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