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Home > China Travel Guide > Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Travel Guide > Olympics Games History and Introduction

Olympics Games History and Introduction


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The Olympic Games (often referred to simply as The Olympics or The Games) is an international multi-sport event subdivided into summer and winter sporting events. The summer and winter games are each held every four years (an Olympiad). Until 1992, they were held in the same year. Since then, they have been celebrated two years apart. The original Olympic Games (Greek: Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες; Olympiakoi Agones) began in 776 BC, in Olympia, Greece, and were celebrated until 393 AD. In 1896, the ancient Olympic Games were revived at the initiative of a French nobleman, Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, thus beginning the era of the Modern Olympic Games. Since the first modern games, in Athens, Greece, participation in the Olympic Games has increased to include athletes from nearly all nations worldwide. With the improvement of satellite communications and global telecasts of the events, the Olympics are consistently gaining supporters. The most recent Summer Olympics were the 2004 Games in Athens and the most recent Winter Olympics were the 2006 Games in Turin. The upcoming games in Beijing are planned to comprise 302 events in 28 sports. As of 2006, the Winter Olympics were competed in 84 events in 7 sports.

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Olympic Games History

There are many legends surrounding the origin of the ancient Olympic Games. One of these associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of ἐκεχειρία (ekecheiria) or Olympic Truce. The date of the Games' inception based on the count of years in Olympiads is reconstructed as 776 BC, although scholars' opinions diverge between dates as early as 884 BC and as late as 704 BC. From then on, the Games quickly became much more important throughout ancient Greece, reaching their zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, contests alternating with sacrifices and ceremonies honouring both Zeus (whose colossal statue stood at Olympia), and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia famous for his legendary chariot race, in whose honour the games were held. The number of events increased to twenty, and the celebration was spread over several days. Winners of the events were greatly admired and were immortalised in poems and statues. The Games were held every four years, and the period between two celebrations became known as an 'Olympiad'. The Greeks used Olympiads as one of their methods to count years. The most famous Olympic athlete lived in these times: the sixth century BC wrestler Milo of Croton is the only athlete in history to win a victory in six Olympics. The Games gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power in Greece. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Olympic Games were seen as a pagan festival and in discord with Christian ethics, and in 393 AD the emperor Theodosius I outlawed the Olympics, ending a thousand-year tradition. During the ancient times normally only young men could participate. Competitors were usually naked, not only as the weather was appropriate but also as the festival was meant to be, in part, a celebration of the achievements of the human body. Upon winning the games, the victor would have not only the prestige of being in first place but would also be presented with a crown of olive leaves. The olive branch is a sign of hope and peace. Even though the bearing of a torch formed an integral aspect of Greek ceremonies, the ancient Olympic Games did not include it, nor was there a symbol formed by interconnecting rings. These Olympic symbols were introduced as part of the modern Olympic Games.

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Olympic Symbols

The Olympic movement uses many symbols, most of them representing Coubertin's ideas and ideals. The best known symbol is probably that of the Olympic Rings. These five intertwined rings represent the unity of five continents (the Americas are considered one continent). They appear in five colors on a white field on the Olympic Flag. These colors, white (for the field), red, blue, green, yellow, and black were chosen such that each nation had at least one of these colors in its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914, but the first Games at which it was flown were Antwerp, 1920. It is hoisted at each celebration of the Games. The official Olympic Motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", a Latin phrase meaning "Swifter, Higher, Stronger". Coubertin's ideals are probably best illustrated by the Olympic Creed: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." The Olympic Flame is lit in Olympia and brought to the host city by runners carrying the torch in relay. There it plays an important role in the opening ceremonies. Though torches have played a part historically, the relay was introduced in 1936. French and English are the two official languages of the Olympic movement

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Olympic Ceremonies

 
Openning

Apart from the traditional elements, the host nation ordinarily presents artistic displays of dance and theatre representative of that country. Various traditional elements frame the opening ceremonies of a celebration of the Olympic Games. The ceremonies typically start with the hoisting of the host country's flag and the performing of its national anthem. The traditional part of the ceremonies starts with a "parade of nations" (or of athletes), during which most participating athletes march into the stadium, country by country. One honoured athlete, typically a top competitor, from each country carries the flag of his or her nation, leading the entourage of other athletes from that country.Traditionally (starting at the 1928 Summer Olympics) Greece marches first, because of its historical status as the origin of the Olympics, while the host nation marches last. (Exceptionally, in 2004, when the Games were held in Athens, Greece marched last as host nation rather than first, although the flag of Greece was carried in first). Between these two nations, all other participating nations march in alphabetical order of the dominant language of the host country, or in French or English alphabetical order if the host country does not write its dominant language in an alphabet, which has a set order. In the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, both Spanish and Catalan were official languages of the games, but due to politics surrounding the use of Catalan, the nations entered in French alphabetical order. The XVIII Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan saw nations entering in English alphabetical order since the Japanese language grouped both China and Chinese Taipei together in the Parade of Nations. After all nations have entered, the president of the host country's Olympic Organising Committee makes a speech, followed by the IOC president who, at the end of his speech, introduces the organising country's head of state, who in turn formally opens the Olympics, by saying: «I declare open the Games of ... celebrating the ... Olympiad of the modern era/Olympic Winter Games. In some cases, the country's head of state did not open the Olympics. Three examples of this are from the United States. First, in 1932, when then New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the III Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York instead of President Herbert Hoover, then, in 1960, when Vice-President Richard Nixon opened the VIII Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California instead of President Dwight Eisenhower, and finally, in 1980, when Vice President Walter Mondale, not President Jimmy Carter, opened the XIII Olympic Winter Games, also in Lake Placid. Despite this, the Games are awarded to a city, not to the country. At the 2000 Sydney Games, Australian Governor-General Sir William Deane opened the Games, as Queen Elizabeth (who as Queen of Australia is the Australian head of state) did not attend. Next, the Olympic Flag is carried horizontally (since the 1960 Summer Olympics) into the stadium and hoisted as the Olympic Anthem is played. The flag bearers of all countries circle a rostrum, where one athlete (since the 1920 Summer Olympics) and one judge (since the 1972 Summer Olympics) speak the Olympic Oath, declaring they will compete and judge according to the rules. Finally, the Torch is brought into the stadium, passed from athlete to athlete, until it reaches the last carrier of the Torch, often a well-known athlete from the host nation, who lights the fire in the stadium's cauldron.[24] (The Olympic Flame has been lit since the 1928 Summer Olympics, but the torch relay did not start until the 1936 Summer Olympics.) Beginning at the post-World War I 1920 Summer Olympics, the lighting of the Olympic Flame was for 68 years followed by the release of doves, symbolizing peace.] This gesture was discontinued after several doves were burned alive in the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Summer Olympics. Opening ceremonies have been held outdoors, usually on the main athletics stadium, but those for the 2010 Winter Olympics will be the first to be held indoors, at the BC Place Stadium.

Closing

Various traditional elements also frame the closing ceremonies of an Olympic Games, which take place after all of the events have concluded. Flag bearers from each participating delegation enter the stadium in single file, but behind them march all of the athletes without any distinction or grouping of nationality. This tradition began at the 1956 Summer Olympics at the suggestion of Melbourne schoolboy John Ian Wing, who thought it would be a way of bringing the athletes of the world together as "one nation".[29] (In 2006, the athletes marched in with their countrymen, then dispersed and mingled as the ceremonies went on). Three national flags are each hoisted onto flagpoles one at a time while their respective national anthems are played: The flag of Greece on the righthand pole (again honouring the birthplace of the Olympic Games), the flag of the host country on the middle pole, and finally the flag of the host country of the next Summer or Winter Olympic Games, on the lefthand pole. (Exceptionally, in 2004, when the Games were held in Athens, only one flag of Greece was raised.) In what is known as the "Antwerp Ceremony" (because the tradition started during the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp), the mayor of the city that organized the Games transfers a special Olympic Flag to the president of the IOC, who then passes it on to the mayor of the next city to host the Olympic Games. The receiving mayor then waves the flag eight times. There are three such flags, differing from all other copies in that they have a six-coloured fringe around the flag, and are tied with six coloured ribbons to a flagstaff: The Antwerp flag: Was presented to the IOC at the 1920 Summer Olympics by the city of Antwerp, Belgium, and was passed on to the next organising city of the Summer Olympics until the Games of Seoul 1988. The Oslo flag: Was presented to the IOC at the 1952 Winter Olympics by the city of Oslo, Norway, and is passed on to the next organising city of the Winter Olympics. The Seoul flag: Was presented to the IOC at the 1988 Summer Olympics by the city of Seoul, South Korea, and is passed on to the next organising city of the Summer Olympics, which was Barcelona, Spain, at that time. After these traditional elements, the next host nation introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theatre representative of that country. This tradition began with the 1976 Games. The president of the host country's Olympic Organising Committee makes a speech, followed by the IOC president, who at the end of his speech formally closes the Olympics, by saying: «I declare the Games of the ... Olympiad/... Olympic Winter Games closed and, in accordance with tradition, I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in ... to celebrate the Games of the ... Olympiad/... Olympic Winter Games.» The Olympic Flame is extinguished, and while the Olympic anthem is being played, the Olympic Flag that was hoisted during the opening ceremonies is lowered from the flagpole and horizontally carried out of the stadium

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List of Olympic Sports

Sport Years   Sport Years
Archery 1900-1912, since 1972 Modern pentathlon since 1912
Athletics all Polo 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924, 1936
Badminton since 1992 Rackets 1908
Baseball 1992-2008 Roque 1904
Basketball since 1936 Rowing since 1900
Basque pelota 1900 Rugby union 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924
Boxing 1904, 1908, since 1920 Sailing 1900, since 1908
Canoeing since 1936 Shooting 1896, 1900, 1908-1924, since 1932
Cricket 1900 Softball 1996-2008
Croquet 1900 Swimming all
Cycling all Synchronized swimming since 1984
Diving since 1904 Table tennis since 1988
Equestrian 1900, since 1912 Taekwondo since 2000
Fencing all Tennis 1896-1924, since 1988
Football (soccer) 1900-1928, since 1936 Triathlon since 2000
Golf 1900, 1904 Tug of war 1900-1920
Gymnastics all Volleyball since 1964
Handball 1936, since 1972 Water motorsports 1908
Hockey (field) 1908, 1920, since 1928 Water polo 1900, since 1908
Jeu de paume 1908 Weightlifting 1896, 1904, since 1920
Judo 1964, since 1972 Wrestling 1896, since 1904
Lacrosse 1904, 1908

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