The Long Journey of the Games

Ready. Set.Go! The runners are off. The cheers of the spectators engulf the stadium. The excitement rings in the air. The whole world is watching as runners battle vigorously to win the title of the world’s fastest person. Welcome, to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games!
Every four years, one city in the world is selected to host the modern Summer Olympic Games. For about two weeks, the people of the world take a break from their monotonous lives to watch athletes from all over the world, battle each other, to win a game or race, and break a world record. Everyone watches and dreams of being able to participate in this prestigious international sports event. But, where did all this start? Who invented the Olympic Games? What was the purpose?

According to historical records, the first “Olympic Games” were held as long ago as 776 B.C.E. The games were dedicated to the Greek gods, and were held in the plains of Olympia. Olympia was located in the western Peloponnese islands. “Pelops,” is said to be the founder of these games. These one day sporting events continued for over twelve centuries, until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius, prohibited all “pagan cults” like the games.

On April 6, 1896, the long lost tradition of the Olympic Games was reborn in Athens 1,500 years after being banned by the Roman Emperor. Two hundred eighty participants from thirteen nations competed in forty-three events. The participants were all men, including tourists, who unexpectedly turned up at the site, and signed up to compete. Most of the competitions took place in the Ancient Panathenaic Stadium that had been restored for use. The idea for this ambitious project came from Pierre de Coubertin of France. Many other people had tried to revive this tradition before Coubertin during the nineteenth century, but none had succeeded. Coubertin was so inspired by this project, that he founded the International Olympic Committee in Paris in 1894. It’s objective was to organize the first Olympic Games of modern time. From that year onwards, the Olympic games were held every four years. The term “Olympiad” means a period of four successive years, hence the name Olympic. Because of World War I, Games were not held in 1916. Nor were they held in 1940 and 1944, during World War II. Even if disaster struck, the games went on. If the host city was in danger, the games were relocated.
In 1924, Coubertin decided to hold an International Winter Sports Week in Chamonix, France. Two hundred fifty-eight athletes from sixteen countries attended the event. It was a huge success, so two years later, it was named, to be the first winter Olympic Games.

Today there are over thirty events held at the Olympics, including Archery , Athletics , Badminton , Baseball Basketball, Boxing, Canoeing, Cycling, Diving, Equestrian, Fencing, Field Hockey. Soccer, Gymnastics, Handball, and Judo. Many olmpic sports have not been a success. Some examples are Tug of War, underwater swimming, pigeon shooting, 56 pound weight throwing, tumbling, and all around dumbell contest. Some of these events didn’t even last a year.

The 1936 games were the first to be aired on TV, while women first participated in 1900. In 1960, the Winter Olympic Games were held in Squaw Valley, California. In order to impress the spectators, Walt Disney was the head organizer of the opening ceremonies. It was filled with high school choirs and bands, releasing of thousands of balloons, fireworks,and ice statues. They released 2,000 white doves, and national flags were dropped by parachutes.
Much protest, boycotts, and other disasters struck during many of the Olympic Games. The 1900 Olympics were extremely unorganized and were spread over five long months. Some athletes didn’t even know what they were participating in. In 1920 games, the losers of World War I were not allowed to participate. There was very little money for the Olympic, so it wasn’t very impressive. The 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, faced the issues of the Depression and the isolation of California. Some events had to be dropped because participation was so minimal. The 1972 Munich games were maybe the most destructive event. Eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic village, and raided the Israeli dormitory. They immediately killed two athletes and took nine more into hostage. They threatened them to release 200 prisoners from jails in Israel, and demanded their safe pass out of Germany. They got to the military airport, but there, three terrorists were killed, and in what continued, all nine Israelis were left dead.

Many other obstacles have faced the Olympics, but the games have never died out. Plans for the next few upcoming olympics have already started being made, and they will definitely be huge successes. The games will continue for years to come, and will continue to bring people together in peace and promote international unity. Who knew an ancient Olympian religious ceremony could lead to something like this?

Author of this essay is Shritama Ray, 7th grade student at Miller Middle School, Cupertino, USA.

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