he and his brothers were five in number (Pans. v. 7, § 4). Fifty years after Deucalion's flood they said that Clymenus, the son of Cardys, a descendant of the Idaean Heracles, came from Crete, and celebrated the festival; but that Endymion, the son of Aethlius, deprived Clymenus of the sovereignty, and offered the kingdom as a prize to his sons in the foot-race; that a generation after Endymion the festival was celebrated by Pelops to the honour of the Olympian Zeus; that when the sons of Pelops were scattered through Peloponnesus, Amythaon, the son of Cretheus and a relation of Endymion, celebrated it; that to him succeeded Pelias and Neleus in conjunction, then Augeas, and at last Heracles, the son of Amphitryon, after the taking of Elis. Afterwards Oxylus is mentioned as presiding over the games, and then they are said to have been discontinued till their revival by Iphitus. (Paus. v. 8, § 1, 2.) Most ancient writers, however, attribute the institution of the games to Heracles, the son of Amphitryon (Apollod. ii. 7, § 2; Diod. iv. 14; compare Strabo, viii. p. 355), while others represent Atreus as their founder. (Vell. Pat. i. 8; Hermann, Pol. Ant. § 23, n. 10.) But of all the traditions respecting the origin of the Olympic games, far the most interesting to us is that which Pindar adopts. According to him (Olymp. xi. 24-77; iii. 14), they were founded by Herakles Amphitryoniades to commemorate his victory over the Moliones and Augeas. We translate freely a passage from the Eleventh Olympic ode:--Thereupon did the valiant son of Zeus, gathering together in Pisa all his host and all the spoil of oxen which he drave, proceed to measure out a hallowed precinct (zatheon alsos) consecrate to Zeus most mighty; and in the open plain with a fence of stakes he marked the Altis off, and appointed the space around it to be a place of rest, whereon the folk might take their evening meal; the while he honoured Alpheus' stream in union with the twelve sovereign gods. Then gave he to Kronos' Hill its name; for heretofore, as long as Oinomaos reigned, nameless it rose and wet with many a snowflake. And at this, the birth-rite of the festival, the Destinies, I ween, stood by, yea and Time, sole test of what is good and true, which as it onward sped did manifest in what wise the hero portioned out, and slew, and sacrificed, as first-fruits, the spoils which war had given him; in what wise too, in sooth, with this, the First Olympiad, and the victories thereat won, he ordained that henceforth, as each term of four years closed, the feast should be renewed. The poet goes on to give a list of the victors at this celebration of the games, and it is worth observing that his record differs entirely from that of Pausanias, both in the names of the victors and in the other particulars (Pans. v. 7, p. 392).
  Strabo (viii. pp. 354, 355) rejects all these legends, and says that the festival was first instituted after the return of the Heraclidae to the Peloponnesus by the Aetolians, who united themselves with the Eleans. It is impossible to say what credit is to be given to the ancient traditions respecting the institution of the festival; but they appear to show that religious festivals had been celebrated at Olympia from the earliest times, and it is difficult to conceive that the Peloponnesians and the other Greeks would have attached such importance to this festival, unless Olympia had long been regarded [p. 269] as a hallowed site. The first historical fact connected with the Olympian games is their revival by Iphitus, king of Elis, who is said to have accomplished it with the assistance of Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, and Cleosthenes of Pisa; and the names of Iphitus and Lycurgus were inscribed on a disc in commemoration of the event; which disc Pausanias saw in the temple of Hera at Olympia. (Paus. v. 4, § 4; v. 20, § 1; Plunt. Lyc. 1, 23.) It would appear from this tradition, as Thirlwall (Hist. of Greece, ii. p. 386) has remarked, that Sparta concurred with the two states most interested in the establishment of the festival, and mainly contributed to procure the consent of the other Peloponnesians. The celebration of the festival may have been discontinued in consequence of the troubles consequent upon the Dorian invasion, and we are told that Iphitus was commanded by the Delphic oracle to revive it as a remedy for intestine commotions and for pestilence, with which Greece was then afflicted. Iphitus thereupon induced the Eleans to sacrifice to Heracles, whom they had formerly regarded as an enemy, and from this time the games were regularly celebrated. (Paus.) Different dates are assigned to Iphitus by ancient writers, some placing his revival of the Olympiad at B.C. 884, and others, as Callimachus, at B.C. 828. (Clinton, Fast. Hell. p. 409, t.) The interval of four years between two successive celebrations of the festival was called an Olympiad; but the Olympiads were not employed as a chronological era till the victory of Coroebus in the foot-race B.C. 776.
  The most important point in the renewal of the festival by lphitus was the establishment of the ekecheiria (in the Elean dialect therma = thesma; see Muller, Dor. i. p. 252), or sacred armistice, the formula for proclaiming which was inscribed in a circle on the disc mentioned above. The proclamation was made by peaceheralds (spondophoroi), first in Elis and afterwards in the other parts of Greece; it put a stop to all warfare for the month in which the games were celebrated, and which was called hieromenia. The territory of Elis itself was considered especially sacred during its continuance, and no armed force could enter it without incurring the guilt of sacrilege. When the Spartans on one occasion sent forces against the fortress Phyrcum and Lepreum during the existence of the Olympic truce (entais Olumpiakais spondais), they were fined by the Eleans, according to the Olympic law, 2000 minae, being two for each Hoplite. (Thucyd. v. 49.) The Eleans, however, pretended not only that their lands were inviolable during the existence of the truce, but that by the original agreement with the other states of Peloponnesus their lands were made sacred for ever, and were never to be attacked by any hostile force (Strabo, viii. p. 358); and they further stated that the first violation of their territory was made by Pheidon of Argos. But the Eleans themselves did not abstain from arms, and it is not probable that such a privilege would have existed without imposing on them the corresponding duty of refraining from attacking the territory of their neighbours. The later Greeks do not appear to have admitted this claim of the Eleans, as we find many cases in which their country was made the scene of war. (Xen. Hell. iii. 2, § 23, &c.; vii. 4, &c.)
  The Olympic festival was probably confined at first to the Peloponnesians; but as its celebrity extended, the other Greeks took part in it, till at length it became a festival for the whole nation, No one was allowed to contend in the games but persons of pure Hellenic blood: barbarians might be spectators, but slaves were entirely excluded. All persons who had been branded by their own states with atimia, or had been guilty of any offence against the divine laws, were not permitted to contend (Lex apud Dem. c. Aristocrat. p. 631,. § 37). When the Hellenic race had been extended by colonies to Asia, Africa, and other parts of Europe, persons contended in the games from very distant places; and in later times a greater number of conquerors came from the colonies than from the mother country. After the conquest of Greece by the Romans, the latter were allowed to take part in the games. The emperors Tiberius and Nero were both conquerors, and Pausanias (v. 20, § 4) speaks of a Roman senator who gained the victory. During the freedom of Greece. even, Greeks were sometimes excluded, when they had been guilty of a crime which appeared to the Eleans to deserve this punishment. The horses of Hieron of Syracuse were excluded from the chariot-race through the influence of Themistocles, because he had not taken part with the other Greeks against the Persians. (Pint. Them. 25; Aelian, V. H. ix. 5.) All the Lacedaemonians were excluded in the 90th Olympiad, because they had not paid the fine for violating the Elean territory, as mentioned above (Thuc. v. 49, 50; Paus. iii. 8, § 2); and similar cases of exclusion are mentioned by the ancient writers.
  No women were allowed to be present or even to cross the Alpheus during the celebration of the games under penalty of being hurled down from the Typaean rock. Only one instance is recorded of a woman having ventured to be, present, and she, although detected, was pardoned in consideration of her father, brothers, and son having been victors in the games. (Paus. v. 6,, § 51 ; Ael. V. H. x. 1.) An exception was made to this law in favour of the priestess of Demeter Chamyne, who sat on an altar of white marble opposite to the Hellanodicae. (Paus. vi. 20, § 6; compare Suet. Ner. c. 12.) Women were, however, allowed to send chariots to the races; and the first woman whose horses won the prize was Cynisca, the daughter of Archidamus, and sister. of Agesilaus. (Pans. iii. 8, § 1.) The number of spectators at the festival was very great; and these were drawn together not merely by the desire of seeing the games, but partly through the opportunity it afforded them of carrying on commercial transactions with persons from distant places (Veil. i. 8; mercatus Olympiacus, Justin, xiii. 5), as is the case with the Mohammedan festivals at Mecca and Medina. Many of the persons present were also deputies (theoroi) sent to represent the various states of Greece; and we find that these embassies vied with one another in the number of their offerings and the splendour of their general appearance, in order to support the honour of their native cities. The most illustrious citizens of a state were frequently sent as theoroi. (Thuc. vi. 16; [Andoc.] c. Alc. § 21.)
  The Olympic festival was a Penteteris (penteteris), that is, according to the ancient mode of reckoning, a space of four years elapsed between each and the next succeeding festival, in the same way as there was only a space of two years in a trieteris. According to the Scholiast on Pindar (ad Ol. iii. 35, Boeckh), the Olympic festival was celebrated at an interval sometimes of 49, sometimes of 50 months; in the former case in the month of Apollonius, in the latter in that of Parthenius. This statement has given rise to much difference of opinion from the time of J. Scaliger; but the explanation of Boeckh in his commentary on Pindar is the most satisfactory, that the festival was celebrated on the first full moon after the summer solstice, which sometimes fell in the month of Apollonius, and sometimes in Parthenius, both of which he considers to be the names of Elean or Olympian months: consequently the festival was usually celebrated in the Attic month of Hecatombaeon. It lasted, after all the contests had been introduced, five days, from the 11th to the 15th days of the month inclusive. (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. v. 6.) The fourth day of the festival was the 14th of the month, which was the day of the full moon, and which divided the month into two equal parts (dichomenis mena, Pind. Ol. iii. 19; Schol. ad loc.).
  The festival was under the immediate superintendence of the Olympian Zeus, whose temple at Olympia, adorned with the statue of the god made by Phidias, was one of the most splendid works of Grecian art (Paus. v. 10, &c.). There were also temples and altars to most of the other gods. The festival itself may be divided into two parts, the games or contests (agon Olumpiakos, aethlon hamillai, krisis aethlon, tethmos aethlon, nikaphoriai), and the festive rites (heorte) connected with the sacrifices, with the processions and with the public banquets in honour of the conquerors. Thus Pausanias distinguishes between the two parts of the festival, when he speaks of ton agona en Olumpiai panegurin te Olumpiaken (v. 4, § 4). The conquerors in the games, and private individuals, as well as the theori or deputies from the various states, offered sacrifices to the different gods; but the chief sacrifices were offered by the Eleans in the name of the Elean state. The order in which the Eleans offered their sacrifices to the different gods is given in a passage of Pausanias (v. 14, § 5). There has been considerable dispute among modern writers, whether the sacrifices were offered by the Eleans and the Theori at the commencement or at the termination of the contests; our limits do not allow us to enter into the controversy, but it appears most probable that certain sacrifices were offered by the Eleans as introductory to the games, but that the majority were not offered till the conclusion, when the flesh of the victims was required for the public banquets given to the victors.
  The contests consisted of various trials of strength and skill, which were increased in number from time to time. There were in all twenty-four contests, eighteen in which men took part and six in which boys engaged, though they were never all exhibited at one festival, since some were abolished almost immediately after their institution, and others after they had been in use only a short time. We subjoin a list of these from Pausanias (v. 8, § 2, 3; 9, § 1, 2: compare Plut. Symp. v. 2), with the date of the introduction of each, commencing from the Olympiad of Coroebus:
1. The foot-race (dromos), which was the only contest during the first 13 Olympiads.
2. The diaulos, or foot-race, in which the stadium was traversed twice, first introduced in Ol. 14.
3. The dolichos, a still longer foot-race than the diaulos, introduced in Ol. 15.2 (For a more particular account of the diaulos and dolichos see Stadium)
4. Wrestling (pale) [see Lucta], and
5. The Pentathlum (pentathlon), which consisted of five exercises, both introduced in Ol. 18.
6. Boxing (pugme), introduced in Ol. 23. [see Pugilatus]
7. The chariot-race with four full-grown horses (hippon teleion dromos, harma), introduced in Ol. 25.
8. The Pancratium (pankration) [see Pancratium], and
9. The horse-race (hippos keles), both introduced in Ol. 33.
10 and 11. The foot-race and wrestling for boys, both introduced in Ol. 37.
12. The Pentathlum for boys, introduced in Ol. 38, but immediately afterwards abolished.
13. Boxing for boys, introduced in Ol. 41.
14. The foot-race, in which men ran with the equipments of heavy-armed soldiers (ton hopliton dromos), introduced in Ol. 65, on account of its training men for actual service in war.
15. The chariot-race with mules (apene), introduced in Ol. 70; and
16. The horse-race with mares (kalpe), described by Pausanias (v. 9, § 1, 2), introduced in Ol. 71, both of which were abolished in Ol. 84.
17. The chariot-race with two full-grown horses (lppon teleion sunoris), introduced in Ol. 93.
18 and 19. The contest of heralds (kerukes) and trumpeters (salpinktai), introduced in Ol. 96. (African. ap. Euseb. Chron. I. Hell. ol. p. 41; Paus. v. 22, § 1; compare Cic. ad Fam. v. 1. 2)
20. The chariot-race with four foals (polon harmasin), introduced in Ol. 99.
21, The chariot-race with two foals (polon sunoris), introduced in Ol. 128.
22. The horse-race with foals (polos keles), introduced in Ol. 131.
23. The Pancratium for boys, introduced in Ol. 145.
24. There was also a horse-race (hippos keles) in which boys rode (Paus. vi. 2, § 4; 12, § 1; 13, § 6), but we do not know the time of its introduction.
Of these contests, the greater number were in existence in the heroic age, but the following were introduced for the first time by the Eleans:--all the contests in which boys took part, the foot-race of Hoplites, the races in which foals were employed, the chariot-race in which mules were used, and the horse-race with mares (kalpe). The contests of heralds and trumpeters were also probably introduced after the heroic age.
Pausanias (v. 9, § 3) says that up to the 77th Olympiad all the contests took place in one day; but as it was found impossible in that Olympiad to finish them all in so short a time, a new arrangement was made. The number of days in the whole festival, which were henceforth devoted to the games, and the order in which they were celebrated, has been a subject of much dispute among modern writers, and in many particulars can be only matter of conjecture. The following arrangement is proposed by Krause (Olympia, p. 106):--On the first day, the initiatory sacrifices were offered, and all the competitors classed and arranged by the judges. On the same day, the contest between the trumpeters took place; and to this succeeded on the same day and the next the contests of the boys, somewhat in the following order:--the Foot-Race, Wrestling, Boxing, the Pentathlum, the Pancratium, and, lastly, the Horse-Race. On the third day, which appears to have been the principal one, the contests of the men took place, somewhat in the following order:--the simple Foot-Race, the Diaulos, the Dolichos, Wrestling, Boxing, the Pancratium, and the Race of Hoplites. On the fourth day the Pentathium, either before or after the Chariot and Horse Races, which were celebrated on this day. On the same day or on the fifth, the contests of the Heralds may have taken place. The fifth day appears to have been devoted to processions and sacrifices, and to the banquets given by the Eleans to the conquerors in the games.
  The judges in the Olympic games, called Hlellanodicae (Hellanodikai), were appointed by the Eleans, who had the regulation of the whole festival. It appears to have been originally under the superintendence of Pisa, in the neighbourhood of which Olympia was situated, and accordingly we find in the ancient legends the names of Oenomaus, Pelops, and Augeas as presidents of the games. But after the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians on the return of the Heraclidae, the Aetolians, who had been of great assistance to the Heraclidae, settled in Elis, and from this time the Aetolian Eleans obtained the regulation of the festival, and appointed the presiding officers. (Strabo, viii. pp. 357, 358.) Pisa, however, did not quietly relinquish its claim to the superintendence of the festival, and it is not improbable that at first it had an equal share with the Eleans in its administration. The Eleans themselves only reckoned three festivals in which they had not had the presidency,--namely, the 8th, in which Pheidon and the Piseans obtained it; the 34th, which was celebrated under the superintendence of Pantaleon, king of Pisa; and the 104th, celebrated under the superintendence of the Piseans and Arcadians. These Olympiads the Eleans called anolumpiades, as celebrated contrary to law. (Paus. vi. 22, § 2; 4, § 2.)
  The Hellanodicae were chosen by lot from the whole body of the Eleans. Pausanias (v. 9, § 4, 5) has given an account of their numbers at different periods; but the commencement of the passage is unfortunately corrupt. At first, he says, there were only two judges chosen from all the Eleans, but that in the 25th Ol. (75th Ol.?) nine Hellanodicae were appointed, three of whom had the superintendence of the horse-races, three of the Pentathlum, and three of the other contests. Two Olympiads after, a tenth judge was added. In the 103rd Ol. the number was increased to 12, as at that time there were 12 Elean Phylae, and a judge was chosen from each tribe; but as the Eleans afterwards lost part of their lands in war with the Arcadians, the number of Phylae was reduced to eight in the 104th Ol., and accordingly there were then only eight Hellanodicae. But in the 108th Ol. the number of Hellanodicae was increased to 10, and remained the same to the time of Pausanias (Paus. l. c.).
  The Hellanodicae were instructed for ten months before the festival by certain of the Elean magistrates, called Nomophulakes, in a building devoted to the purpose near the marketplace, which was called Hellanodikaion. (Paus. vi. 24, § 3.) Their office probably only lasted for one festival. They had to see that all the laws relating to the games were observed by the competitors and others, to determine the prizes, and to give them to the conquerors. An appeal lay from their decision to the Elean senate. (Pans. vi. 3, § 3.) Their office was considered most honourable. They wore a purple robe (porthuris), and had in the Stadium special seats appropriated to them. (Pans. vi. 20, § § 5, 6, 7; Bekker, Anecd. p. 249, 4.) Under the direction of the Hellanodicae was a certain number of alutai with an alutarches at their head, who formed a kind of police, and carried into execution the commands of the Hellanodicae. (Lucian, c. 40, vol. i. p. 738, Reitz; Etym. M. p. 72. 13.) There were also various other minor officers under the control of the Hellanodicae.
  All free Greeks who had complied with the rules prescribed to candidates were allowed to contend in the games. The equestrian contests were necessarily confined to the wealthy; but the poorest citizens could contend in the athletic contests, of which Pausanias (vi. 10, § 1) mentions an example. This, however, was far from degrading the games in public opinion; and some of the noblest as well as meanest citizens of the state took part in these contests. The owners of the chariots and horses were not obliged to contend in person; and the wealthy vied with one another in the number and magnificence of the chariots and horses which they sent to the games. Alcibiades sent seven chariots to one festival, a greater number than had ever been entered by a private person (Thuc. vi. 16), and the Greek kings in Sicily, Macedon, and other parts of the Hellenic world contended with one another for the prize in the equestrian contests.
  All persons who were about to contend had to prove to the Hellanodicae that they were freemen, of pure Hellenic blood, had not been branded with atimia, nor guilty of any sacrilegious act. They further had to prove that they had undergone the preparatory training (progumnasmata) for ten months previously, and the truth of this they were obliged to swear to in the Bouleuterion at Olympia before the statue of Zeus Horkios The fathers, brothers, and gymnastic teachers of the competitors, as well as the competitors themselves, had also to swear that they would be guilty of no crime (kakourgema) in reference to the contests. (Paus. v. 24, § 2.) All competitors were obliged, thirty days previous to the festival, to undergo certain exercises in the Gymnasium at Elis, under the superintendence of the Hellanodicae. (Pans. vi. 26, § 1-3; 24, § 1.) The different contests, and the order in which they would follow one another, were written by the Hellanodicae upon a tablet (leukoma) exposed to public view. (Compare Dio Cass. lxxix. 10.)
  The competitors took their places by lot, and were of course differently arranged according to the different contests in which they were to be engaged. The herald then proclaimed the name and country of each competitor. (Compare Plato, Leg. viii. p. 833.) When they were all ready to begin the contest, the judges exhorted them to acquit themselves nobly, and then gave the signal to commence. Any one detected in bribing a competitor to give the victory to his antagonist was heavily fined; the practice appears to have been not uncommon from the many instances recorded by Pausanias (v. 21).
  The only prize given to the conqueror was a garland of wild olive (kotinos), which according to the Elean legends was the prize originally instituted by the Idaean Heracles. (Paus. v. 7, § 4.) But according to Phlegon's account (Peri ton Olumpion, p. 140), the olive crown was not given as a prize upon the revival of the games by Iphitus, and was first bestowed in the seventh Olympiad with the approbation of the oracle at Delphi. This garland was cut from a sacred olive-tree, called elaia kallistephanos, which grew in the sacred grove of Altis in Olympia, near the altars of Aphrodite and the Hours. (Paus. v. 15, § 3.) Heracles is said to have brought it from the country of the Hyperboreans, and to have planted it himself at the terma of the hippodrome outside the Altis. (Pind. Ol. ii. 14; Muller, Dor. ii. 12, § 3.) A boy, both of whose parents were still alive (amphithales pais), cut it with a golden sickle (chrusoi drepanoi). The victor was originally crowned upon a tripod covered over with bronze (tripous epichalkos), but afterwards, and in the time of Pausanias, upon a table made of ivory and gold. (Paus. v. 12, § 3; 20, § 1, 2.) Palm branches, the common tokens of victory on other occasions, were placed in their hands. The name of the victor, and that of his father and of his country, were then proclaimed by a herald before the representatives of assembled Greece. The festival ended with processions and sacrifices, and with a public banquet given by the Eleans to the conquerors in the Prytaneum. (Pans. v. 15, § 8.)
  The most powerful states considered an Olympic victory gained by one of their citizens to confer honour upon the state to which he belonged; and a conqueror usually had immunities and privileges conferred upon him by the gratitude of his fellow-citizens. The Eleans allowed his statue to be placed in the Altis, which was adorned with numerous such statues erected by the conquerors or their families, or at the expense of the states of which they were citizens. On his return home, the victor entered the city in a triumphal procession, in which his praises were celebrated frequently in the loftiest strains of poetry. (see Athletae)
  Sometimes the victory was obtained without a contest, in which case it was said to be akoniti. This happened either when the antagonist, who was assigned, neglected to come or came too late, or when an Athletes had obtained such celebrity by former conquests or possessed such strength and skill that no one dared to oppose him. (Paus. vi. 7, § 2.) When one state conferred a crown upon another state, a proclamation to this effect was frequently made at the great national festivals of the Greeks (Demosth. de Cor. p. 265).
  As persons from all parts of the Hellenic world were assembled together at the Olympic games, it was the best opportunity which the artist and the writer possessed of making their works known. In fact, it answered to some extent the same purpose as the press does in modern times. Before the invention of printing, the reading of an author's works to as large an assembly as could be obtained, was one of the easiest and surest modes of publishing them;. and this was a favourite practice of the Greeks and Romans. Accordingly, we find many instances of literary works thus published at the Olympic festival. Herodotus is said to have read his history at this festival; but though there are some reasons for doubting the correctness of this statement, there are numerous other writers who thus published their works, as the sophist Hippias, Prodicus of Ceos, Anaximenes, the orator Lysias, Dio Chrysostom, &c. (Compare Lucian, Herod. c. 3, 4, vol. i. p. 834, Reitz.) It must be borne in mind that these recitations were not contests, and that they formed properly no part of the festival. In the same way painters and other artists exhibited their works at Olympia. (Lucian, l. c.)
The Olympic games continued to be celebrated with much splendour under the Roman emperors, by many of whom great privileges were awarded to the conquerors. In the sixteenth year of the reign of Theodosius, A.D. 394 (Ol. 293), the Olympic festival was for ever abolished; but we have no account of the names of the victors from Ol. 249.
  Our limits do not allow us to enter into the question of the influence of the Olympic games upon the national character; but the reader will find some useful remarks on this subject in Thirlwall's Hist. of Greece, vol. i. p. 390, and Grote's Hist. of Greece, iv. pp. 75 if.
  There were many ancient works on the subject of the Olympic games and the conquerors therein. One of the chief sources from which the writers obtained their materials must have. been the registers of conquerors in the games, which were diligently preserved by the Eleans. (Eleion es tous Olumpionikas grammata, Paus. iii. 21, § 1, v. 21, § 5, vi. 2, § 1; ta Eleion grammata archaia v. 4, § 4.) One of the most ancient works on this subject was by the Elean Hippias, a contemporary of Plato, and was entitled anagraphe Olumpionikon (Plut. Numa, 1). Aristotle also appears to have written a work on the same subject (Diog. Laert. v. 26). There was a work by Timaeus of Sicily, entitled 'Olumpionikai e chronika praxidia, and another by Erastosthenes (born B.C. 275), also called Olumpionikai (Diog. Laert. viii. 51). The Athenian Stesicleides is mentioned as the author of an aagraphe ton archonton kai olumpionikon (Diog. Laert. ii. 56), and Pliny (H. N. viii. § 82) speaks of Scopas (?) as a writer of Olympionicae. [p. 273]
  There were also many ancient works on the Greek festivals in general, in which the Olympic games were of course treated of. Thus the work of Dicaearchus Peri Agonon (Diog. Laert. v. 47) contained a division entitled ho Olumpikos (Athen. xiv. p. 620 d).
  One of the most important works on the Olympic games was by Phlegon of Tralles, who lived in the reign of Hadrian; it was entitled peri ton Olumpion or Olumpion kai Chronikon Sunagoge, was comprised in 16 books, and extended from the first Olympiad to Ol. 229. We still possess two considerable fragments of it. The important work of Julius Africanus, Hellenon Olumpiades apo tes protes, &c., is preserved to us by Eusebius; it comes down to Ol. 249. Dexippus of Athens, in his chronike historia, carried down the Olympic conquerors to Ol. 262.
  In modern works much useful information on the Olympic games is given in Corsini's Dissert. Agonisticae, and in Boeckh's and Dissen's editions of Pindar. See also Meier's article on the Olympic Games, and Rathgeber's articles on Olympia, Olympieion, and Olympischer Jupiter in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopadie; Dissen, (Ueber die Anordnung der Olympischen Spiele, in his Kleine Schriften, p. 185; Krause, Olympia oder Darstellung der grossen Olynmpischen Spiele, Wien, 1838; and Boetticher, Olympia, 1886.
  In course of time festivals were established in several Greek states in imitation of the one at Olympia, to which the same name was given. Some of these are only known to us by inscriptions and coins; but others, as the Olympic festival at Antioch, obtained great celebrity. After these Olympic festivals had been established in several places, the great Olympic festival is sometimes designated in inscriptions by the addition of in Pisa, er en Peisei. (Compare Boeckh, Inscr. n. 247, pp. 361, 362; n. 1068, p. 564.) We subjoin from Krause an alphabetical list of these smaller Olympic festivals. They were celebrated at:
Aegae in Macedonia. This< festival was in existence in the time of Alexander the Great. (Arrian, Anab. i. 11.)
Alexandria. (Gruter, Inscr. p. cccxiv. n. 240.) In later times, the number of Alexandrian conquerors in the great Olympic games was greater than from any other state.
Anazarbus in Cilicia. This festival was not introduced till a late period. (Eckhel, Doctr. Num. iii. p. 44.)
Antioch in Syria. This festival was celebrated at Daphne, a small place 40 stadia from Antioch, where there was a large sacred grove watered by many fountains. The festival was originally called Daphnea, and was sacred to Apollo and Artemis (Strabo, xvi. p. 750; Athen. v. p. 194), but was called Olympia, after the inhabitants of Antioch had purchased from the Eleans, in A.D. 44, the privilege of celebrating Olympic games. It was not, however, regularly celebrated as an Olympic festival till the time of the Emperor Commodus. It commenced on the first day of the month Hyperberetaeus (October), with which the year of Antioch began. It was under the presidency of an Alytarches. The celebration of it was abolished by Justin, A.D. 521. The writings of Libanius, and of Chrysostom, the Christian Father, who lived many years at Antioch, gave various particulars respecting this festival.
Athens. There were two festivals of the name of Olympia celebrated at Athens, one of which was in existence in the time of Pindar (Pind. Nem. ii. 23, &c.; Schol. ad loc.), who celebrates the ancestors of the Athenian Timodemus as conquerors in it, and perhaps much earlier (Schol. ad Thuc. i. 126). It was celebrated to the honour of Zeus, in the spring between the great Dionysia and the Bendideia. (Boeckh, Inscr. pp. 53, 250-252.) The other Olympic festival at Athens was instituted by Hadrian A.D. 131; from which time a new Olympic era commenced. (Corsini, Fast. Att. vol. ii. pp. 105, 110, &c.; Spartian. Hadr. 13.)
Attalia in Pamphylia. This festival is only known to us by coins. (Rathgeber, l. c. p. 326.)
Cyzicus. (Boeckh, Inscr. n. 2810.)
Cyrene. (Boeckh, Explicat. Pind. p. 328.)
Dium in Macedonia. These games were instituted by Archelaus, and lasted nine days, corresponding to the number of the nine Muses. They were celebrated with great splendour by Philip II. and Alexander the Great. (Diodor. xvii. 16; Dio Chrysost. vol. i. p. 73, Reiske; Suidas, s. v. Anaxandrides.)
Ephesus. This festival appears by inscriptions, in which it is sometimes called Adriana Olumpia en Ephesoi, to have been instituted by Hadrian. (Boeckh, Inscr. n. 2810; compare n. 2987, 3000.)
Elis. Besides the great Olympic games, there appear to have been smaller ones celebrated yearly. (Anecdot. Gr. ed. Siebenk. p. 95.)
Magnesia in Lydia. (Rathgeber, l. c. pp. 326, 327.)
Zeapolis. (Corsini, Diss. Agon. iv. 14, p. 103.)
Nicaea in Bithynia. (Eustath. ad Dionys. Perieg. pp. 172, 173, in Geogr. Min. ed. Bernhardy.)
Nicopolis in Epeirus. Augustus, after the conquest of Antony, off Actium, founded Nicopolis, and instituted games to be celebrated every five years (agon penteterikos) in commemoration of his victory. These games are sometimes called Olympic, but more frequently bear the name of Actia. They were sacred to Apollo, and were under the care of the Lacedaemonians. (Strabo, vii. p. 325.) [see Actia]
Olympus in Thessaly, on the mountain of that name. (Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. Argonaut. i. 599.)
Pergamos in Mysia. (Boeckh, Inscr. n. 2810; Mionnet, ii. 610, n. 626.)
Side in Pamphylia. (Rathgeber, p. 129.)
Smyrna. Pausanias (vi. 14, § 1) mentions an Agon of the Smyrnaeans, which Corsini (Diss. Agon. i. 12, p. 20) supposes to be an Olympic festival. The Marmor Oxoniense expressly mentions Olympia at Smyrna, and they also occur in inscriptions. (Gruter, Inscr. p. 314, 1; Boeckh, Inscr. ad n. 1720.)
Tarsus in Cilicia. This festival is only known to us by coins. (Krause, p. 228.)
Tegea in Arcadia. (Boeckh, Inscr. n. 1513, p. 700.)
Thessalonica in Macedonia. (Krause, p. 230.)
Thyatira in Lydia. (Rathgeber, p. 328.)
Tralles in Lydia. (Krause, p. 233.)
Tyrus in Phoenicia. (Rathgeber, p. 328.)

This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Hellenic Ministry of Culture: The Olympic Games


The Ancient Olympics

An excellent website, which contains:
A tour of the site
Ancient Olympic Events
The Context of the Games and the Olympic Spirit
Athletes' Stories


From Ancient Olympia to Athens of 1896

The Olympics through Time Project by the Foundation of the Hellenic World


Ancient places celebrating Olympic victors

The following ancient cities and countries celebrated Olympic victors. Linking with a selected place you retrieve all available information about that place and their Olympic victors.
Acharnae, ancient municipality, Attica
Acragas, ancient town, Sicily
Acriae, ancient town, Laconia
Aeolis, ancient country, (Turkey)
Aetolia, ancient country, Greece
Adana, ancient town, Cilicia (Turkey)
Adramyttium, ancient town, Aeolis (Turkey)
Aegeira, ancient town, Achaia
Aigai, ancient town, Aeolis (Turkey)
Alexandria, ancient town, Egypt
Ambracia, ancient town, Epirus
Amfissa, ancient town, Ozolian Locris
Amphipolis, ancient town, Serres
Amyclae, ancient town, Laconia
Anthedon, ancient town, Boeotia
Anticyra, ancient town, Boeotia
Antiochia, ancient town, ancient Syria, (today Turkey)
Antissa, ancient town, Lesbos
Apameia, ancient town, Bithynia (Turkey)
Argos, ancient town, Argolis
Aspendus, ancient town, Pamphylia (Turkey)
Assos, ancient town, Aeolis (Turkey)
Athens, ancient town, Attica
Azania, ancient country, Arcadia
Barca, ancient town, Libya
Camarina, ancient town, Sicily
Cappadocia, ancient country, (Turkey)
Caria, ancient country, (Turkey)
Carystos, ancient town, Euboea
Caulonia, ancient town, Italy
Cea, island, Greece
Ceramus, ancient town, Caria (Turkey)
Chalcis, ancient town, Euboea
Chios, ancient town, Chios island
Clazomenae, ancient town, Ionia (Turkey)
Cleitor, ancient town, Kalavryta
Cleonae, ancient town, Corinthia
Cnossus, ancient town, Crete
Colophon, ancient town, Ionia (Turkey)
Corfu, island, Greece
Corinthos, ancient town, Peloponissos
Crannon, ancient town, Thessalia
Crete, island, Greece
Croton, ancient town, Italy
Cydonia, ancient town, Crete
Cyme, ancient town, Aeolis (Turkey)
Cyparissia, ancient town, Laconia
Cyrene, ancient town, Libya
Cyzicus, ancient town, Phrygia (Turkey)
Delphi, ancient town, Phocis
Dipaea, ancient town, Mantineia
Dyme, ancient town, Achaia
Dyspontium, ancient town, Elia
Eghio, ancient town, Achaia
Egina, ancient town, Attica
Elateia, ancient town, Fthiotis
Elia, ancient country, Greece
Ephesus, ancient town, Ionia (Turkey)
Epidaurus, ancient town, Argolis
Eretria, ancient town, Euboea
Gela, ancient town, Sicily
Halicarnassus, ancient town, Caria (Turkey)
Heraea, ancient town, Arcadia
Himera, ancient town, Sicily
Hypaepa, ancient town, Lydia (Turkey)
Ialysos, ancient town, Rhodes
Kos, ancient town, Greece
Laciadae, ancient municipality, Attica
Lakedemon, ancient country, Peloponissos
Laodicea-ad-Lycum, ancient town, Phrygia (Turkey)
Larissa, ancient town, Thessalia
Lepreum, ancient town, Elia
Lindus, ancient town, Rhodes
Lycia, ancient country, (Turkey)
Macedonia, ancient country, Greece
Maenalus, ancient town, Arcadia
Magnesia-ad-Maeandrum, ancient town, Aeolis (Turkey)
Magnesia-ad-Sipylum, ancient town, Lydia (Turkey)
Mantineia, ancient town, Arcadia
Maroneia, ancient town, Rodopi
Megalopolis, ancient town, Arcadia
Megara, ancient town, Attica
Messene, ancient town, Peloponissos
Messenia, ancient country, Peloponissos
Messina (Zancle), ancient town, Sicily
Miletus, ancient town, Ionia (Turkey)
Mytilene, ancient town, Lesbos
Naxos, ancient town, Sicily
Nicaea, ancient town, Bithynia (Turkey)
Opus, ancient town, Opoundian Locris
Oresteion, ancient town, Arcadia
Parrhasia, ancient country, Arcadia
Parrhasia, ancient town, Arcadia
Patra, ancient town, Achaia
Pelinna, ancient town, Thessalia
Pellene, ancient town, Corinthia
Peparethus, ancient town, Skopelos
Pergamus, ancient town, Mysia (Turkey)
Pharsalus, ancient town, Thessalia
Pheneos, ancient town, Corinthia
Phigalia, ancient town, Elia
Philadelphia, ancient town, Lydia (Turkey)
Pisa, ancient town, Elia
Poseidonia, ancient town, Italy
Prussa, ancient town, Bithynia (Turkey)
Rhegion, ancient town, Italy
Rodos, ancient town, Greece
Rome, ancient town, Italy
Salamis, island, Greece
Salamis, ancient town, Cyprus
Samos, ancient town, Greece
Sardes, ancient town, Lydia (Turkey)
Scotussa, ancient town, Thessalia
Sicyon, ancient town, Corinthia
Sidon, ancient town, Phoenice (Lebanon)
Smyrna, ancient town, Ionia (Turkey)
Sparta, ancient town, Laconia
Stratonikeia, ancient town, Caria (Turkey)
Stratus, ancient town, Acarnania
Stymphalus, ancient town, Corinthia
Sybaris, ancient town, Italy
Syracusae, ancient town, Sicily
Taras, ancient town, Italy
Tarsus, ancient town, Cilicia (Turkey)
Tegea, ancient municipality, Arcadia
Tenedos, island, Aeolis (Turkey)
Thassos, ancient town, Greece
Thebes, ancient town, Boeotia
Thelpusa, ancient town, Arcadia
Thespiae, ancient town, Boeotia
Thessalia, ancient country, Greece
Thuria, ancient town, Messinia
Thurii, ancient town, Italy
Thyateira, ancient town, Lydia (Turkey)
Tinos, island, Greece
Tiryns, ancient town, Argolis
Tralleis, ancient town, Ionia (Turkey)
Tritaea, ancient town, Achaia
Troas, ancient country, (Turkey)
Troezen, ancient town, Argolis
Troy, ancient town, Troas (Turkey)
Tyana, ancient town, Cappadocia (Turkey)
Zacynthus, ancient town, Greece


Modern Olympic Games

International Olympic Committee


The revival of the Olympics

   There was a revival of interest about Ancient Greece matters, in the period from 17th to 18th centuries. Poems of Pindar and other Greek poets are read in school and discussed in literary circles. In England the Cotswold Olympics are inaugurated, in 1636 and, in 1850, the Much Wenlock Olympic Society is formed by Dr William Penny Brooks. Towards the end of the 18th century, in Germany, Johan Guts Muths, the well known theorist and founder of modern gymnastics, had suggested the revival of the Olympics. Fifty years later, his fellow-countryman Ernst Kurtius, an archaeologist who had worked in Olympia, supported this idea in a lecture in Berlin. In Greece, Evangelis Zappas, an influential Athenian, organized the first modern Panhellenic sports festival.
   Naturally, the true founder of the modern Olympic Games is acknowledged by all to be the Frenchman Pierre de Fredi, Baron de Coubertin. In 1889, for the sake of discussing the subject of the human physical culture, he met with Dr Brooks and after several meetings he formed his concept of a revived Games. He first proposed his idea publicly in a lecture at the Sorbonne. The enthusiastic acceptance he received, prompted him to arrange several meetings with keymen from American universities in 1893. This was the prologue of an international conference in Paris, in 1894, at which 12 countries were represented and 21 sent supporting messages. Result: a resolution on the 23 June calling for sports competitions along the lines of Ancient Greek Games that were to be held every four years. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was officially founded presided by Dimitrius Vikelas of Greece. De Coubertin held the post of secretary general. There is evidence that the baron had hoped to send the First Modern Games to Paris in 1900, the year-mark of the turning of our century, but the rest of the delegates seemed to be strongly impatient. Budapest appeared to be a strong candicate but at the instigation of Dimitrius Vikelas, Athens was finally chosen. And the date was set 1896.

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Athens 1896

   The Greeκ Government was never officially asked as to whether they agreed for the 1st Olympics be held on Greek soil. On the other hand the public were totally enthusiastic on the idea. Using his authority as well as his initiative, Crown Prince Constantine formed a committee, began organising and collecting funds for that purpose. Greek overseas tycoon George Averof stepped into the scene, offered to cover the total of expenses for reconstructing the Panathenian Stadium in Athens at a cost of the unbelievable (then) amount of Drs 920,000 or $ 72,000.
  The opening day was arranged to concide with the 75th anniversary of the Greek Victory against the Turkish rule. More than 40,000 spectators in the stadium plus a few thousands on the nearby hills, watched as King George formally opened the Games.
   Greek participation reached 230 athletes out of a total of 311 from 13 countries. A good number of athletes took part as representing themselves and among them many tourists. The British team included two diplomats from the Athens British Embassy. A French tourist, a sprinter, ran wearing white gloves as he was appearing before royalty!
   The first event of the Modern Olympic Games was the 100 m sprint and it was won by Princeton's student Francis Lane with the record time of 12.5 sec. In fact most events were won by American students who dominated the stadium despite arriving, from France via train, the night before the competitions.
   There were many names that were mentioned as favorites to win the marathon, mainly Scandinavians who had a great past in winning long distance runs. Therefore nobody paid any particular attention to Spyros Louis, the Greek shepherd from Maroussi, attired for the game in his national kilt costume. In Maroussi, Spyros, was considered by his fellow villagers as a very "peculiar" personality. A man of very few words, shy, aloof and not easy to socialize. There is evidence that despite the fact that the rest of the marathon runners arrived at Marathon (starting point) the night before by coach, Louis ignored such recommendations and started for Marathon, walking, early the day before. Arriving at Marathon he ordered a tremendous, in quantity and quality dinner along with Greek wine and cheese and fruit. He retired to sleep the night off at the root of a pine tree. Perhaps all this is hearsay. The fact remains that Louis entered the stadium first, dressed in his heavy uniform and leaving his opponents far behind.
   The people in the stadium were risen to frenzy of applause and cries of joyous admiration. Crown Prince Constantine along with Prince George left their seats, entered the track space and escorted the victor, running the last twenty meters together.
   Greece's wish was that, perhaps, they would host the Games four years later. Naturally, de Coubertin overruled such an idea immediately...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Athens 1896
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Athens 1896
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Paris 1900

  Despite strong pressures from Greece for the exclusivity in the rights of organizing the Games in the future, Baron de Coubertin's instigation won over and the 1900 Olympics were voted to be held in Paris. But de Coubertin made a serious mistake in having the Games as part of the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition. Within this event the Games were shrunk to a mere sideshow of the exposition. Generally there were few and not really enthusiastic spectators who became less enthusiastic and much fewer when the '96 discus Olympic winner dispatched the emplement, on all three throws, into the crowd!
   France, the host country, appeared with a record-size team numbering 884, while the Americans were still represented by college students and a few club athletes. There was some friction created when some student athletes refused to compete on Sundays, having come from church controlled universities. A mystery that hasn't yet found a solution is that of the leader of the Dutch coxed pairs. The team won easily the gold medal but the boy that led them to the victory (some said that he was only ten years old) disappeared right after the event and he was never to be found. A detail that adds to the mystery is that his name was also erased from the official Olympics participation list...
   Press coverage was barely apparent, with many events not even being mentioned and for years later there was much confusion and dispute as to the names and the nationalities of even the gold medalists. Thus, it was that the first Olympic medals won by Canada, a gold along with a bronze given to George Orton, were not discovered for some years as Orton, being an American University student, was billed as American! Even more recently it has been discovered that the marathon winner, Michel Theato, who was believed to run for France, was actually a citizen of Luxembourg. That's a mistake that France never bothered to correct. While the Athens Olympics left a pleasant taste to all, in the contrary the Paris Games had the world to wonder whether the Olympics would ever find their Ancient Greek Spirit identity...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Paris 1900
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International Sailing Federation


1900 Paris Olympics: Various WebPages


St. Louis 1904

   After marathon-length discussions, debates and arguments, the 1904 Games were to be hosted in St. Louis. The balance tilted in favor of the US, after President Theodor Roosvelt's instigation who was planning through the Olympics, to give more grandeur to the World's Fair, held there to celebrate the centenary of the Louisiana Purchase from France. Thus, once more the Games were reduced to a mere world's fair sideshow.
   With the events being held in the center of the North American continent, the problem of the distance in traveling meant that there were very few overseas entrants. Even de Coubertin did not attend. Thus, 85% of the competitors were Americans and, to none's surprise, they won 84% of the total of medals. A sports commentator wrote that the St. Louis Olympics was a private shootout between US universities! In such circumstances the Games degenerated into some sort of a farce as in most of the events the whole number of competitors, were classmates in the same school!
   Under the somewhat loose controls applied on most sports, some strange things occurred. In the 400m race no heats were held and all 13 entrants ran in the final. The 200m final were won by Archie Hahn, with all three of his opponents being given a yard handicap under the rules then governing false starts.
   There was a scandal in the marathon race when the first man out of the stadium was also the first man back. That was Fred Lorz (USA). It later transpired that he had gladly accepted a long ride in a car, and when the car itself broke down near the stadium, he resumed running. "As a joke", he told reporters. Lorz was immediately banned for life and the title was given to British born American Thomas Hicks, who had finished in an almost collapse condition because of the strychnine he had received as a stimulant - a practice then common and acceptable...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


St. Louis 1904
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St. Louis 1904
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1896 St. Louis Olympics: Various WebPages


Athens 1906


Athens 1906
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London 1908

   Vesuvio, the volcano that had destroyed Pompey in Roman times, revisited Italy in the beginning of our century. After many years of smart campaigning and versatile politicking that brought the Games to their country, Italians were forced to denounce this favor because the financial burden created by the volcanic eruption, along with the huge expenditure the Olympics demanded, were too much for the State funds to support. The first and the most eager to invite the Games to their country were the British, a movement that was supported by Lord Desborough along with the support of the Royal Family.
   The British managed to achieve something that even by today's highly advanced technology does not seem likely to have been achieved. London formally accepted the hosting on November 19. The Shepherd's Bush Olympic Stadium was ready to receive the world by early July. In less than ten months the British managed to erect a magnificent stadium that could accommodate nearly 70,000 spectators!
   Surely, the most dramatic event of the London Olympiad, is the marathon race with Italian Dorado Pietri as its protagonist. Seventy-six runners responded to the shot in the starting line. Despite the humid and warm weather, 350,000 people were standing in the streets to watch the runners. From the 15th kilometer, a thin, short runner from Italy, Pietri, accelerated and gradually paced ahead, at least 2 kilometers. After an hour's time he was 5 kilometers ahead. Frenzied spectators were applauding as Pietri was entering the London city limits. Pietri ran to the stadium and neared its entrance in a semi-collapse, while he fell five times. The rest of runners were 5 to 6 minutes behind him. To complete the official distance he had to run one full track lap, 600m - the most dramatic 600 meters of his life. Fifty meters after entering, he fell again. He stood up after sixty seconds of heavy trembling and hard breathing. He crawled for 20m. He fell. He stood and crawled again for another 70m. And he collapsed once more. Then, some over-zealous game-judges (among them Sherlock Holmes' author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) approached and helped him over the finish line. Pietri was, of course, disqualified and the victory went to second runner American Johnny Hayes. But the public, the eternal unpredictable public, was for Pietri. Queen Alexandra gave him a personal gift - a golden cup from her private collection. A fund that was raised privately by Londoners gave Pietri 211 p.
   Despite de Coubertin's strong objections regarding women's participation, London's Olympics received 36 women-athletes from 22 countries...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


London 1908
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London 1908
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Stockholm 1912

   Stockholm attained the 1912 honor, an honor that the Swedes were after since 1896. De Coubertin, now in 1912, raises his voice again against the accepting of games that are not considered to be of Greek origin, while he suggests that modern pentathlon be introduced; an event that was dominated by the Swedes. An unknown American pentathlete that took part and won a fifth place, became very well known some decades later. That was Gen. of U.S. Army George S. Patton, a key-man with the Allies victory against Nazi Germany.
   The star of Stockholm is Jim Thorpe. The consumate ease, the style and the true sportsman's conduct he faced his opponents with, made him the world's favorite athlete. He won two of the toughest games ever. Pentathlon and decathlon. Thorpe was a panathlete. He could run, swim, play football, wrestle... But Thorpe was an American Indian, something that the American whiteman's establishment couldn't easily shallow. Six months after his triumphant return to the U.S., Thorpe was mentioned in an article by sports columnist Roy Johnson of Boston, as having accepted money for coaching a small, country base-ball team. The American Olympic Committee called Thorpe for an explanation. Thorpe did not refuse the accusation. Immediately the Committee convened and Thorpe's golden medals were confiscated. Following this, the medals were sent by mail to the second winners along with a letter of verification. These were Sweden's Wiesslander and Norway's Bie. With a spontaneity that was admired by all the sporting world, Thorpe's opponents refused to accept them. They sent a statement to the newspapers "...and we consider this as the greatest injustice ever done by humans to a human...".
   Thorpe fell into an acute melancholy state. He very rarely worked. He was mainly supported by his two daughters and some friends and he gradually ended up an alcoholic. In the Los Angeles 1932 Games, he was seen begging for money outside the stadium, so that he could buy a ticket to watch the events. He was recognized by a group of USC students who raised the money needed for a multiple ticket, valid for all the gamedays. Thorpe died next year completely forgotten by all. Twenty years later the Union of American Athletes put back his name in the List of Great American Athletes and, in 1982, a somewhat embarrassed Olympic Committee gave back the medals to Thorpe's daughters "...on tribute and honor of the great athlete...", along with a letter of apology...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Stockholm 1912
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Stockholm 1912
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Antwerp 1920

   Antwerp marks the first Games to be held after the devastating for Europe 1916-1918 World War. Absent in this Olympiad we have the big war losers, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria Hungary, Turkey. Under a general spirit of economizing and in order to be able to face at least, the most basic of the expenses, such as food and board for the athletes, the Belgian state appealed to the public sentiment for financial support. There were many complaints from the athletes for the conditions they had to live and among those a small "revolt" of a special character. Not finding a place to live the Americans were accommodated on board "Princess Metoika", the liner that brought them to Belgium. For a while, that is. After being served food with some very suspicious smells and in the evenings being attacked by hordes of roaches and rats, the U.S. athletes applied a plan of immediate reaction and arrested all the members of the crew as well as their officers who were put out to land! In a statement, they declared that the boat has been taken by... it slaves! Well, it was a mutiny that lasted only a few hours. But time enough for the Belgians to come up with a solution. They divided the American team into small groups that were put to live in nice small suburban hotels thus providing for the Americans a far better stay compared to the rest of the athletes.
   A name that made the front pages was canoeist's John Kelly. He won two gold-plated (another way of government economizing) medals for men's single and double, with admirable ease. There was also, for the first time, a complaint by this his opponents that Kelly, being a mason by profession, was training eight hours a day for the last four years and getting paid on top of it. Kelly's name made the front pages some decades later when he smashed the desk of a columnist who wrote that Kelly's daughter was visiting the hotel room of a European prince. Couple of years after the incident, it was John Kelly himself who gave away his daughter, to holy matrimony, with Prince Raignier of Monaco.
   Antwerp marks also the appearing, for the first time, of the flag with the five circles. A de Coubertin idea, the design deriving from an ancient Greek piece of jewellery...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Antwerp 1920
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Paris 1924

   Originally scheduled for Amsterdam, the Olympiad was transferred to Paris after de Coubertin's persistence, in the hope that the dark image he caused in 1900 could be erased.
   In the Paris Games we get acquainted with the newly instituted Olympic motto CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS attributed to Father Henri Didon.
   Paris Olympics give us also the first black American to win the long jump. That was William DeHart Hubbard (leap: 7.44m). The track events were dominated by the Finns with their resurgent stars Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola. Nurmi was the first athlete to win five gold medals in one Olympiad, a record then. Nurmi was worshipped as a semi-god in his native Finland. A statue of oversized dimensions still catches the visitor's eyes when entering the City of Helsinki. It is of Nurmi, the Finns' idol. Oddly enough Nurmi had received money to advertise a well-known milk brand. And again oddly enough the IOC did not bother, while 12 years earlier the same people voted against Jim Thorpe to retain his medals...
   In 1924 Olympics we see the rise of a new swimming star. That was tall and handsome Johnny Weissmuller who collected three golds. Johnny took part and won more golds in the next Olympics also. But this time, on his return to the U.S. among the cheering fans there was also Mel Rothstein, a shrewd Hollywood scout. He approached the tall champion and gave him his card. "Call me", he said, "not later than tomorrow, I'm only in town for two days". Three years later the world was charmed by the best Tarzan that came out of Hollywood. Weissmuller acted in more than fifteen Tarzan pictures and his phrase "Me, Tarzan... You, Jane" is still quoted on several occasions.
   We have another American gold winner in the Amsterdam Olympics, Benjamin Spock of the boat-race team. Years later, Spock managed to become world famous for his radical theories in his bestseller book about child behavior, a book that brought a real revolution among child psychologists, pediatricians and school teachers. His theories are still recognized today by many and his book, though not a bestseller anymore, is still on sale...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Paris 1924
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Amsterdam 1928

   After three consecutive failures to secure the Games, in 1916, 1920 and 1924, the Dutch Olympic Committee announced to their government that the Games, finally, were to be hosted in Amsterdam, in August. In return, the government expressed their great joy for the success but when it came to money the state said that they never accepted such a burden anyway... The only way for the committee was then to appeal to the public and, within six months, they managed to collect more than 30% of the money needed. It was little but it proved to be enough of a motive to activate the powerful Dutch commercial corporations throughout the world. Their generous sponsorings covered the rest of the sum budgeted for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. These are the first Olympics to include officially, that is with de Coubertin's approval, the women's track and field. Despite de Coubertin's okaying, the baron himself, presenting reasons of health, resigned and left the Games. From Lausanne, where he resided, he sent his message: "The Games are a man's affair and any deviation from the ancient Greek rules is a capital mistake".
   The appearance of women in the track brought many a comment with a tendency to ridiculing by some sportswriters. In some of the events, women did not even finish the race and the ones who did, collapsed!
   To show his admiration and to support the feminist spirit, Prince Hendrick sang a Dutch cantata and was widely applauded!
   Amsterdam's Olympics proved to be a nightmare for all the world's big newspapers who had sent sports reporters and photographers. The nightmare visited the newsmen in uniform when Amsterdam policemen invaded the reporter's section, during the events, and confiscated every camera on sight. There were many violent incidents that occurred and in one of them an Irish newsphotographer punched a policeman and broke his nose. All this brought protests from all over the world and there were even State Secretaries that had to intervene. The explanation: The Dutch Olympic Committee had "sold" the photography rights to a Dutch photo agency. It was at this agency that the newsmen had to go to, the next after the events day, and buy the photographic material they wanted for their papers and magazines. This is why the Amsterdam Olympics are considered to be the poorest Olympics when photography is concerned...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Amsterdam 1928
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Los Angeles 1932

   In 1932 the Olympics are hosted for the second time on American soil. The Los Angeles Games mark also the begging of the electronics era in transmitting the events results throughout the world.
   Despite the fact that the U.S. had not recovered completely from the 1929 financial crash and, also, that the Olympics affair was receiving severe negative comments and criticism from the large media as well as from some Congressmen, Americans through a series of smart activities managed to collect all the money needed. A great source proved to be the 3c stamp that people would buy even when they had nothing to... mail. Another source was the large sponsorings by private companies who undertook all transportation, residence and other expenses. Following this very thought the Brazilian team arrived in Los Angeles on a chartered commercial vessel loaded with coffee to be sold to coffee lovers of California. Well, it turned out to be not such a smart idea with the prices of coffee so low throughout the world. It was judged that the coffee wouldn't even fetch enough money to cover the money spent by the boat's engines for petrol...
   Nurmi appeared escorting the Finnish Team but his participation was rejected because his money receiving for advertising was now officially proven. He was granted, though, a seat among dignitaries, for the whole duration of the Games. A good seat indeed, while a few meters away, Jim Thorp was begging ticket money...
   In the Olympic Village alcohol was strictly prohibited, with the exception of the French who were granted a special permit after they claimed that Beaujolais was part of their nourishment! Eduard Tolan was the first black American athlete to win consecutively the 100m and the 200m races, a living prophecy of the black athletes dominance in these events.
   Los Angeles marks a first also for the three-level pedestal for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners, where a hilarious public watched a Philippino 3rd winner who refused to climb on the lower level and stepping on the tallest announced that he does this because he is short and wouldn't see clearly...
   The last innovation of the Los Angeles Games was the use of the phrase: "It is far more important to participate than to win, just as important in life is not the triumph but the struggle". The sentence, originally attributed to de Coubertin, is actually a part of the Sunday speech by Bishop Ethelbert Talbot in Saint Paul's Cathedral in London...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Los Angeles 1932
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Los Angeles 1932
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Berlin 1936

   The 1936 Berlin Olympics was the subject-problem of many discussions among several national Olympic Committees as to whether they should or should not accept Hitler's National Socialistic Government's invitation, a government that did not hide its racistic beliefs.
   Berlin is the place where at first we see the Olympic flame inaugurated, the torch brought to Germany by a series of successive runners from Ancient Olympia - 3000 runners, through seven countries, in ten days.
   All the loud theatrics that could be thought of were used by Hitler's PR team. The team also arranged for Spiros Louis, the Greek marathon gold winner to be there. Louis approached Hitler's box and gave the dictator a branch of wild olive-tree, brought from Olympia. Thousands of doves were released to the sky the instant Adolph's hand held the olive branch, while the famous Richard Strauss conducted the Great Berlin Philharmonic in a triumphal percussion march and while, at the same time, the gigantic Hindemburg airship shadowed, with her huge bulk, the sky above the stadium. And that was the cue for the German Olympic Team to enter the stadium running in front of the 3rd Reich dignitaries with their hands in Nazi salute.
   Other teams followed and most of them gave the Nazi salute. Americans and Britishers, stood and politely... bowed. A gesture that caused a lot of booeing from the crowd.
   The Berlin Olympiad remained known as the Jesse Owens Games. And not unjustly. Owens's performance, the previous years, prognosed a sure winner for, at least, two golds in Berlin. German propaganda rejected this on the grounds that Owens was black and, therefore, inferior to the Arian Race athletes, a theory that was repeatedly appearing in Hitler's Mein Kampf, a book that was part of every German household.
   The first German disappointment came the first day of the 100m and 200m races. First winner: Jesse Owens. Second disappointment was the next day with Owens winning first victory again in the long jump. All this became an anger when Owens led the American 4x100m. relay to a dashing victory. Hitler had, according to rules, to shake hands with a negro. On the pretext of sudden rain, he left the stadium and never returned to watch the rest of the Games...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Berlin 1936
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London 1948

   After Berlin the Games were scheduled to visit Tokyo. With the outburst of the Sino-Japanese war, in 1938, the Olympiad was transferred to Helsinki, again to be annulled because of the Soviet invasion to Finland. We come to 1948, two Olympiads omitted because of the World War II, and the place is London. In the mean time Baron de Coubertin had died, his heart was sent to a crypt in Ancient Olympia, as it was in his will. After six years of devastating war, London receives the Games with good will and skepticism as well. In 1948 Londoners were still in ration coupons for food and clothing. There was a tremendous housing problem because of the immense bombing and Olympic athletes were hosted in schools and Royal Army barracks.
   It was no surprise that Germany and Japan were not invited to attend. On the other hand countries who had accepted the communist rule attended for the first time.
   Star of the London Games became a girl from Holland, the blond and elegant Fanny Blankers Kohen who won four gold medals. Fanny was 30 and, according to experts too old for such achievements. But, besides the four golds, Fanny also won over the theory that sports can be the goal of a mother and housewife. In an interview, when asked on how she trains, she said that she doesn't very much, with all the house chores she has every day. "I have to cook for the children and my man and then there is clothes to be mended and floors to be scraped and millions of other things. No time for good training". The four golds blond gild had the world wondering. Bob Mathias, the seventeen years old American boy, became the youngest athlete ever to win the decathlon. His victory was of such a rarity, that led Hollywood to buy the rights and produce a good and commercially successful picture.
   London marks also the eve of the rising of another athletic star, the great Emil Zatopek who was admired, not so much about his victory in the 10,000m race, but with his ability, in the last 300m to pass from fifth place to first.
   Well, apart from all these, London's Olympics have not much to show. The world was still licking the deep wounds left on by the World War II...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


London 1948
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London 1948
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Helsinki 1952

   One of the countries that can claim a very high athletic spirit, Finland, after many attempts becomes finally hostess of the 1952 Olympics. Helsinki becomes the smallest capital of all world cities to organize the Games. A sportswriter in the N.Y. Times wrote that "Helsinki is inhabited by 365,000 sport loving fans!"
   Helsinki marks also the re-entering to the Games of the Russians, only now they compete under the Soviet Union flag. Fears that American and Soviets were going to be hostile to each other proved not to hold any relation to reality. Both teams were very polite to one another, both in the track as well as in their "private" moments in the Olympic Village.
   The Olympiad's star is Emil "The Steamtrain" Zatopek. He won first victories in the 5,000m, the 10,000m and the marathon. A renowned sports analyst said: "I simply cannot explain it. I was there, I saw it. I don't believe it. My logic tells me not to". Zatopek was a Czechoslovakian army major. He did not have ample time for training. He trained whenever there was a chance between army duties. It's worth noticing that his wife Dana, a competent athlete herself, half an hour after Emil's 5,000m victory, she won a gold in the javelin throw. The Zatopek family took four gold medals back home...
   Small nations gave us their surprises again with the 400m Jamaican runners who were invincible and with the Luxemburg's Jozy Bartell who won the 1.500m. Jozy caused also some embarrassment to the Games organizers who couldn't find and play Luxemburg's national anthem, so indispensable in such occasions! 3,000m steeple was no surprise when American Ashenfelter won the first victory. There were a few smiles, though, when Ashenfelter at a conference revealed that he was a crime researcher working for the FBI. "It was the first time in my life that I was followed so closely by Russians!...", he explained.

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Helsinki 1952
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Helsinki 1952
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Melbourne 1956

   The Melbourne Olympics were also called the Olympics of Bureaucracy. With just one opposing vote the IOC had decided, in 1949, to send the Games to Australia. Their hesitation was due to the Australian's tardiness in finishing the facilities as well as the inflexible australian laws that prohibited the importation of animals, thus excluding the equestrian sports to be held in Melbourne. So, for the first time and contrary to IOC rules, an event was detached from the main Games and was held elsewhere, in Sweden.
   The 1956 Olympics, the only Olympiad so far to take place in the Southern Hemisphere, opened in Melbourne under a cloud of international ill-will, caused by the Soviet invasion in Hungary and by the Franco-British intervention in the Suez Canal dispute. Protesting Holland, Switzerland and Spain withdrew. So did Lebanon and Egypt. Communist China followed suit and withdrew in a protest for Taiwan's presence.
   The distance runs were dominated by Soviet sailor Vladimir Kuts with record victories at 5,000m and 10,000m. Ireland took one gold with Ronnie Delany at 1,500m. The ever great Emil Zatopek has his first taste of defeat from the Algerian-French Alain Mimoun. Mimoun came first leaving Zatopek six places behind. Let us be reminded that in the last three Olympiads, Mimoun was always a standard second, with Zatopek first.
   In the closing day, the participants did not parade in rows of four as it was done until then. They entered the stadium "en masse" signifying the closeness and the friendship of the Games. The idea came from an Australian-born Chinese boy, John Whing, in a letter he addressed to the Olympic Committee. A happy postscript to the games took place in Prague the next year when Harold Connolly, the American hammer-throw winner, married Olga Figotova, the Czech Olympic discus champion. Best man for the occasion? Who would be more appropriate than a smiling Emil Zatopek?

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Melbourne 1956
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Melbourne 1956
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Rome 1960

   The Eternal City opens its gates widely to receive the 1960 Olympics. These are the Games that all the experts prognosed sure victories for German and Soviet women runners. The surprise, though, came from Tennessee with the American Black Antilope, Wilma Rudolph.
   Wilma, the 19th child, out of a total of 22, was a shy, lean and a good student girl. One morning, while reciting a poem in class, she fell on the floor. The diagnosis that came later was paralysis due to polio. One more statistic number added to the thousands the world - and especially the U.S. - was suffering daily. A few months later, the doctors applied metal supporters around her knees and ankles. But Wilma was made after the recipe that rare people are made. She convinced her father to free her from the supporters. In the months that followed she devised a series of exercises. She'd grab a chair, pull herself up, she'd stand still. Then she'd try a few steps. Within six months she could walk a few times around her room. And next year she could half-run a few times around the forest across her house. Faster. And faster. And again. And again.
   Now, in Rome, she made the German and the Soviet girls see the rivalry coming from the American South. She won three golds. But her actual victory was against polio. She became a symbol of hope for millions of children all over the world.
   Rome gave the world another star as well. That was Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, who won the gold for the light-heavyweight boxing event. Ali became a professional right after the Games and he is the only athlete in the world to have amassed the greatest amount ever earned by a sportsman. His earnings are estimated today to have passed the $96 million mark!
   Rome gives us her tragic note due to steroids. Danish cyclist Knut Jensen collapsed to death and while, originally, there was a diagnosis stating excessive heat during the race, there was a later statement that verified an overdose of drugs...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Rome 1960
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Tokyo 1964

   Asia's first Games attracted large crowds and a huge assault on records. Vast sums, estimated to $ 3 billion, were spent not only on stadia, but also on transport facilities. For varying reasons, South Africa, North Korean and Indonesia were not invited.
   The torch came into the stadium held by a runner who was born in Hiroshima the day the City was destroyed by the atom bomb, in 1945.
   The 100m American victor Bob Hays ran a phenomenal last leg in the 4x100m, to regain, the title the U.S. had lost in Rome. One of the beaten teams runner commented that all the U.S. had to show was Bob Hays. One of Bob's teammates replied "Man, that's all we needed!"
   The swimming pool events seemed to be an exclusive American affair. They won firsts in everything. Everything but one. Some sportswriters wrote that the Americans left one gold to get away because they got tired of listening their national anthem played so many times! The gold they didn't win went to Galina Prozumenschikova and marks the first gold ever won by a Soviet woman swimmer.
   The Olympiad's most medals are won by the little, charming Russian young lady of the Soviet team, Larissa Latynina, a star of gymnastics, who took back home two gold, two silver, and two bronze medals.
   Judo, being a Japanese affair and monopoly, was predicted by hosts to bring a sure gold to their country. There was a painful shock for them when Anton Geesink, a Dutch giant (1.98m) defeated their national champion in the Open class.
   Cassius Clay, a professional now named Muhammad Ali, did not fight in the Tokyo Olympics. The time his class were fighting for the title, he was training for his monumental fight against Floyd, a fight that made him richer by $ 4 million.
   Tokyo' s Olympics are considered the most athletic, the most sporting ones. No scandals, no funny incidents. Many competitors refer to them as marking the coming of commercialization but it was all hearsay...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Tokyo 1964
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Mexico City 1968

   From 1963, when the Games were voted for Mexico City, there was an increasing furore on the effects of its altitude (2,440m above sea level), mainly for competitions that required endurance. Some medical experts even forecasted possible deaths. This aspect was judged to be overly pessimistic, but many incidents of extreme exhaustion were recorded. When runner Ron Clarke showed heart problems in 1981, there was speculation that his condition had been aggravated by his efforts in Mexico City. On the other hand there were some that profited out of Mexico City's altitude. A good example is Bob Beamon's (USA) outstanding long jump of 8.90m, a record that stood intact for 24 years!
   Mexico's Olympics are also considered the most troubled ones, at least up to then, a sad record that the Mexicans shared later with the Germans who witnessed the Munich massacre.
   A few weeks before the Games started, serious student riots erupted at the University of Mexico. Riots that were ruthlessly suppressed with dozens killed and hundreds injured. The students protested against the Games being held in a country where thousands of people lived below poverty limits, with verified deaths caused by famine. On the upper side of the American continent, there was a move to get black athletes to boycott the U.S. Team as a protest to the bad treatment blacks were receiving in America. When this gained a poor support, those behind the boycott implied that some sort of demonstration would take place at the Games.
   Because of the high altitude the distance running events were dominated by runners who lived and trained at similar conditions, such as the Kenyans and Ethiopians. Favored as well were the jumpers. Beamon's jump was actually beyond the limits of the measurements device in the pit, and a steel tape had to be used. In the triple jump, the record was beaten by seven men and the world mark improved on five occasions. American discus champion Al Oerter, despite the fact that he was competing having a fractured neck, won a gold breaking his own record twice!
   A more loud expression of Black Power was the demonstration by the black American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 200m ceremony, when they raised black-gloved fists (a Black Power symbol), during the playing of the American anthem. For their action they were suspended and expelled from the Olympic Village. Some old-timers noted that their action was no more, no less, insulting than that of the numerous medallists who haδ adopted the Nazi salute back in 1936...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Mexico City 1968
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Munich 1972

   Having awarded the Games since 1966, the Germans built a magnificent complex on the rubble of World War II bombings on Munich. An ideal combination of athletes' residential quarters and competition fields, at a cost of $ 650 million. New electronic measuring devices appeared for the first time. Among these a new measuring method based on trigonometry for the throwing events.
   Star of the Games was unanimously voted the Californian dentist Mark Spitz, who dominated the swimming events and who smashed all records for a single Games appearance, winning seven gold medals. With his medals from Mexico City, Spitz held a total on nine golds, one silver, and one bronze.
   Soviet Valeriy Borzov became the first European to win a men's sprint double. However the outstanding attraction of the first days was Olga Korbut, the Russian charming young lady whose gamine qualities stole the show. Virtually overnight, with blanket media coverage, Olga became an international superstar of the gymnastics.
   All seem to be under happy way when, on September 5, at 4.40' in the morning all the happiness seemed to evaporate. Five Black September men climbed the Village fence and entered the building at No. 41 of Konnollystrasse, where the Israeli wrestling team was residing. In a few moments and under a general alert situation that erupted, they announced that they'd execute all Israeli wrestlers unless some Palestinian prisoners in Israel were set free. To prove their intention they execute one of the team's trainers and throw his body out in the street. At 10.30', while negotiations have already began between German and Israeli authorities, the terrorists demand and are granted a helicopter to take them out of Munich. They end up in an abandoned airfield in West Munich. At 12.30' the Israeli authorities send their negative and final answer. Negotiations, now, between terrorists and German authorities are being held personally by Hans Dietrich Genscher. The terrorists insist in their initial demand. Hours of silence and agony will follow. The drama is being watched by millions of TV viewers around the world. Then an abortive rescue attempt resulted in the murder of all nine Israeli wrestlers and the death of some of their captors. The youngest Israeli wrestler was a boy of 17... Mark Spitz left before the games ended. Before boarding his plane: "I feel disgusted. I'm leaving the Games, not because I am a Jew, but because I am still human..."

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Munich 1972
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Montreal 1976

   When the Games were initially awarded to Montreal, it was estimated that they would cost $ 310 million. Well, there must have been some poor accountancy involved because the cost of the stadium alone went well over the $ 486 million mark while the final bill for the Canadian government amounted to $ 1,480 million. With the Munich disaster still fresh in memory, Canadians spent $ 125 million for security systems, which were to be manned by 10,000 policemen and 7,500 commandos. Montreal 1976 is the year of a 14-year old girl from Rumania, with a face full of arrogance and strong will, a face that will demand and earn the whole world's admiration. That's Nadia Comaneci who, the very first Games-day, scored the first ever maximum of 10.00 marks achieved at the Olympics.
   A Bella Karoly pupil, Comaneci returned to her native Rumania full of fame and glory. She poses for magazines, she erupts at discos, she is living the big life. She met and got engaged to Nicu Tchausesku, son of the dictator and lived with him in a small mansion, in a classy suburb. She traveled a lot and when at home, she gave lush receptions. She skipped training routine, contrary to Caroly's insistence.
   Nadia was an unhappy child who grew-up in extreme poverty, with a father she could hardly remember after his disappearance and with an autocratic mother who had to work in two jobs in order to face living expenses. At a school gymnastics demonstration she attracts Caroly's attention. Caroly arranges for a trial gymnastics day. The great trainer realizes that he has discovered a rare talent. He undertakes to train her personally and manages to convince the state to give some financial aid to her family. He designs a special program for her. Under Caroly's tough, some times exhausting training and instruction, Nadia proves to be not only a rare, natural gymnastics talent but a phenomenon of persistence, endurance and strong will.
   Now, in Rumania, Nadia ends her relationship with the dictator's son and is seen at parties with an upcoming rock singer. In 1989 she meets Panait Constantin, an American restaurant owner of Rumanian descent. She persuades him to take her along with him to the U.S. The Rumanian authorities deny her the issuing of a passport. Nadia manages to convince Panait to cross over the border to Hungary with her. She asks for an asylum and the Hungarians are pleased to oblige. Asylum, plus a visa to enter America. She arrives in New York where she settles. She poses for hundreds of magazines and newspapers, she appears more than a hundred times in TV programs and within 6 months she manages to amass a substantial fortune. When Bella Caroly, by then a U.S. citizen, asked to see her, she refused...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Montreal 1976
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Moscow 1980

   There had been only a little dissent when the IOC awarded these Games to Moscow in 1974. The Soviet Union had joined the modern Olympics in 1952 and was proven to be the second greatest golds scorer of all times. However, in 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and much of the non-communist world, led by the U.S., tried to impose a boycott on the Games. Not all such countries supported the boycott, although sports within them sometimes did. There were quite a few countries who couldn't lift the financial burden of going to Moscow, and through boycotting, found an easy way out. Anyhow, 40 to 50 counties declared deniance, with the U.S. leading the list, followed by West (then) Germany and Japan. The British expressed their own kind of boycotting. They sent their team but under the Olympic Circles flag!
   Facilities in Moscow were excellent and the 103,000-seats Lenin Stadium was full everyday, a proof that Muscovites were lodging for a high quality sports spectacle. But the viewers, although they proved to be very knowledgeable in sports matters, left something to be desired in their treatment of foreign competitors, particularly those from other Eastern Bloc countries. The events were far more numerous and brought the total of golds to 203. The Montreal darling, Nadia Comaneci returned but she no longer was the force she had been.
   Long distance runs was again an African affair but marathon gave a gold one to Waldemar Cierpinski of Eastern (then) Germany. In the triple jump, Russian Victor Saneev got a silver to mark the end of his sports career. He told newsmen: "I like silver. It will go fine with the golds ones I display in my office!" East German girls dominated the swimming pools winning 26 medals out of a total of 35.
   Cuban heavyweight boxer Teofilo Stephenson won the title of the first boxer to have won golds in three consecutive Olympiads. Moscow presented also an anthropological record: The North Korean gymnast Myongk Hui Choe who was standing at 1.35m. tall and weighing 25 kilos!
   Moscow, not having a strong competition after the American absence, did not give the world strong sports emotions. The Soviets took the most golds with the East Germans second in line. The British were listed in No. 9 place. Some sportswriters said that this happened because they didn't have the Union Jack to support them. Perhaps this is true...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Moscow 1980
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American Sport Art Museum and Archives , a division of the United States Sports Academy
International Sailing Federation


Moscow 1980
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Australian Broadcasting Corporation
British Broadcasting Corporation


Los Angeles 1984

   It's the 3rd time that the Olympic Games travel to the United States. New systems were devised and applied, many financed by large corporations who acted as sponsors. TV rights alone surpassed $ 267 million while world wide TV viewers have been estimated to have been more than 2.5 billion!
   The day the Olympian torch was landing on American soil, the 8th of May, the Soviet Union announced officially their denial to participate. That was the Soviet answer to the American 1980 Moscow boycotting.
   The opening day was inaugurated by President Ronald Reagan. Right after his opening speech the world saw a Hollywood style extravaganza that drew much caustic criticism, especially for its low taste. At a certain stage, after a parade of 43 brass bands, an orchestra comprised of 86 silver pianos played old Hollywood film tunes and operetta highlights! The Olympic song itself was out of the film Stand By Me, a big commercial 1983 hit. The media projected, on a daily basis, whatever there was to be considered American such as how to tie and throw a lasso rope, how to bake apple-pie, how to cook stuffed turkey et alia!
   The U.S. collected the greatest number of golds: 83. Games-star is Carl Louis who equaled Jesse Owen's performance winning golds for 100m and 200m, the long jump and the last leg in the 4x100m. relay that brought the victory to the U.S. team.
   Carl Louis was called the Black Apollo by sportswriters, a nickname he seemed to like very much. A magazine published a photograph of one of the postcards Carl had sent once to his mother. "To mamma with love..." and signed: "Your Black Apollo". Carl Louis studied at the UCLA and ever since his early years he had shown how lonely and a boy of few words he was. In the Santa Monica Athletic Club where he used to train he could outrun well known Californian sprinters. He was devoted to his mother who was the only company he seemed to prefer. There are a number of things that have been written as to his erotic choices. Answering once to a certain impolite question posed on him by a scandal-chaser reporter he answered: "Can't you find a job in a decent magazine?" After this, one of the greats in sportswriting, Ian McCloud, wrote: "It's a pity for America to have discovered such a sporting treasure and leave to the mad dogs to feed their vanity..."
   Accountancy announced a profit of $ 215 million. It's worth to be noted that part of this profit came from the percentage paid by ad agencies who had sold, mile to mile, the Olympic Torch route-run, from the East to the West Coast!

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Los Angeles 1984
Links with various Organizations' WebPages:
The Olympic Movement
American Sport Art Museum and Archives , a division of the United States Sports Academy
International Sailing Federation


Los Angeles 1984
Links with various Media's WebPages:
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
British Broadcasting Corporation


Seoul 1988

   The capital of Korea, Seoul, has one of the largest populations of any city on the earth - an estimated 9 million. All the Olympics facilities were ready and operational by the end of 1986. One and a half years before the Games began! A proof of Korean ingenuity.
   Tennis makes its re-appearance for the first time after it was banned back in 1924, characterized as a professional game. The IOC solved this problem by asking all the great stars who accepted to participate, to sign a statement that they cease to be professionals for, at least, 20 days! A great name in women's tennis is mentioned to have refused the invitation as she had a scheduled match within the days of the Olympiad.
   American television companies paid an unsurpassed amount of $ 750 million for the transmitting rights, and that was only for broadcasting in the U.S. It is estimated that world TV rights were sold at far beyond $ 1.25 billion. It is also estimated that the Seoul Olympics cost the Korean government $ 1.75 billion. The Korean government never revealed whether they had any profit. Or loss.
   After the big inauguration ceremony, Greece paraded first, not to honor the Olympics' birth country but merely because the letter G is the first letter of the Korean alphabet!
   The athlete who gained most of the world attention was Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, initially for the best of reasons and later for the worst. Having looked somewhat out of form in the preliminary 100m rounds, he blasted away in the final to destroy a talented field of sprinters including arch-rival Carl Louis, and hitting an unbelievable world record time of 9.79 sec.! Three days later, and after a multiple test, it was officially announced that Johnson had ran under the influence of a very potent steroid substance. He was immediately disqualified. His gold medal was given to second runner Carl Louis. Louis said later: "It is impossible for me to believe it! If there is a mistake in the lab, I shall be very glad to give Ben back his medal, whom I consider a great athlete..."
   At the same Olympics, lab tests disqualified also nine other athletes in wrestling, weightlifting and judo. Seoul managed to leave a very bitter aftertaste to the millions of Olympic sports lovers...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Seoul 1988
Links with various Organizations' WebPages:
The Olympic Movement
American Sport Art Museum and Archives , a division of the United States Sports Academy
International Sailing Federation


Barcelona 1992

   The Barcelona 1992 Olympics were christened the Friendship Olympics. Quite rightly so. Cuba returned after two Olympiads of absence. So did S. Africa with the apartheid problem solved. Twelve thousand athletes were listed to compete, somewhat fewer than 1988, due to Spanish government economizing schemes, a decision that received hard criticism.
   Security measures cost the Spanish authorities the record sum of $ 490 million that was spent on electronics and various devices to facilitate the work of a 50,000 men force, on constant alert whose guarding went as far up to the border to France and to Portugal!
   The track and field held no great surprises, except for the 100m men's dash. Johnson, the disgraced Seoul champion, returned less muscular, less pompous. He stumbled in the semifinals, ended his bid for redemption looking at the backs of Leroy Burrell and Linford Christie. Then came the finals bang as 32-year old Christie burst from the blocks like a young bull and to the gold as history's oldest 100m winner (9.96"). "They said I'm too old and the sprint isn't an old man's sport. Well, I don't know..." he told reporters later.
   The women's 100m dash was also a surprise. Eighteen months ago, Gail Devers came close to have both of her feet amputated due to over-radiation in a thyroid treatment. Gail, following loyally what the Olympic Team's physicians ordered, avoided the immediate danger and for a year and a half trained on a daily basis to regain her old self. And she did. Now, in Barcelona, she dashed with a perfect lean of her head at the finish and a remarkable 10.82".
   Devers was dreaming of doubling her triumph with the 100m hurdles. But Voula Patoulidou of Greece had her own dream as well, a dream that was destined to come true. In the women's 100m hurdles finals, Voula exploded at the finish line ahead of Devers and, with a time of 12.64", won the gold for Greece, much to the world's surprise.
   A second gold Greek victory came from the powerful hands of weightlifter Pyrros Dimas who won a tough contest in his 82.5 kilos class...

Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos


Barcelona 1992
Links with various Organizations' WebPages:
The Olympic Movement
American Sport Art Museum and Archives , a division of the United States Sports Academy
International Sailing Federation


Barcelona 1992
Links with various Media's WebPages:
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
British Broadcasting Corporation


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