RHODES - the Sunshine Isle

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        Ancient Beginnings & Modern Revival

 
 
The above video gives a good idea of the wonderful opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics which was not only uplifting, but a moving and fitting tribute to the people, history, mythology and land of Greece, as well as its towering cultural, artistic and political achievements that is at once both humbling and profoundly impressive
 

The Ancient Olympic Games were a series of competitions held between representatives of several city-states and kingdoms from Ancient Greece, which featured mainly athletic but also combat and chariot racing events. During the Olympic games all struggles against the participating city-states were postponed until the games were finished. The origin of these Olympics is shrouded in mystery and legend. One of the most popular myths identifies Heracles and his father Zeus as the progenitors of the Games. According to legend, it was Heracles who first called the Games "Olympic" and established the custom of holding them every four years. A legend persists that after Heracles completed his twelve labors, he built the Olympic stadium as an honor to Zeus. Following its completion, he walked in a straight line for 200 steps and called this distance a "stadion" (Greek: στάδιον, Latin: stadium, "stage"), which later became a unit of distance. Another myth associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of Olympic truce (ἐκεχειρία, ekecheiria).  The most widely accepted date for the inception of the Ancient Olympics is 776 BC; this is based on inscriptions, found at Olympia, of the winners of a footrace held every four years starting in 776 BC. The Ancient Games featured running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, and equestrian events. Tradition has it that Coroebus, a cook from the city of Elis, was the first Olympic champion.

The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honoring both Zeus (whose famous statue by Phidias stood in his temple at Olympia) and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia. Pelops was famous for his chariot race with King Oenomaus of Pisatis. The winners of the events were admired and immortalized in poems and statues. The Games were held every four years, and this period, known as an Olympiad, was used by Greeks as one of their units of time measurement. The Games were part of a cycle known as the Panhellenic Games, which included the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games, and the Isthmian Games.

The Olympic Games reached their zenith in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece. There is no consensus on when the Games officially ended, the most common-held date is 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I declared that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated. Another date cited is 426 AD, when his successor Theodosius II ordered the destruction of all Greek temples. After the demise of the Olympics, they were not held again until the late 19th century.

 

The first significant attempt to emulate the ancient Olympic Games was the L'Olympiade de la République, a national Olympic festival held annually from 1796 to 1798 in Revolutionary France. The competition included several disciplines from the ancient Greek Olympics. The 1796 Games also marked the introduction of the metric system into sport.

In 1850 an Olympian Class was started by Dr William Penny Brookes at Much Wenlock, in Shropshire, England. In 1859, Dr Brookes changed the name to Wenlock Olympian Games. This annual sports festival continues to this day. The Wenlock Olympian Society was founded by Dr. Brookes on November 15, 1860.

Between 1862 and 1867, Liverpool held an annual Grand Olympic Festival. Devised by John Hulley and Charles Melly, in cooperation with Dr Brookes, these games were elitist in nature since only Gentlemen could compete. Some of the Gentlemen brought their coaches with them. The plan  for Athens 1896 had similarities to that of the Liverpool Olympics, but that was to be expected since Dr. Brookes had incorporated events from the 1859 Athens Olympics program at Much Wenlock and had contributed to the plan at Liverpool. In 1865 Hulley, Dr. Brookes and E.G. Ravenstein founded the National Olympian Association in Liverpool, a forerunner of the British Olympic Association. Its articles of foundation provided the framework for the International Olympic Charter. In 1866, a national Olympic Games in Great Britain was organized at London's Crystal Palace.

 
Below is part of the closing ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games
 
 

 

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