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The Olympic Games, ancient and modern


The games in Olympia (776 B.C.-393 A.D.)

Every four year, for about 1000 years (776 B.C.-393 A.D.), in Olympia games were held, that became the most famous sport event in the ancient world. In 393 A.D. the Christian emperor Thedosius forbid the games because he thought they were a pagan institution.

The games were that much important that even wars came to a hold.  Participants and attendants must be guaranteed a save journey to Olympia. Therefore messengers were sent out from Elis (the district of Olympia) to announce a sacred truce of one month before the festival began. In modern times the olympic games were cancelled three times because of wars (1916, 1940 and 1944).

Why were the games held in the district of Elis? Elis was a small, distant district without much political or military power. The was little chance that the glory of the games would enhance the power of Elis.


De Coubertin and the modern games

At the end of the nineteenth century the French baron Pierre de Coubertin thought it a good idea to revive the games. In 1870-1871 France was beaten in a war with Germany. According to De Coubertin one of the reasons for this defeat was the fact that the youth of France did not take part in sport that much. Only fysical fitness and a good sport moral would bring France back at the top of the world. Furthermore the games would contribute to international understanding, brotherhood and peace. Of course the games were only for amateurs and fair play should be a key issue during the games.

Big differences between the ancient and modern games

In 1896 the first modern olympic games were held in Athena, for practical reasons Olympia was not suited for the games. 285 participants were competitive in 42 events in 10 sports. Only running, long-jump, discus, and wrestling were events in the ancient as well as the modern games.

The marathon, won by the Greek Spyridon Luis, was never ever an event during the ancient olympic games. To be honest, there were more differences than similarities between the ancient and the modern olympic games.

To De Coubertin not the reality of the ancient games was important, but an Olympic 'spirit' he thought appropriate.