History of the Olympics

The Olympics have a rich and deep history, going all the way back to times of Ancient Greece. The first official Ancient Olympics started in 776 BCE, and was a competition between the city-states of Ancient Greece. There were many athletic (track, swimming, other endurance tests) and combat sports (wrestling, horse and chariot events). All conflicts between the city-states were supposed to be put aside to compete in the Olympics, and was known as the Olympic peace. The Olympic games took place at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. The sanctuary of Zeus contained a 40-foot-tall statue of Zeus that was made by Phidias, who was known as the finest sculptor of the ancient world.

The Olympic Games of ancient times reached their peak between 6th and 5th century BCE, but declined slowly as the Roman empire took over. No one knows for certain when they ended, but 393 AD is what is commonly used as a date, when Theodosius I declared pagan cults and practices forbidden. Theodosius II furthered this by ordering the destruction of all Greek temples in 426 AD.

There have been several times that the Olympic games have been brought back throughout the ages. One of the earliest post-Greek times was the Cotswold Games, also known as the Cotswold Olimpick Games, which took place in Chipping Campden, England. Organized by Robert Dover from 1612 - 1642 AD, it was used in the 2012 Olympic Games to help London secure the spot for the Olympics.

In post revolution France, another attempt was made to revive the games. This start was called L'Olympiade de la République, and tried to mimic the ancient Olympic Games. It marked the first use of the metric system in the Olympics. The Wenlock Olympian Games started in 1850 and officially adopted the name in 1859. This is an event that continues today in Shropshire, England. The Wenlock Olympian Society was founded by William Penny Brookes in 1860. Another attempt was held in Liverpool, England between 1862 and 1867 called the Grand Olympic Festival. It was the most like the modern Olympics.

The Greeks became interested in reviving the Olympics after the Greek War of Independence. They were fighting off the Ottoman Empire, and was first thought of by Panagiotis Soutsos in the poem 'Dialogue of the Dead' (1833). It wasn't until 1859 when Evangelos Zappas sponsored the first Olympic games between the Ottoman Empire and Greece that the first modern Greek games were held.

The Greeks restored the ancient Panathenaic Stadium just so they had a place to host all future games. In 1890, the International Olympic Committee was made by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He built the ideas off Zappas work, and proposed for the first time, rotating locations of the Olympic games every 4 years. These were presented to the first Olympic Congress that was part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and occurred between June 16th-23rd, 1894. The first president of the IOC was Greek writer Demetrius Vikelas.

In 1896, the first IOC hosted games took place in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. 14 nations including 241 athletes showed up and competed in 43 events. Zappas continued to have influence, leaving a trust to fund the Olympics for years to come, and was used heavily in the 1896 Games. George Averoff contributed as well to the remodeling and reconstruction of the stadium, as well as the Greek government. With the success of the Olympics, the second Olympics was secured. Though many Greeks objected to the Games being held elsewhere, the second Olympics were held in Paris.

There were some changes made to the Olympics in the coming years. Women could compete for the first time in the 1900 Paris Olympics, but it did not have a stadium. The 1904 St. Louis Olympics were mostly a joke because of 650 athletes that showed up, 580 were from the United States. The Games rebounded in 1906 when they went back to Athens, creating a much deeper interest in the games again. One of the biggest changes came in 1921. The decision was made to add the Winter Olympics. The first Winter Games were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France, and this became the first Winter Olympics. Except during times of war, the Olympics are held every two years, alternating between summer and winter.

A: 393 AD
B: 426 AD
C: 776 BCE
D: Unknown

A: Phidias
B: Theodosius I and II
C: Robert Dover
D: William Penny Brookes

A: Grand Olympic Festival
B: Cotswold Olimpick Games
C: Greek Olympics
D: Wenlock Olympian Games

A: Panagiotis Soutsos
B: Evangelos Zappas
C: Demetrius Vikelas
D: George Averoff

A: 1894
B: 1890
C: 1859
D: 1900

A: Grand Olympic Festival
B: Greek Olympics
C: Cotswold Olimpick Games
D: Wenlock Olympian Games

To link to this History of the Olympics page, copy the following code to your site: