It is the inspiration of the Olympic Games that drives people
not only to compete but to improve, and to bring lasting spiritual and moral
benefits to the athlete and inspiration to those lucky enough to witness
the athletic dedication.
- Herb Elliott
The Olympic Games are generally regarded as the pinnacle of athletic
competition throughout the world. Held every 2 years, the games alternate
between the Olympic Summer Games, and the Olympic Winter Games, with the
summer games being held in years divisible by 4, and the winter games in the
even years between them.
Organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the games
generally last a little over two weeks, with time for the hundreds of events
in the wide variety of sports played at the games.
The games are the 2nd most watched event in the world, with around the
clock coverage on television, to a boatload of coverage in other forms of
media. And trust me, it'd have to be a pretty big boat.
The city / country chosen to host the games is chosen years in advance,
to give adequate time for the immense amount of preparation required to put
on an event of this magnitude. The thousands of visitors to the games will
spend millions of dollars at local hotels, restaurants, shops and
what have you. Not only that, but the lasting benefits to tourism that
such world wide exposure will bring, and the top grade sports facilities
stick around too. Not to mention just how cool it is to host such world
class athletes at the peak of their performance. To have the eyes of the
world on you, if only for a couple weeks.
In case you hadn't figured it out by now, it's a very big event, which a
lot of people take very seriously. To win a medal at the Olympic Games is
for many athletes, the highest honour that they could possibly receive.
At the Olympic games, events in the following sports are held.
Aquatics Archery Athletics Badminton
Baseball Basketball Boxing Canoe / Kayak
Cycling Equestrian Fencing Football
Gymnastics Handball Field Hockey Judo
Pentathlon Rowing Sailing Shooting
Softball Table Tennis Taekwondo Tennis
Triathlon Volleyball Weightlifting Wrestling
Biathlon Bobsleigh Curling Ice Hockey
Luge Skating Skiing
The origin of the Olympic Games stretches back to Ancient Greece, where
as a part of a religious festival honouring the god Zeus, there were games
held every 4 years, in the town of Olympia. This occasion was so
important, that during the time that the games were on, there was a cessation of all wars in Greece for the duration of the games. There
are some who are trying to reenact this tradition worldwide today. The
Olympic Games were also much shorter during this time, being only a 1 day
affair when they were first started, up to 5 days.
The first games were held in 776 B.C.E., and originally the only event
held was a 600 foot dash. Over time, more events were added to the games. By
the end of the 5th century B.C.E, the following events were held: Chariot
Racing, and Horse Racing, Pentathlon, Wrestling, Boxing. Jumping,
Discus, Javelin, and the Pancration, whatever that is.
Any free male citizen of Greece was eligible to enter the events, and
these athletes generally competed naked. Women, on the other hand, where not
allowed to enter the games, and only maidens were permitted to
watch the events, the penalty for any married woman entering the Sanctuary
of Zeus to watch the events being death. No one, on the other hand, is
trying to reinstate this tradition.
The original Olympic Games were held for 12 centuries, until 393 C.E.,
when Theodosios I issued a decree banning all idol worshiping, which
included the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia.
The modern Olympic Games were started up again in 1896, due largely to
the efforts of a frenchman by the name of Pierre De Coubertin. The games
were opened by His Majesty King George I. 241 men from fourteen different
countries participated in 43 events, and the winners were awarded a silver
medal and a crown of olive branches.
Since then, there have been many changes made to the games, most notably
a great deal of events added to the games, and a lot more people
participating, as well as splitting the games up into both summer and winter
events. The 2000 Syndey Summer games had over
10,000 athletes participating from 199 countries throughout the world, in
300 events. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter
Games had 2,399 athletes from 77 countries participating in 78 events.
In addition to having events added to the program, the following events
that have been dropped from the Olympic Games: Cricket, Croquet, Golf,
Jeu De Paume, Lacrosse, Pelote Basque, Polo, Power Boating,
Rackets, Rink-hockey, Roque, Rugby, Tug of War, and Water
No games were held in 1916, due to World War I being a bit more
important. The same goes for 1940 and 1944, and World War II. These
are the only games that have been canceled outright due to war, however
during the Cold War, the United States led a boycott of several
countries for the 1980 Moscow Summer Games, and the
Soviet Union did the same thing for the 1984
Los Angeles Summer Games.
In 1920, the tradition of the Olympic Oath was instituted, which all
athletes must swear saying that they will play fair. Also introduced was the
Olympic Flag, designed by Pierre De Coubertin. The flag is simple, 5
interlocking rings, of blue, yellow, black, green and red, on a white
background. These colours were chosen because at least one of these colours
is present in every country that participated in the games at that time.
We swear that we will take part in these Olympic Games in the
true spirit of sportsmanship, and that we will respect and abide by the
rules that govern them, for the glory of sport and the honor of our
In 1924, the International Olympic Committee held International Sports
Week in 1924, in Chamonix, France. It was a success, and the tradition was
continued, with these games being retroactively named the first Winter Olympic Games. At these games, the Canadian hockey
team won all 5 of it's matches, outscoring their competition 110 to 3. Ouch.
It originally ran in the same years as the Summer Olympic Games, but in
1994, they began running the Winter Games on
even years between the summer games.
1928 was the first year that they instituted the tradition of the
lighting of the Olympic Flame. The flame is lit at the altar of the Temple
of Hera in Olympia by the high priestess, who then hands a torch lit from
this flame to a runner. The flame is then carried, by foot if at all
possible, to the city hosting the Olympic Games, where at the opening
ceremonies, a flame is lit for the duration of the games.
In 1960, the first Paralympic games were held in Rome, for
competition between athletes with significant physical disabilities. Despite
these disabilities, these men and women are still awesome athletes, and I
have no doubt in my mind that each of them could kick my ass.
1972 saw a tragic event happen at the Munich
Summer Games, when on September 5, members of a
Palestinian terrorist group broke into the Olympic Village housing the
athletes, and killed 11 Israeli athletes. The games were halted, but only
for a mere day before they resumed. All but one of the terrorists involved
have since got what's coming to them.
The games were originally open to amateur athletes only, with no one who
played sports for a living allowed to enter. There were some ways to get
around this, such as the Soviet hockey team consisting of people who served
in the military. It just so happened that their only duties were playing
Recently, however, it has opened up somewhat. The IOC now leaves the
decision to allow professional athletes to play in the Olympics up to the
international organization that regulates that particular sport. This
explains why Michael Jordan was able to play for the United
States in basketball in 1992, but Alex
Rodriguez can't go to Athens to play baseball.
In order to be played at the games, a sport has to be administered by an
international organization that complies with not only the Olympic
Charter, but also with the IOC's stringent performance enhancing drug
That having been said, these organizations sometimes don't catch all
offenders, or perhaps some of them just waited until just before the games
to take the drugs. Drug Tests are administered right after the completion of
any event, and in the case that whoever won an event tested positive for
any of the drugs that are on the list, they are stripped of their medal, and
that medal is awarded to whichever athlete was right below them in the
That's for individual events, I'm not quite sure how it works for team
events. It would really suck to be the one guy who lost your entire team a
gold medal. Anyways, the most famous event of this type was at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, when the winner of the men's 100m
sprint, the event which traditionally determines the "fastest man in the
world", Canadian Ben Johnson was disqualified for drug use.
Putting on the Olympic Games is a bloody expensive affair. Usually, a
great deal of the money required will come from the government of the
country hosting the games, and another chunk will come from corporations
willing to sponsor the games. For example, Coca-Cola paid $60 million
USD to be one of the main sponsors of the Athens
2004 Summer Games. In exchange for that, not only will Coca-Cola products
be the only drinks available at the games, but spectators at the events will
not be allowed to enter the events with Pepsi products, unless the labels
have been removed, nor will they be allowed in wearing t-shirts with Pepsi
logos. Officials say that this is to prevent what they call Ambush
Marketing, where companies try to get free advertising by sneaking products
onto camera by spectators in the background.
And there's always NBC, which had obtained exclusive broadcast rights to
the Olympic games within the United States, up to the 2008 games. They
obtained these rights by paying through the teeth, with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games costing them $545 million
USD. From this, they made $740 million USD in ad revenue.
There are some people who may have a problem with the increasing
commercialism in the games, but let's face it, events of this magnitude
will cost a *lot* of money to put on, and there's very few governments that
would be willing to front the bill on their own.
In the end, the Olympics boils down to one thing. The noble competition between athletes at the top of their field. Friendly competition between nations.
There are very few things in the world that could compare to standing on
the medal podium, getting that gold around your neck, watching your
country's flag wave as they play your national anthem. To be recognized
by the world as the top in your field doesn't happen to many people. The
only other thing I can compare it to would be the Nobel Prize.
Calgary Herald, August 8, 2004