How Old Are the Olympics? | God's World News
How Old Are the Olympics?
Time Machine
Posted: May 01, 2024
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    People take photos with the Olympic rings on Trocadero Plaza in Paris, France. (AP/Michel Euler)
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    A sculpture of ancient Greek wrestlers (National Archaeological Museum, Athens)
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    Pierre de Coubertin (Public domain)
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    Runners line up for the 100-meter dash at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. (Heritage Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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    Runners compete in the 200-meter race at the 2020 Summer Olympics on August 4, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP/Charlie Riedel)
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Not Your Grandma’s (or Your Great-Grandma’s!) Olympics

Just how old are the Olympics? Way older than anyone alive today. The games likely started nearly 3,000 years ago in ancient Greece. Greeks held Olympic Games in August and September. Then an Olympiad (four years) would pass before the next Games. (The Greeks were serious about this contest! They even measured time by it.) For us, the Olympics are mostly fun and games. To the Greeks, though, they were religious. Athletes sprinted, jumped, threw javelins, and wrestled to worship the made-up gods of Greece.

The Olympics Come Back

The Olympics took a centuries-long nap . . . then along came Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin. He had a big idea: Bring the Olympics back! He wasn’t the first person to have that thought. But he was the first to convince leaders from other nations to join for a major athletic competition. The first (new) Olympic Games took place in April 1896, in Athens, Greece.

Again, the games weren’t just for fun. Mr. Coubertin wanted them to help bring peace between nations at war. The Games are contests between individuals, not countries. He designed the Olympics symbol. It includes colors from every national flag that existed when the Olympics began. The five rings stand for each habitable continent in the world. (North and South America were counted as one.) “Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands,” said Mr. Coubertin. “The cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally.”

The Olympic ABCs

We still hold the Olympics roughly every Olympiad, or four years. The Summer Olympics include:

  • aquatics (swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, water polo); archery; athletics (track and field, including marathon)
  • badminton, basketball, boxing
  • canoeing, cycling
  • equestrian sports
  • fencing, field hockey, football (soccer)
  • golf, gymnastics
  • handball
  • judo
  • pentathlon
  • rowing, rugby
  • sailing, shooting
  • table tennis, tae kwon do, tennis, triathlon
  • volleyball (indoor and beach)
  • weightlifting, wrestling