Going For The Gold

1908-Olympic-Poster Cara Andrea here, It’s been HOT where I am—the sort of bright, blistering days that are conducive to curling up in a shady spot with a book and an iced lemonade, rather than moving so much as a muscle. But as the resident Wench Jock, I have to confess that I’m jumping up and down with anticipation over the upcoming Olympic Games in London. Despite all the questions concerning ‘enhanced performance” I still love watching the athletes compete in the various disciplines and strive to be the 48Poster2best they can be.  Now, many of the sports you'll see over  were popular in Regency London too—fencing, boxing riding. (Though I admit, the men were not swimming in sleek litle Speedos)Be that as it may, as we gear up for the action-packed fortnight, I thought it might be fun to take a short run through the history of the Games, even though it steps a bit outside our usual time periods. So lace up your sneakers . . . (though the first Olympians competed in the nude!)

Greek-vase-runnersThe first Olympic Games on record took place in 776 BC on the plains of Olympia in the western part of the Peloponnese, and were held every four years (an “olympiad” was a measure of time in ancient Greece,  which—you guessed it—was a four year unit. As all the different city states had their own calendars and dating methods, it provided a unified way to record history events.)

AthletesThe competitions were loosely tied to the cult of Zeus—the main temple of Olympia was and was highlighted by a 42-foot tall, gold and ivory decorated statue of the God by famed sculptor Pheidias, which was considered one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. However, they were also meant to foster friendly relations between the city states and celebrate the pure beauty of physical performance. All free male Greek citizens, regardless of social standing, were permitted to compete, but women were banned from participating. Indeed, married women were forbidden to watch, though for some reason unmarried women were permitted as spectators. (I shall leave it to you to speculate why . . . apparently men seeking to impress chicks with their buffed abs is not a new concept.)

08MedalAccording to Hippias of Elis, the first event ever held was the stadium, a footrace approximately 200 meters long. In 724 BC, a two-stadia race was added, and in 708 the pentathlon, which consisted of running, jumping, javalin-throwing  and discus-throwing, became part of the games. Other competitions were added throughout the years, including wrestling and the pankration, a sort-of ancient version of martial arts, which combined wrestling and boxing. It was a brutal sport, and said to have originated from Theseus’s fight in the Labyrinth with the Minotaur (there were no judges to pick the winner as in modern-day competition—the contest went on until one man conceded defeat or was rendered unconscious.

48StampThe Games continued for nearly twelve centuries (not even the Persian Wars and the Battle of Thermopylae tripped up the competition) until the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, banned them as pagan rites. They lay dormant until the late 19th century when a movement led by Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France led to their revival. The first modern Olympics took place in Athens in 1896, and the first race was won by an American—college student James Connolly.

1948Poster London first held the Games in 1908—though they were a last minute substitute for Rome, which, because of the relief effort needed to cope with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, did not have the money to hold the event. Despite the obstacles, the Britis put on a jolly good show. There were a number of firsts—for the first time a stadium was built specially for the competition, for the first time swimming was held in man-made pool rather than open water, and for the first—and last—time, tug of war was an official event!

The Games of 1948—called the Austerity Games—were also held in London. They had been suspended with the advent of World War II, but it was felt that resuming them in bomb-ravaged London was a good way to rekindle the flame of international friendship through athletic competition (though Germany and Japan were not included.) The event 48Programwas run on a shoestring (athletes were expected to bring their own towels, and because of rationing, protein was in short supply.)

Things will no doubt be a bit more glitzy when the 2012 Games return to London for a third time, beginning next week. So what about you—do you enjoy watching the Olympics? Do you have a favorite sport? A favorite athlete? I’m really looking forward to the swimming events, which offers some really exciting match-ups between the Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. And I’m pulling for Roger Federer to win a gold in tennis!
 

50 thoughts on “Going For The Gold”

  1. I’m not a big watcher of the Olympics, and I never plan to watch, but inevitably I get sucked in by the human stories that always come with each new Olympic games. I’m sure this year will be the same. So I can’t say yet which event or athlete will capture my attention; I just know that something will.

    Reply
  2. I’m not a big watcher of the Olympics, and I never plan to watch, but inevitably I get sucked in by the human stories that always come with each new Olympic games. I’m sure this year will be the same. So I can’t say yet which event or athlete will capture my attention; I just know that something will.

    Reply
  3. I’m not a big watcher of the Olympics, and I never plan to watch, but inevitably I get sucked in by the human stories that always come with each new Olympic games. I’m sure this year will be the same. So I can’t say yet which event or athlete will capture my attention; I just know that something will.

    Reply
  4. I’m not a big watcher of the Olympics, and I never plan to watch, but inevitably I get sucked in by the human stories that always come with each new Olympic games. I’m sure this year will be the same. So I can’t say yet which event or athlete will capture my attention; I just know that something will.

    Reply
  5. I’m not a big watcher of the Olympics, and I never plan to watch, but inevitably I get sucked in by the human stories that always come with each new Olympic games. I’m sure this year will be the same. So I can’t say yet which event or athlete will capture my attention; I just know that something will.

    Reply
  6. Anne, the human stories really are compelling—it’s always wonderful to see someone following his/her passion, and sometimes against big odds. It’s an affirmation of the human spirit. Seeing as your Aussie swimming star Ian Thorpe is trying to make a comeback, that could be a great feel-good story. But you’re right—there always will be something!

    Reply
  7. Anne, the human stories really are compelling—it’s always wonderful to see someone following his/her passion, and sometimes against big odds. It’s an affirmation of the human spirit. Seeing as your Aussie swimming star Ian Thorpe is trying to make a comeback, that could be a great feel-good story. But you’re right—there always will be something!

    Reply
  8. Anne, the human stories really are compelling—it’s always wonderful to see someone following his/her passion, and sometimes against big odds. It’s an affirmation of the human spirit. Seeing as your Aussie swimming star Ian Thorpe is trying to make a comeback, that could be a great feel-good story. But you’re right—there always will be something!

    Reply
  9. Anne, the human stories really are compelling—it’s always wonderful to see someone following his/her passion, and sometimes against big odds. It’s an affirmation of the human spirit. Seeing as your Aussie swimming star Ian Thorpe is trying to make a comeback, that could be a great feel-good story. But you’re right—there always will be something!

    Reply
  10. Anne, the human stories really are compelling—it’s always wonderful to see someone following his/her passion, and sometimes against big odds. It’s an affirmation of the human spirit. Seeing as your Aussie swimming star Ian Thorpe is trying to make a comeback, that could be a great feel-good story. But you’re right—there always will be something!

    Reply
  11. Since I don’t watch TV and I’m deep in deadline hell, I’m not likely to see any of the competitions. But in the past, I’ve been known to watch some of the “art sports” such as gynastics and ice skating.
    And I must say the in this heat wave, watching ice skating would be fun! Alas, that’s reserved for the winter olympics.

    Reply
  12. Since I don’t watch TV and I’m deep in deadline hell, I’m not likely to see any of the competitions. But in the past, I’ve been known to watch some of the “art sports” such as gynastics and ice skating.
    And I must say the in this heat wave, watching ice skating would be fun! Alas, that’s reserved for the winter olympics.

    Reply
  13. Since I don’t watch TV and I’m deep in deadline hell, I’m not likely to see any of the competitions. But in the past, I’ve been known to watch some of the “art sports” such as gynastics and ice skating.
    And I must say the in this heat wave, watching ice skating would be fun! Alas, that’s reserved for the winter olympics.

    Reply
  14. Since I don’t watch TV and I’m deep in deadline hell, I’m not likely to see any of the competitions. But in the past, I’ve been known to watch some of the “art sports” such as gynastics and ice skating.
    And I must say the in this heat wave, watching ice skating would be fun! Alas, that’s reserved for the winter olympics.

    Reply
  15. Since I don’t watch TV and I’m deep in deadline hell, I’m not likely to see any of the competitions. But in the past, I’ve been known to watch some of the “art sports” such as gynastics and ice skating.
    And I must say the in this heat wave, watching ice skating would be fun! Alas, that’s reserved for the winter olympics.

    Reply
  16. Mary Jo, Deadline racing is a strenuous enough sport on its own, ha, hah, ha. No wonder you won’t be lazing back and watching others sweat. Good luck on reaching the finish line!
    Funny. gymastics always makes me a little squirmy as the girls are so young—I a can’t help feeling they are working so hard because their parents want them to, not because they choose to. But then, all competitors are having to dedicate themselves to serious training at a younger and younger age if they want to be really good at it. I worry it takes some of the joy out of doing a sport.

    Reply
  17. Mary Jo, Deadline racing is a strenuous enough sport on its own, ha, hah, ha. No wonder you won’t be lazing back and watching others sweat. Good luck on reaching the finish line!
    Funny. gymastics always makes me a little squirmy as the girls are so young—I a can’t help feeling they are working so hard because their parents want them to, not because they choose to. But then, all competitors are having to dedicate themselves to serious training at a younger and younger age if they want to be really good at it. I worry it takes some of the joy out of doing a sport.

    Reply
  18. Mary Jo, Deadline racing is a strenuous enough sport on its own, ha, hah, ha. No wonder you won’t be lazing back and watching others sweat. Good luck on reaching the finish line!
    Funny. gymastics always makes me a little squirmy as the girls are so young—I a can’t help feeling they are working so hard because their parents want them to, not because they choose to. But then, all competitors are having to dedicate themselves to serious training at a younger and younger age if they want to be really good at it. I worry it takes some of the joy out of doing a sport.

    Reply
  19. Mary Jo, Deadline racing is a strenuous enough sport on its own, ha, hah, ha. No wonder you won’t be lazing back and watching others sweat. Good luck on reaching the finish line!
    Funny. gymastics always makes me a little squirmy as the girls are so young—I a can’t help feeling they are working so hard because their parents want them to, not because they choose to. But then, all competitors are having to dedicate themselves to serious training at a younger and younger age if they want to be really good at it. I worry it takes some of the joy out of doing a sport.

    Reply
  20. Mary Jo, Deadline racing is a strenuous enough sport on its own, ha, hah, ha. No wonder you won’t be lazing back and watching others sweat. Good luck on reaching the finish line!
    Funny. gymastics always makes me a little squirmy as the girls are so young—I a can’t help feeling they are working so hard because their parents want them to, not because they choose to. But then, all competitors are having to dedicate themselves to serious training at a younger and younger age if they want to be really good at it. I worry it takes some of the joy out of doing a sport.

    Reply
  21. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine has a lovely article by Frank DeFord about the role of the English in the revival of the Olympics and about the two earlier occasions when London was host city. It’s got history and sports and human interest and is available free online if anyone wants to read it.

    Reply
  22. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine has a lovely article by Frank DeFord about the role of the English in the revival of the Olympics and about the two earlier occasions when London was host city. It’s got history and sports and human interest and is available free online if anyone wants to read it.

    Reply
  23. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine has a lovely article by Frank DeFord about the role of the English in the revival of the Olympics and about the two earlier occasions when London was host city. It’s got history and sports and human interest and is available free online if anyone wants to read it.

    Reply
  24. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine has a lovely article by Frank DeFord about the role of the English in the revival of the Olympics and about the two earlier occasions when London was host city. It’s got history and sports and human interest and is available free online if anyone wants to read it.

    Reply
  25. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine has a lovely article by Frank DeFord about the role of the English in the revival of the Olympics and about the two earlier occasions when London was host city. It’s got history and sports and human interest and is available free online if anyone wants to read it.

    Reply
  26. I’m not much on TV sports either, except for baseball, but I am so enjoying the BBC mockumentary 2012, with Hugh Bonneville and a bunch of faces familiar to me from Doctor Who. Intelligent, lowkey humor — I would recommend it.

    Reply
  27. I’m not much on TV sports either, except for baseball, but I am so enjoying the BBC mockumentary 2012, with Hugh Bonneville and a bunch of faces familiar to me from Doctor Who. Intelligent, lowkey humor — I would recommend it.

    Reply
  28. I’m not much on TV sports either, except for baseball, but I am so enjoying the BBC mockumentary 2012, with Hugh Bonneville and a bunch of faces familiar to me from Doctor Who. Intelligent, lowkey humor — I would recommend it.

    Reply
  29. I’m not much on TV sports either, except for baseball, but I am so enjoying the BBC mockumentary 2012, with Hugh Bonneville and a bunch of faces familiar to me from Doctor Who. Intelligent, lowkey humor — I would recommend it.

    Reply
  30. I’m not much on TV sports either, except for baseball, but I am so enjoying the BBC mockumentary 2012, with Hugh Bonneville and a bunch of faces familiar to me from Doctor Who. Intelligent, lowkey humor — I would recommend it.

    Reply
  31. 2012 is fabulous, isn’t it. Janice! I love it. Very funny. I’m supporting Andy Murray in the tennis after he lost out to Federer at Wimbledon. We’re going to be seeing a few of the sailing events down on the south coast. Exciting!

    Reply
  32. 2012 is fabulous, isn’t it. Janice! I love it. Very funny. I’m supporting Andy Murray in the tennis after he lost out to Federer at Wimbledon. We’re going to be seeing a few of the sailing events down on the south coast. Exciting!

    Reply
  33. 2012 is fabulous, isn’t it. Janice! I love it. Very funny. I’m supporting Andy Murray in the tennis after he lost out to Federer at Wimbledon. We’re going to be seeing a few of the sailing events down on the south coast. Exciting!

    Reply
  34. 2012 is fabulous, isn’t it. Janice! I love it. Very funny. I’m supporting Andy Murray in the tennis after he lost out to Federer at Wimbledon. We’re going to be seeing a few of the sailing events down on the south coast. Exciting!

    Reply
  35. 2012 is fabulous, isn’t it. Janice! I love it. Very funny. I’m supporting Andy Murray in the tennis after he lost out to Federer at Wimbledon. We’re going to be seeing a few of the sailing events down on the south coast. Exciting!

    Reply
  36. Oh. Nicola, the sailing sounds fab! I’d love to see an actual event sometime. Maybe NYC will get the Olympics in the future!
    Andy Murray is my second pick! (What a great Wimbledon he played, and what a great story it would have been for Britain! I was cheering for both of them.)

    Reply
  37. Oh. Nicola, the sailing sounds fab! I’d love to see an actual event sometime. Maybe NYC will get the Olympics in the future!
    Andy Murray is my second pick! (What a great Wimbledon he played, and what a great story it would have been for Britain! I was cheering for both of them.)

    Reply
  38. Oh. Nicola, the sailing sounds fab! I’d love to see an actual event sometime. Maybe NYC will get the Olympics in the future!
    Andy Murray is my second pick! (What a great Wimbledon he played, and what a great story it would have been for Britain! I was cheering for both of them.)

    Reply
  39. Oh. Nicola, the sailing sounds fab! I’d love to see an actual event sometime. Maybe NYC will get the Olympics in the future!
    Andy Murray is my second pick! (What a great Wimbledon he played, and what a great story it would have been for Britain! I was cheering for both of them.)

    Reply
  40. Oh. Nicola, the sailing sounds fab! I’d love to see an actual event sometime. Maybe NYC will get the Olympics in the future!
    Andy Murray is my second pick! (What a great Wimbledon he played, and what a great story it would have been for Britain! I was cheering for both of them.)

    Reply

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