Since its inception in ancient Greece, the Olympics have come to define the height of athletic achievement. At every Summer and Winter Games, athletes strive to outshine each other, sometimes surpassing expectations. The Olympics are a time of abundant energy, where the competitors passionately strive to bag their medals, while the whole world watches on with bated breath. In this spirit, we have collected some interesting facts about the Olympic Games that you could know while you cheer for your athletes…
1. During the month preceding the ancient Olympics, no wars were permitted, so as to allow the spectators to travel unharmed across Greece.
The modern Olympic Games or Olympics creation was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, which were held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Heralds would be sent to advertise the onset of the Games throughout Greece. According to a sacred truce, no wars could be fought for a month and no obstacles were to fall in the way of spectators. In the subsequent centuries, the period was changed to three months.(source)
2. In ancient Olympics, athletes competed in nude.
Though, it is not known exactly why they did that, one story suggests that the loincloth of a runner once slipped down and he tripped on it. After that all other runners would remove their loincloths to avoid such accidents. But, nudity was a fundamental aspect of Greek culture. Good health and strong athletic body were appreciated and admired. It was also said to be an exhibition of coming-of-age, when young men would reach their adulthood and would proudly display their bodies.(source)
3. Michael Phelps tied the record for most individual Olympic titles this year (2016) with Leonidas of Rhodes, an ancient Olympic runner,who won 12 crowns in 2nd century BCE. Leonidas was unmatched in his record until Phelps this year.
Leonidas was a very versatile runner and also had an unsurpassed number of victories during the games. According to Philostratus the Athenian, his versatility made all the theories known so far about runners outdated. Since his time in the 2nd century BCE, nobody ever could beat him, until now. Michael Phelps now holds the record for the same number of individual wins, and has a total of 25 gold medals.(1, 2)
4. Tug-of-war and painting were once Olympic events.
During the early 1900s, tug-of-war had many groups of participants called clubs hailing from different countries, sometimes more than one from the same country to win multiple medals. Though it is not considered an athletic sport now, it used to be part of the Olympic athletics programme. So were art competitions. Not just painting, but architecture, sculpture, literature and music were considered Olympic events.(1, 2)
5. The tradition of Olympic Torch Relay was first introduced by Nazis as a political ploy to advertise Third Reich as a modern and economically dynamic state.
In 1936, the Olympics were hosted in Berlin. The event organizer, Carl Diem, wanted the event to be linked with ancient Olympics and in a way, reflect the idea that Aryans are a superior race. The relay was heavily covered through film, radio and other media using modern technologies. The relay was also meant to increase pro-Nazi sentiments, as it did in Vienna. The result being, the Germans also invaded countries on the relay route, including Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and sent Hungary gypsies to death camps.(source)