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Olympic wrathOlympic Games

The origin of the Olympic Games is linked with many myths referred to in ancient sources but in the historic years their founder is said to be Oxylos whose descendant Ifitos later rejuvenated the games.

According to tradition, the Olympic Games began in 776 BC when Ifitos made a treaty with Lycourgos the king and famous legislator of Sparta and Cleisthenes the king of Pissa. The text of the treaty was written on a disc kept in the Heraion. In this treaty, that was the decisive event for the development of the sanctuary as a Panhellenic center, the "sacred truce" was agreed, the ceasing of fighting in all of the Greek world for as long as the Olympic Games were on.

As a reward for the victors the cotinus, which was a wreath made from a branch of wild olive tree that was growing next to the opisthodomus of the temple of Zeus in the sacred Altis, was established after an order of the Delphic oracle.


The Olympics were held, after the completion of four years, during the month of July or August. The time in between two Olympic Games was called an Olympiad. In the beginning the games lasted only one day and only had one event, the foot race, but gradually more events were added resulting, towards the 5th century BC, in the games lasting for 5 days. Olympia reconstructed

In total, the Olympic Games consisted of 10 events: running, the pentathlon, jumping, discus, javelin, wrestling, boxing, the pancration, chariot racing and horse racing. All Greeks who were free citizens and had not committed murder or heresy, had the right to take part in the Olympic Games. Women were not entitled to take part, except as owners in the horse races but they were strictly forbidden from watching the games.

The athletes presented themselves one month before the games began at Elis, the organizing town, but the organization and supervision for the upholding of the rules was carried out by the Hellanodikes (jury), who were chosen by lot from the citizens of Elis. Two days after the beginning of the games, the procession of the athletes and the judges started from Elis to arrive in Olympia where it was received by the crowds who had come to watch the games. The ceremonies began with the official oath that was taken by the athletes at the altar of Horkios Zeus, in the Bouleuterion, swearing that they would compete with honor and respect the rules.

The victors enjoyed great honors and on returning to their cities. Their compatriots pulled down part of the walls for them to enter. They were also given special privileges and high office. Top

The Program of Olympia

The Games were held during the summer and were arranged so that a full moon lit the celebrations on the third night.

The program of Olympia
Day 1
Swearing-in ceremony.
Contests for heralds and trumpeters.
Boys' running, wresting and boxing contests.
Prayers and sacrifices in the Altis; consultation of oracles.
Speeches by philosophers, poets and historians.
Tours of the Altis.
Day 2
Procession in the hippodrome of competitors in the equestrian events.
Chariot and horse races.
Funeral rites in honor of Pelops.
Parade of victors around the Altis.
Singing of victory hymns.
Day 3
Procession of the judges, ambassadors, competitors, and sacrificial animals to the Great Altar.
Running races.
Public banquet in the Prytaneion, honoring Zeus.
Day 4
Wrestling event.
Boxing and pancration (unarmed fight where everything was permitted).
Hoplitodromos (running event where athletes ran naked except for full hoplite gear, which would have included shield, greaves, and helmet).
Day 5
All day
Procession of victors to the Temple of Zeus to be crowned by the judges with garlands of wild olives. A day of feasting and rejoicing.

Until 632 BC the Games would last 1 to 3 days and from the 5th century the Games lasted for 5 days. This program changed during the millennium and it was extended to even 7 days. Some give a different program. The programs are reconstructed from fragments written by Philostratos, Pausanias, Plutarch and Lucian. Top

The Olympic flame

The Olympic flame lit by the rays of the sun in OlympiaThe Olympic flame or Olympic fire is a symbol of the Olympic Games. Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, its origins lie in ancient Greece, when a sacred flame was lit from the sun’s rays at Olympia and the fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics.

The flame represented the "endeavor for protection and struggle for victory." It was first introduced into the modern Olympics at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. Since then, the flame has come to symbolize "the light of spirit, knowledge, and life."

The torch relay also began in the ancient Olympics and was revived at the 1936 Berlin Games. Originally, the torch was lit at Olympia in Greece and then carried by relay to the host-city of the Games. The last runner carries the torch into the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony. The Olympic flame is then lit from the torch and will remain lit until it is extinguished during the closing ceremony. The torch relay symbolizes the passing of Olympic traditions from one generation to the next. Top


The great historical events that took place in the passing of centuries within the Hellenic lands, took their toll even on the athletic ideals of the Olympic Games resulting in the gradual fall of the moral values that was especially felt from 146 A.D. when most of Greece fell under the Romans and the Eleans lost their independence.

The institution of the Olympic Games lasted for twelve continuous centuries and was abolished in 393 AD (the 293rd Olympiad) by order of Theodosios I when the functioning of all idol worshiping sanctuaries was forbidden and, during the reign of Theodosios II, the destruction of the Altian monuments followed in 427 AD.

The national, racial and spiritual unity of the Greeks was forged thanks to the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games combined the deep religious spirit along with the heroic past of the Greeks thus unifying to the highest degree body, mind and soul according to universal and philosophical values and so projecting the individual as well as the cities, through the highest ideal of freedom. Top

Baron Pierre de CubertainRevival

Efforts for the revival of the Olympic Games in modern times reached a peak at the end of the 19th century with the instrumental contribution of the French Baron Pierre De Coubertin and the Greek Dimitrios Vikelas. The first contemporary Olympic Games took place with great glamour in 1896 in Athens, in the Panathenaic Stadium. The headquarters of the International Olympic Academy are now in Olympia.

Also in Olympia is the altar of the Olympic flame, which is transferred every four years to the city that hosts the Olympic Games. The lighting of the flame takes place at the altar of the Temple of Hera and it is done with the convergence of sunlight onto a metal reflector. This process is part of a ritual combination that includes the prayer and the hymn to Apollo. The high priestess enters the stadium holding the lit torch which she then hands over to the first runner in order for it to start its long journey to the ends of the earth. Top

The Olympic flame in modern times

The Olympic Torch RelayThe Olympic torch is nowadays ignited several months before the opening celebration of the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia. Eleven priestess, played by actresses, light the fire by placing a torch in a concave parabolic mirror which concentrates rays from the sun.

The torch is then transported to the host city of the upcoming Olympics by means of a torch relay. Though traditionally, the fire is carried on foot, other means of transportation have been used as well. The Olympic fire in the Olympic stadiumThe runners have included athletes and celebrities but many previously 'unknown' people have also carried it.

The Olympic torch relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final carrier is often kept secret until the last moment and is usually a sports celebrity of the host country. The final bearer of the torch runs towards the cauldron, usually placed at the top of a grand staircase, and then uses the torch to start the flame in the stadium.

It is considered a great honor to be asked to light the Olympic flame. After being lit, the flame continues to burn throughout the celebration of the Olympics and is extinguished at end of the closing ceremony of the Games. Top

Olympic oath

The Olympic oath is taken by an athlete and a judge at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. The athlete, from a team of the organizing country, holds a corner of the Olympic flag while speaking the oath:

“In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.”

The judge, also from the home nation, does the same but with a slightly different oath:

“In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spirit of sportsmanship.”

The Olympic oath, written by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was first taken by an athlete at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. The first judge's oath was taken at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. The text of the oath has slightly changed over the years. The oath, read by Victor Boin in 1920 in Antwerp, was:

“We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in a spirit of chivalry, for the honor of our country and for the glory of sport.”

Later, "swear" was replaced by "promise" and "country" by "team". The part concerning doping, was added at the 2000 summer Olympics. Top

The Olympic FlagOlympic Flag

Baron de Coubertin designed the Olympic Flag in 1913-14. It has five interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green and red) on a white background. The ring's colors were based on the knowledge that at least one of these colors is on every flag of each participating country. The five interlocking rings represent the union of the five continents and the meeting of the athletes of the world at the Olympic Game.

The Olympic Flag was used for the first time in the 7th Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1920. It is paraded during the opening ceremony of each Game. At the end of the Games, the Olympic Flag is presented to the next host city by the Games host city. Top

The Olympic Anthem

The Greek national poet Kostis Palamas wrote the poem 'Ancient eternal and immortal spirit' and its music was composed by Spyros Samaras for the 1st Olympiad where it was sung as the Olympic Anthem in the opening ceremony. At the later Olympics other anthems were played. The International Olympic Committee unanimously adopted the Samaras-Palamas work as the official Olympic Anthem in 1958. When the Olympic Flag is raised in the opening ceremony, the Olympic Anthem is played and also when the Olympic Flag is lowered at the closing ceremony.

The lyrics

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 the imperishable 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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The Olympic Motto
Olympic Motto

A friend of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Father Henri Martin Didon of the Dominican order, was principal of the Arcueil College, near Paris. An energetic teacher, he used the discipline of sport as a powerful educational tool.

One day, following an inter-schools athletics meeting, he ended his speech with fine oratorical vigor, quoting the three words "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (faster, higher, stronger). Struck by the phrase, Baron de Coubertin made it the Olympic motto, pointing out that "Athletes need 'freedom of excess'. That is why we gave them this motto … a motto for people who dare to try to break records.".

"Citius, Altius, Fortius" has been the Olympic motto ever since..

The Olympic Game is the international arena viewed by millions where the athlete's spirit, mind and body endeavor to excel and achieve the higher standard than the presently existing ones, thus fulfilling the Olympic Motto. Top

The Olympic Creed

Pierre de Coubertin got the idea for this phrase from a speech given by Bishop Ethelbert Talbot at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 Olympic Games. The Olympic Creed reads:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The creed and motto are meant to spur the athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their abilities. Top

Past and future Olympic Games

Source: IOC


    History of the Olympic Games
    Olympic Events
    Program of Olympia
    Olympic Flame
    Fall of the Olympic Games
    Revival of the Olympic Games
    Olympic flame in modern times
    Olympic Oath
    Olympic Flag
    Olympic Anthem
    Olympic Motto
    Olympic Creed
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  BEIJING 2008
  LONDON 2012

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