Summer Olympic Games: A BRIEF HISTORY

By Marcia Lee, Serials Specialist

The Olympic Games first came to be in 776 BC, though they were a far cry from the games & events we watch today.  Exactly how the first Olympic Games originated is somewhat unknown, some speculate that they began as a competition for suitors of the ruler’s daughter’s hand in marriage.  After the first competition the winner wed the daughter and he then carried on the tradition of the games to commemorate his winnings & to honor the Greek “King of all gods”, Zeus.  Others believe that the rulers of each state in Greece met to form a competition in which each state could be represented by their strongest, fastest men.  Another piece of the “Olympic puzzle” not completely known is the original events, although, more than likely running & chariot racing were included.   Even through wartime in Greece, these games were carried on every 4 years until the Roman Empire gained control in 393 AD of the country & outlawed the events due to their pagan rituals.  This ban lasted clear until the Greek War of Independence in the 19th century.

Flash forward several hundreds of years to 1859, Greeks decided to re-establish the tradition their ancestors had started so many years prior.  “Un-official” Olympic Games were held in Athens’ city square in mid-1859.  Two more competitions were held in 1870 & 1875 then in 1894 the International Olympic Committee was formed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in an attempt to begin the process of officially restoring the tradition of the Olympic Games.  In July 1896 the first official Olympic Games were held in Athens & they have continued to take place every 4 years since.   This first competition brought forth 245 competitors, all men, from an estimated 14 nations.  This year’s Summer Olympics are to have an estimated 204 nations participating, bringing 10,500 athletes (men AND women) out to compete in 26 sports & 302 events.

Although the games have changed immensely, in addition to the participants, from the first events in Greece, the tradition of what it means to be an Olympian has benn carried on – Olympians are honored, highly respected, awarded prizes & admired, as were the first competitors in 776 BC.

The Summer Olympic Games begin today, July 27th & last until August 12th  – learn more about the current games and/or more about the history behind them by checking out the resources the GRCC Library has available for you!

 

For a full listing of events and the Summer Olympic Schedule taking place this year in London, CLICK HERE.

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