In ancient times, Olympians could only be free men who spoke Greek. The first official Olympics was held in Athens, Greece in 1896. Back then they didn't have the Winter Olympics only the Summer Games. Some of the Games they played were running, wrestling, equestrian events (bareback & chariot events), boxing, discus, javelin, pankration, jumping, and the Pentathlon. The Greeks were very competitive and highly believed in the concept of "agon", meaning competition or contest. Being the best at all aspects of life was the ultimate goal of the Greeks. One of the greatest honors you could receive was an Olympic wreath. Since you only received an olive wreath, the prize proves that athletes competed for pride not prizes.
Discus was one of the few events that didn't have a connection to farming or military service. Archeologists have discovered the discus was originally made of stone, and later made of iron, lead, or bronze. The discus was a circle that ranged from 17 to 32 cm. in diameter. The discus weighed from 1.3 to 6.6 kilograms.
The technique of throwing the discus is about the same technique we use today. To make the best throw, the athlete held the discus high in one hand and support it with the other. A right-handed thrower stood with his left foot forward and put all his weight on his right leg. A left-handed athlete would do the opposite. The athlete would spin around transferring his weight from left foot to right foot, and then throw the discus as hard as he could. A good discus thrower would have rhythm, precision, and strength.
The javelin was a game that connected to the Greek's everyday life, especially to hunting and war. The javelin was a long wooden pole about the size of an average man's height. The javelin also had a pointed end, and it was much lighter than the warrior's spear. Pictures on vases have influenced us that the javelin could have had either a pointed tip or a metal head, but it is uncertain which was really used.
Ancient and modern javelin throwing have one main difference. The athletes of Ancient Greece used a thong or strap of leather that formed a loop at the center of gravity of the javelin. The thong made the grip more secure so it increased the power. The thong also gave it a rotating motion, that stabilized the javelin while it flew and it helped the javelin achieve greater distance. In the rules of the game, javelins were thrown for distance or at a predetermined target.
Looking back at several vase paintings, we can see that the javelin was thrown from probably the starting line of the stadium. The javelin had to fall within an area defined on three sides, and the throw was invalid if it fell outside this area. Sometimes, the javelin was even thrown at a target and it was usually done on horseback.
Wrestling started in about 708 B.C. There were two distinct versions of the game, differing according to the holds and methods of deciding the victor. One of the two variations was the Orithia pale (Upright and Proper Wrestling). In Orithia Pale wrestling, the object of the game was to throw your opponent to the ground. Once one of the players throws his opponent to the ground three times the player wins. The winner is called the "triakter". The match went nonstop until a player achieved victory. The other variation is Kato Pale. In Kato Pale wrestling, defeat is indicated by raising one's right hand with the index finger extended. During the game, blows were not allowed, but tripping was permitted. No biting or gouging was allowed, and there was no weight distinction. The players were anointed with olive oil and then dusted with powder to make them easier to grip on to. The competition took place in the muddy or sticky area called the 'keroma". One of the most famous wrestlers was Milo. Milo had won five times at Olympia , but on his six attempt, at forty years old, he was beaten by a younger man. Today, we still have wrestling as an Olympic sport.
In 688 B.C., the sport of boxing was added to the Olympic games and it is one of the oldest sports. This game was held in honor of the Patroclus. The boxers wrapped himantes, or straps of soft ox-hide, around their hands to steady their fingers and strengthen their wrists. The Romans also used the caetus, a boxing glove reinforced with lead and iron. These gloves transformed the sport into a deadly contest. The game of boxing had many rules such as no limit of the time for the game . The match went on until a defeat was declared. A defeat was declared when one opponent withdrew by raising one finger to show he admitted defeat.
The ancient Greek sport of jumping is linked to Greek warfare. In ancient jumping the Olympians used stone or lead weights, unlike the modern sport were jumpers are only permitted to use running shoes. The weights or halters were used to help the jumpers gain distance. The halters were in many different shapes such as dumbbells or telephones.
In the sport of jumping, the pit was about 50 feet long. The length of the jump was measured with a kanon. The kanon was a long wooden rod. To the ancient Greeks, jumping was considered one of the most difficult of the original Olympic events because the jumper had to have excellent time and coordination.
The Equestrian events were added to the Olympics in honor of Patroculus. The riders didn't have any special equipment besides the horse and chariot. The equestrian events took place in the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was a wide, level space, suited to this event. The chariot was a small, wooden carriage. It was only wide enough for two standing men and the chariot was open in the back. Although the sport was loved by many, it is not an Olympic sport today. The event puts the riders in too much danger to be consider for modern Olympics.