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History of the Olympics

History of the Olympics

In 776 BC a foot race was run. The winner was the first Olympic hero ever. From that very first race to today, the Olympics have always been a way for nations to come together in friendly competition and international goodwill.

The conditions of the first Olympics were not anything like they are today. The events were held in an open space in which a track had been paced off, areas for the javelin and discus had been laid out, etc. The spectators did not have stands to sit in; instead, they occupied the sloping areas around the track; sitting on blankets and sleeping in tents if they were wealthy enough to have one.

Since the games were held during the hottest time of the year, flies were a terrible problem. The problem was so pervasive that an offering, in the form of a sacrifice, was made to Zeus, asking him to keep the flies away from Olympia.

As time went on different features and structures were added to the site. A hippodrome was built for the chariot races, a gymnasium and bathhouse for the athletes, and even a hotel for the wealthiest of spectators.

Vendors were there, selling wine that the spectators drank along with the cheese, bread and olives they ate. Sanitation was basically nonexistent. Water was always in short supply until Herodes Atticus of Athens built an aqueduct and a water system. This did not occur until the games had been taking place for 900 years.

The contests consisted of foot races, horse and chariot races, boxing, wrestling, discus, javelin, broad jump, and horse races. The horse races were unique in that the prizes were given to the owner of the horse, not the rider. The discus, javelin and broadjump were part of the pentathlon event, which also included a 200-meter dash and a wrestling match. The winner had to have taken three of the five events.

On the fifth and final day of the festival, the athletes marched to the temple of Zeus to collect their winnings, the coveted victor’s olive wreath. The winner of an Olympic event won much more than just the olive wreath however. He was often awarded a cash bonus by his townspeople; sometimes a pension for life....

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