The History of the Games 

Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games, is in the western part of the Peloponnese which, according to Greek mythology, is the island of "Pelops", the founder of the Olympic Games. Imposing temples, votive buildings, elaborate shrines and ancient sporting facilities were combined in a site of unique natural and mystical beauty.
Olympia functioned as a meeting place for worship and other religious and political practices as early as the 10th century B.C. The central part of Olympia was dominated by the majestic temple of Zeus, with the temple of Hera parallel to it. The ancient stadium in Olympia could accommodate more than 40,000 spectators, while in the surrounding area there were auxiliary buildings which developed gradually up until the 4th century B.C. and were used as training sites for the athletes or to house the judges of the Games.

The Games and religion
The Olympic Games were closely linked to the religious festivals of the cult of Zeus, but were not an integral part of a rite. Indeed, they had a secular character and aimed to show the physical qualities and evolution of the performances accomplished by young people, as well as encouraging good relations between the cities of Greece. According to specialists, the Olympic Games owed their purity and importance to religion.
Victory Ceremonies
The Olympic victor received his first awards immediately after the competition. Following the announcement of the winner's name by the herald, a Hellanodikis (Greek judge) would place a palm branch in his hands, while the spectators cheered and threw flowers to him. Red ribbons were tied on his head and hands as a mark of victory.
The official award ceremony would take place on the last day of the Games, at the elevated vestibule of the temple of Zeus. In a loud voice, the herald would announce the name of the Olympic winner, his father's name, and his homeland. Then, the Hellanodikis placed the sacred olive tree wreath, or kotinos, on the winner's head.

The Gods
Zeus was considered the most important of all the Olympic gods. He was originally worshipped as a god of meteorological change. He quickly became the god of fertility however, and was worshipped as Zeus the "infernal" (hthonios) or "farmer" (georgos). As Zeus the possessor (ktisios), he offered a good harvest; as Zeus the father (pater), he protected the family and all who lived nearby. He was thus honoured on the altar in the courtyard. As Zeus the brother (fratius), he protected blood relations and as Zeus the patron saint (poliouhos), the whole town. Before long, Zeus was worshipped as a Supreme Being of prudence and wisdom who determined the fate of man and justly set the moral order of the world.
Hera was the sister and wife of Zeus and was worshipped all over Greece, but especially in the region of Argos. She was thus also called "Argeia". The epithets "perfect", "balanced", "wedded" were used to describe her because she was considered the protector of marriage and the marital bond. Homer depicts Hera in her dual capacity as the most important female deity, but also the official spouse of the father of the gods.
The ancient Greeks believed that Athena was miraculously born out of the head of Zeus. She was first worshipped in the palaces of the Achaean rulers in the Pre-Hellenistic period. In Homer's work, she is depicted as a warrior goddess wearing full armour from the prehistoric era. She was as important as Aris, the god of war, and favoured the prudent outcome of confrontations.
Apollo was the god of moral order and music, but his main capacity was to protect the art of divination. This is revealed by the plethora of oracles in various regions of Greece, the most famous being the oracle of Delphi, in Fokis. Apollo is also seen as a pastoral god, protecting his flock from the wolves. He was worshipped by the farmers as the god of the harvest. From Antiquity onwards, he had the reputation of a god of healing.
Sports Events
The ancient Olympic Games included the following events:
The Pentathlon became an Olympic sport with the addition of wrestling in 708 B.C. and included the following:
Running contests included:
-- the stade race, which was the pre-eminent test of speed, covering the Olympia track from one end to the other (200m foot race),
-- the diaulos (two stades -- 400m foot race),
-- dolichos (ranging between 7 and 24 stades).
Athletes used stone or lead weights called halteres to increase the distance of a jump. They held onto the weights until the end of their flight, and then jettisoned them backwards.
Discus throw
The discus was originally made of stone and later of iron, lead or bronze. The technique was very similar to today's freestyle discus throw.
This was highly valued as a form of military exercise without weapons. It ended only when one of the contestants admitted defeat.
Boxers wrapped straps (himantes) around their hands to strengthen their wrists and steady their fingers. Initially, these straps were soft but, as time progressed, boxers started using hard leather straps, often causing disfigurement of their opponent's face.
This was a primitive form of martial art combining wrestling and boxing, and was considered to be one of the toughest sports. Greeks believed that it was founded by Theseus when he defeated the fierce Minotaur in the labyrinth.
Equestrian events
These included horse races and chariot races and took place in the Hippodrome, a wide, flat, open space.

Tradition of the Olympic Truce
The tradition of the Olympic Truce dates back to the 9th century BC, in Ancient Greece. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to revive this ancient concept in order to protect the interests of the athletes and sport in general.
Ten year of initiative for peace
In 1992, the first initiatives were launched by the IOC, in collaboration with the United Nations, allowing athletes of the former Republic of Yugoslavia to participate in the Barcelona Games. In 2000, during the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Games, the South and North Korean delegations paraded in the stadium together under the flag of the Korean peninsula.
International Olympic Truce Foundation
In July 2000, the International Olympic Truce Foundation (IOTF) was created with a view to promoting peace through sport and the Olympic ideal.

Pierre de Coubertin
Birth of a vocation
Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, was born in Paris in 1863. His family originated in Normandy where he spent many of his summers in the family Château de Mirville, near Le Havre.
He refused the military career planned for him by his family, as well as renouncing a promising political career. By the age of 24 he had already decided the aim of his life: he would help bring back the noble spirit of France by reforming its old-fashioned and unimaginative education system.
Coubertin, whose father was an artist and mother a musician, was raised in cultivated and aristocratic surroundings. He had always been deeply interested in questions of education. For him, education was the key to the future of society, and he sought the means to make France rise once more after its defeat in the war in 1870.
Sport for moral energy
Coubertin was a very active sportsman and practiced the sports of boxing, fencing, horse-riding and rowing. He was convinced that sport was the springboard for moral energy and he defended his idea with rare tenacity.
It was this conviction that led him to announce at the age of 31 that he wanted to revive the Olympic Games.
He made this announcement in a meeting at the Union of French Societies of Athletic Sports (USFSA), for which he was Secretary General. No one really believed him and his statement was greeted with little enthusiasm.
Revival of the Games
Coubertin, however, was not discouraged and on 23 June, 1894 he founded the International Olympic Committee in a ceremony held at the University of Sorbonne in Paris. Demetrius Vikelas from Greece became the first president of the IOC.
Two years later, in 1896, the first Olympic Games of the modern era were held in Athens. On that occasion Coubertin was elected the second president of the IOC and he remained president until 1925. Due to the 1st World War, Coubertin requested permission to establish the headquarters of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, which was a neutral country.
On 10 April, 1915 the acts ensuring the establishment of the international administrative centre and archives of the modern Olympic movement were signed in the Town Hall of Lausanne.
In 1922, the IOC headquarters and the Museum collections were moved to the Villa Mon Repos in Lausanne and stayed there for the next 46 years.
Defining Olympism
Pierre de Coubertin also wanted to be seen as a pedagogue. All of his projects, including the Games, had the same aim in mind: to make men.
His definition of Olympism had four principles that were far from a simple sports competition:
To be a religion i.e. to "adhere to an ideal of a higher life, to strive for perfection"; to represent an elite "whose origins are completely egalitarian" and at the same time "chivalry" with its moral qualities; to create a truce "a four-yearly festival of the springtime of mankind"; and to glorify beauty by the "involvement of the philosophic arts in the Games".
It is clear that the concept of the Olympic Games is far from a simple sports competition.
The unfinished symphony
Pierre de Coubertin withdrew from the IOC and the Olympic Movement in 1925 to devote himself to his pedagogical work, which he termed his "unfinished symphony".
At the age of 69, in 1931, he published his "Olympic Memoirs" in which he emphasized the intellectual and philosophical nature of his enterprise and his wish to "place the role of the IOC, right from the start, very much above that of a simple sports association".
Pierre de Coubertin suddenly died of a heart attack on 2 September, 1937, in a park in Geneva, and thus his "symphony" remained unfinished.
The city of Lausanne had decided to award him honorary citizenship of the city, but he died just prior to the ceremony.
In accordance with Pierre de Coubertin's last wishes, he was buried in Lausanne and his heart was placed inside a stele erected to his memory at Olympia.

The Olympic Flag 
On the Olympic flag, the rings appear on a white background.

The flag reinforces the idea of the Olympic Movement's universality, as it brings together all the countries of the world.

Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games, explains the meaning of the flag:

"The Olympic flag has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red. This design is symbolic; it represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colours are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time." (1931)

Combined in this way, the six colours of the flag (including the white of the background) represent all nations.

It is wrong, therefore, to believe that each of the colours corresponds to a certain continent !

At the Olympic Games, the flag is brought into the stadium during the opening ceremony. Since the 1960 Games in Rome (Italy), it has been carried horizontally by a delegation of athletes or other people well known for their positive work in society.

After its arrival, the flag is hoisted up the flagpole. It must fly in the stadium during the whole of the Games. When the flag is lowered at the closing ceremony, it signals the end of the Games.

The mayor of the host city of the Games passes the Olympic flag to the mayor of the next host city of the Games.

History Even though Pierre de Coubertin intended the Olympic Games to be an international event from the time of their re-establishment in 1896 in Athens (Greece), it was only at the 1912 Games in Stockholm (Sweden) that, for the first time, the participants came from all five continents. One year later, in 1913, the five rings appeared at the top of a letter written by Pierre de Coubertin. He drew the rings and coloured them in by hand. He then described this symbol in the Olympic Review of August 1913.

It was also Coubertin who had the idea for the Olympic flag. He presented the rings and flag in June 1914 in Paris at the Olympic Congress.

The First World War prevented the Games from being celebrated in 1916 in Berlin (Germany) as planned. It was not until 1920 in Antwerp (Belgium) that the flag and its five rings could be seen flying in an Olympic stadium.

The universality conveyed by the rings and the flag was a new idea at the beginning of the 20th century. Nationalism was very strong and tension between certain countries was high. It was in this climate, however, that Coubertin proposed a symbol which aimed to encourage world unity.

The Olympic Charter

The Olympic Charter (OC) is the codification of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, Rules and Bye-Laws adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It governs the organisation, action and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games. In essence, the Olympic Charter serves three main purposes:
a) The Olympic Charter, as a basic instrument of a constitutional nature, sets forth and recalls the Fundamental Principles and essential values of Olympism.

b) The Olympic Charter also serves as statutes for the International Olympic Committee.

c) In addition, the Olympic Charter defines the main reciprocal rights and obligations of the three main constituents of the Olympic Movement, namely the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees, as well as the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, all of which are required to comply with the Olympic Charter.

Preamble Modern Olympism was conceived by Pierre de Coubertin, on whose initiative the International Athletic Congress of Paris was held in June 1894.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) constituted itself on 23 June 1894. The first Olympic Games (Games of the Olympiad) of modern times were celebrated in Athens, Greece, in 1896. In 1914, the Olympic flag presented by Pierre de Coubertin at the Paris Congress was adopted. It includes the five interlaced rings, which represent the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games. The first Olympic Winter Games were celebrated in Chamonix, France, in 1924.

Fundamental Principles of Olympism 1 Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

2 The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

3 The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world's athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.

4 The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.

5 Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

6 Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.
The Olympic Motto
A motto is a phrase which sums up a life philosophy or a code of conduct to follow.

The Olympic motto is made up of three Latin words: 
"Citius, Altius, Fortius", which means "Faster, Higher, Stronger".

These three words encourage the athlete to give his or her best during competition, and to view this effort as a victory in itself.

The sense of the motto is that being first is not necessarily a priority, but that giving one's best and striving for personal excellence is a worthwhile goal. It can apply equally to athletes and to each one of us.

History The three Latin words became the Olympic motto in 1894, the date of the IOC's creation. Pierre de Coubertin proposed the motto, having borrowed it from his friend Henri Didon, a Dominican priest who taught sport to students.

To better understand the motto, we can compare it with the following well-known phrase:

The most important thing is not to win but to take part! This idea was developed by Pierre de Coubertin who had been inspired by a sermon given by the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, during the Games of London in 1908.
The Olympic Anthem
"Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors

In the race and in the strife!

Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!"

Kostas Palama, extract from the Olympic anthem.

The Olympic anthem was composed by Spiros Samara, based on the words of Kostas Palama, for the Games of the I Olympiad in Athens in 1896. It was played again in 1906, but subsequently replaced by anthems specially commissioned for the Olympic ceremonies. In 1954 the IOC held an international competition won by Polish composer Michael Spisiak, who had put a poem by Pindar to music. It was played in Melbourne in 1956, but the composer demanded such a large fee that it was subsequently abandoned. When the Japanese played the piece by Spiros Samara at the 55th IOC Session in Tokyo in 1958, everyone enjoyed it so much that it was unanimously adopted as the official anthem, at the proposal of IOC member Prince Axel of Denmark.

-- Prince Pierre of Monaco, IOC member, offered the sum of US$ 1,000 to the winner of the competition for an Olympic anthem launched by the IOC in 1954.

-- The IOC received 392 entries from composers from 40 different countries. At its 51st Session, the IOC chose Michael Spisiak's composition.

-- The current Olympic anthem was adopted at the 55th Session of the IOC in Tokyo in 1958.

-- The Olympic anthem was played for the first time in Athens in 1896 and again in Rome in 1960.

-- The Olympic anthem was played for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960.

The Olympic Anthem Immortal spirit of antiquity,

Father of the true, beautiful and good,

Descend, appear, shed over us thy light

Upon this ground and under this sky

Which has first witnessed thy unperishable fame

Give life and animation to those noble games!

Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors

In the race and in the strife!

Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!

In thy light, plains, mountains and seas

Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple

To which all nations throng to adore thee,

Oh immortal spirit of antiquity!

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