Olympic Fever

February 18, 2010

We’ve been watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver every night this week. The guys like the skiing and snowboarding, but barely put up with the figure skating (after I’ve watched multiple luge runs and qualifying heats in speed skating, I feel entitled to watch a little on-ice artistry). We’ve even watched curling! (Have you seen the Norwegian team’s pants?) I love watching people do things they’re really good at, things they’ve trained and sacrificed for, and I always get misty-eyed over an exceptional performance or a touching human interest story. The history of the Olympics is pretty interesting, too, and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned:
  • The first Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 B.C.
  • The first Olympic “Games” were running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration (a primitive form of martial art, combining wrestling and boxing), horse races and chariot races.
  • Any free, male Greek citizen could participate, regardless of social position.
  • The games were dedicated to Zeus and women were not allowed to participate or to watch the games, except for the priestess of Demeter who was expected to attend. Women were first allowed to participate in 1900, at the second modern Olympic Games.
  • Winter games were first held in 1924, and took place in the same year as the summer games but in a different city. In 1994, the winter and summer games were separated, and began to be held two years apart.
  • The procession of athletes in the opening ceremonies is always led by the Greek team. All other teams follow, in alphabetical order in the language of the hosting country, except for the hosting country’s team, which is always the last to enter.
  • The flame originated with the ancient Olympics, where it burned throughout the Games. It symbolized the death and rebirth of Greek heroes. Today, a new flame is kindled for each Olympics at Olympia, Greece, site of the original Games, by using a parabolic mirror to focus the rays of the sun.
The Olympic Flame is kindled here

Things have changed a great deal on the Olympic scene since the first Olympians stripped naked and ran a footrace in a dirt stadium. Now we have high-tech this and private that—not to mention athletes who are clothed. But the current athletes still compete to the best of their ability, still inspire their home cities and countries and still try to live up to the Olympic motto, “Swifter, higher, stronger.”

Site of the first Olympics

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  1. I was going to make a ribald comment about how much more interesting the Olympics would be is the athletes still went au naturel!!

    Instead, I think keep quiet and just adopt there motto of "swifter, higher, stronger."

  2. Hee... I don't think they had winter Olympics in mind when they did the au naturel thing...

  3. Thanks for posting these Olympic facts, Kathy! It's very fitting that the Olympics are on now, since my son is enthralled with the "Lightning Thief" book series and now talks about the Greek Gods all day long.... now he's got some interesting facts to go with it!

    Is your son reading that series, or is it "too old" for him?


  4. Hi, Krista: My son is not much of a reader yet (which is sad because he comes from two voracious-reader parents). He reads only what he has to for school--currently, Fast Food Nation and The Thief Lord (by Cornelia Funke, I think). He did really like the Ranger's Apprentice series, though. Has your son tried that one? (How old is he?)