It is amazing to think that a sporting event first held in Greece in 776 BC is still being competed in today. When I first began to research this event I thought there had to be huge changes between an event held over two thousand years ago to an event held in the modern World. There are obvious changes to the event but was surprised to find that so much of the original ideals behind the Olympics exist today. Such as customs, ceremonies, rules, events, participants and sponsors. Nowadays the Olympics are advertised worldwide, and sponsors like Gatorade and Wheaties thrive off of the games.
But were there sponsors of the games back in 776 or would the best athletes compete for nothing but pride and glory, and not endorsements? Modern day olympians do not just compete for the few weeks of the games, but year round to keep their sponsorships. Once these athletes retire, their sponsors evaporate. Do todays Olympians compete for their country, or for the millions of dollars they could potentially make? What about the Olympics of today differs from the games of the past? The Olympic Games were introduced in Greece as a reason to bring about peace through out the city states of ancient Greece.
The city states at the time were often at war with each other. During the time that the games were held peace was declared. The games are held today for a similar reason. It is an opportunity to unite the world, bringing together a huge number of people with one thing in common. The desire to be the best that they can be at a particular sport and the desire to support these people in their endeavors. Although the games of today cannot bring about peace or bring a halt to war as they had done in Ancient Greece. In fact several Olympics have been cancelled due to World Wars 1 and 2.
Some countries have used the games to send a political message and they have boycotted them. So I don’t think the games have the same power of peace that they did at the beginning. But the games still wield some influence over the world. I think the games boost national pride and I remember the excitement of the build up to the Olympic Games. Watching interviews with athletes, hearing what was expected and hoped for during the games. Ancient Olympians that participated in the games were the best of the best at what they did, and would compete against one another for glory.
The thletes who won, were thought to be derived from the gods, and would be pampered for the rest of their lives. They were able to have statues made of themselves to celebrate their victories. Olympians of today are thought to be incredible, but no one goes as far to thinks they are gods. Yet we still hold our successful Athletes in great esteem. They become household names and are able to earn millions from endorsements after the Olympics. Although we do not see them as gods as religion has changed since 776 B. C. A successful Olympian is certainly put on a pedestal and expected to be a role model for society.
They are given ‘rock star’ status and their fame is huge especially during and right after the games. When we find out these athletes are only human and break a law or have found to have cheated their fall from grace is epic and society does not forgive. I remember the excitement felt by the nation when Michael Phelps won seven gold medals in swimming. His face was everywhere, he was interviewed on many different television shows, he was on the front page of magazines and newspapers. Then he was discovered smoking ‘pot’ and his fall to disgrace was fast.
Becoming an Olympic athlete in Ancient Greece was no easy task and that is still the same today. The athletes devoted their lives to training for one moment that occurred every four years. Athletes in Ancient Greece would have to measure up to standards in order to compete, including proving their birthright, and competing in a mini games to weed out the weaker competitors. Athletes today can compete for the country that they are the citizens of and have to prove their citizenship. They also have to qualify for the Olympics by participating in trials.
So the best Athletes from each country progress to compete. One of the major differences between the The Ancient Olympic Games and the Olympics of today is length and location. The Ancient Games were held in Athens where as today’s games are held world wide and a country can bid to host the games. The Ancient Games lasted only five days, whereas the games of today last seventeen. These differences are not really surprising as the size of the event has grown, so it takes longer to complete and it is only fair to change the location as so many countries are involved.
On the first day of the Ancient Games, the athletes had to complete a number of tasks. Including sacrificing a pig to Zeus to ensure a good showing from all the athletes, a purification ceremony in which the athletes would enter Olympia wearing nothing but pristine white robes, a questioning of the athletes, and proving their greek birthright. In the Modern Olympics, the athletes must compete for weeks before, just to qualify for the games in something called the Olympic Trials.
Then once all the athletes are selected, they are introduced in a huge opening ceremony in which there is the lighting of the torch and the raising of each participating countries flag. The athletes are then paraded through the main stadium in the groups of their country. Each country having their own team uniform so they are easily recognizable. I enjoy seeing how many countries have entered the games and how many athletes from each country are there to represent their nation. The opening and closing ceremonies are an entertainment event in their own right.
It seems that each host country tries to outdo the previous hosts efforts. So the pomp and ceremony involved is still very similar. The rest of the days in-between the opening day, and the closing day were the same for both the Modern, and Ancient Olympics. They were days of competition. Specific events were held on specific days, and competitors would go head to head to decide who was indeed the best. The events held at the Olympic have changed a great deal over time. In the Ancient Greek Olympics the athletes would compete in the Javelin, discus throwing, wrestling and various running events.
In the modern Olympics there are 300 events and these change and evolve over time. New sports are introduced and some events are dropped due to lack of popularity. I can see that the events differ greatly but the basic athletic ability still remains the same. The events are structured to show strength, agility, speed and commitment. This has not changed over time even though there are now team and individual events . The events are still held in front of large crowds of people. And in the Ancient Greece, there would be constant betting going on.
No doubt there is betting going on during the Olympics of today, but the main focus of our Olympic athletes is making their respective countries proud. The major difference between the Ancient Olympics and todays event is the gender of the competitor. In 776 B. C. any male could participate in the games, it did not matter the social status of the individual. Women were not allowed to participate in the Ancient Olympics and only single women were allowed to attend the event. This reflects the status of women at the time. Men and Women were not seen as equals in the ancient society.
But if there were female gods why couldn’t women participate? Men who won their events were seen to be derived from Gods but women were still not seen in the same light. Now, women are allowed, and even encouraged to perform in the olympics. This is important because it shows how far the rights of women have come since the ancient Olympics. Yet I still think women are seen as the inferior athlete as they compete separately from men. Men’s competition are often televised at more appealing times and there are still more male athletes than female athletes participating.
Male dominated sports are still the most prized events, we still have a long way to go before there is equality in sport. The poorest Greek man could try to compete in the Olympics, as long as he had the athletic ability to play at a high level. The only advantage the wealthy had over the poor was access to better facilities and better trainers. The wealthy could not bribe the judges because they were forced to take oaths at the beginning of the games to ensure an equal opportunity for athletes.
Because the winners of the Olympics were treated so well, this was a great incentive for people to compete in them. Poor people saw this as an opportunity to become wealthy, and to become famous. If children were seen to have athletic ability at a young age, they would be sponsored by people in the town or village they lived in. It was not uncommon for those who won to be seen as heroes in the towns they come from. Today Olympic athletes receive love and support from their hometowns throughout the games. They are also supported financially so that they can concentrate on training.
Some countries train their athletes from a very young age to compete at the Olympics. I do not think this is fair but it appears that talent always manages to surface weather pampered or not. Great athletes from poor nations are still victorious over the athletes from richer nations. I believe that competitors of today are not much different from those of Ancient Greece. You would expect there to be a greater change due to the thousands of years but today competitors play the sports they play because they have love for the game.
Gaining wealth is just a plus of being an elite athlete of today. Back when the Olympics began in 776 BC for most the games were no more than a way to escape the poverty they were forced to live in everyday. Although we do see some differences in the customs and those who are included in the Olympics of today from the ancient Olympics and the games are still pretty much the same. I think this is because human nature has not change. We are still very competitive, we still hold strength and ability in high esteem. It is a chance to show pride in our country and it athletes.