Greek mythology tells us that it has
Hercules, the strongest of all men, who challenged his four brothers to a race before the
Gods in the fields of Olympia and so began the Olympic Games, which took character
of a festival of sport. The recorded history actually begins in 776 B.C. a point at
which the Greeks marked their calendars in four-year periods called Olympiads.
In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games became one of the
worlds most enduring and hallowed institutions. They were celebrated continuously
for almost 1,200 years. The athletes who won were lauded as heroes for life, and often
elevated to the status of royalty in their hometowns. Statues were erected in their honour
around the extraordinary Temple of Zeus, near the Sacred Grove of Altis and the stadium at
In 393 A.D., the Roman Emperor Theodosius declared the
Olympic Games corrupt and put an end to them. Earthquakes and floods buried Olympia and
the temple of Zeus until the German excavations of the 1870's. When the statues emerged
from the vaults of antiquity and the overwhelming cultural beauty of Greek sport
was put on display Europe went into a frenzy for all things classical.
A young Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, found the
sacred ground of Olympia particularly fascinating. In his inspiration, he conceived the
idea of Modern Olympic Games and successfully proposed it to a gathering of the
worlds leading sports authorities on 23 June 1894 in the Grand Hall of the Sorbonne
Coubertins dream of creating the worlds
greatest sporting event - a truly international spectacle that would travel among the
capitals of the world every four years was always a means to a far greater end.
Coubertin and his colleagueslike their heirs in the Modern Olympic
Movementbelieved that global sport could become a global platform for peace.
During the last century, the Olympic Movement has
succeeded in many ways beyond Coubertins dream. It has survived the traumas of two
World Wars, endured the horrors of modern terrorism, suffered political boycotts and
overcome economic hardships that threatened its very existence. Today, the Olympic
Movement is stronger and healthier than ever.
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