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Olympic Games – Before They Were Famous

Before They Were Famous

Olympic Games – Before They Were Famous

Before the Olympics would become the most-watched sporting event around the world, broadcast in 220 countries, and bringing in an average of 950 million dollars in revenue.

Before the list of sports would expand from just 6 to over 50 events, and include a separate Youth Olympics and Special Olympics.

Before host cities of the Olympics would try to outdo one another in the opening ceremonies, with Beijing spending a whopping 98 million dollars on their spectacle.

Before athletes from over 200 different countries would make their way to the event, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams and Michael Phelps.

The Olympics were an event pulled out of the history books at the turn of the century, meant to bring the nations of the world together in a spirit of healthy competition and camaraderie. But at a grand event like this emotions are bound to run high, and soon the Olympics would be the centre of political statements, doping scandals, biding bribes, riots and terrorist attacks.

The Olympic Games began in ancient Greece in the year 776 BC, named after Mount Olympus, said to be home of the great gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. It started as a religious festival where Greek men from across the Empire gathered at the Sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia to show their physical prowess. Winners were bestowed not with medals, but with olive branches. Also all the athletes competed naked.

Why did it happen every 4 years? Well Greeks actually counted time in measurements they called Olympiads, which were equivalent to 4 of our years. The games were ended by the Christian emperor Theodosius in 393 AD, who felt the pagan festival was offensive to his religion.

It would be another century and a half before a Frenchman, Pierre de Coubertin, had the idea to bring them back and he formed the International Olympic Committee in 1894. The non-profit group organized the first official Summer Games 2 years later in Athens Greece. The first athlete to take home a medal? Yeah he was American.

Pierre also designed the Olympic logo in 1914; the five rings linked together symbolize the camaraderie between the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceana.

Through the ages some interesting sports came and went like Tug of War, Live Pigeon Shooting, Rope climb, and a swimming obstacle race, which… actually sounds like a lot of fun. The first winter Olympics came almost 30 years later and the two fell on the same year up until 1992, when the Committee decided to stagger the events.

Yes the Olympics were a great success, and it seemed the only thing that could stop them was a world war, which is exactly what happened in 1916. Then leading up to WW2, the IOC thought it was a good idea to host the Games in Nazi Germany.

The 1936 Olympics in Berlin, or the Nazi Olympics as they became known, gave Hitler the perfect arena to dazzle foreigners and push his Nazi propaganda. A boycott was proposed when countries heard of Jewish athletes being persecuted, but ultimately failed. Germany was praised for its hospitality, but lurking under the surface was a terrifying portrait of the oppressive regime to come. This was also the Olympics where Jesse Owens proved to Hitler that blacks were not inferior, when he placed first in the 100m dash right in front of Das Fuhrers eyes.

3 years after the Games ended, Hitler unleashed WW2, bringing the games to a stop again in 1940, and 44. The bad luck for Germany continued with the 1972 Munich Olympics, where 8 Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes and coaches hostage. The 18 hour stand-off ended in a failed rescue attempt where they were all killed. Several movies have been made about the tragedy, I recommend watching the one where Eric Bana is a total badass.

The 1964 games held in Lima Peru were home to an even greater tragedy when a riot broke out after a Peru goal was taken back by the referees. Police ended up firing tear gas on the chaos where 318 people lost their lives.

Going into the 90’s things shifted from violence to internal corruption. We saw bidding scandals with Salt Lake City in 1998 where several IOC members were charged with accepted bribes, resulting in 10 members getting tossed from the group. Then there’s the doping scandals that have been an ongoing problem with the games; Russia really messed that one up recently, and even got booed at the opening ceremonies in Rio.

Leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics there was massive outcry from Amnesty International, who urged the IOC to select a place that had more concern for human rights, because we all remember how that went the first time.

The games went on anyway and Beijing ended up putting on an incredible show. But it certainly isn’t all bad at the Olympics, and they’ve actually spearheaded a lot of good.

The event prides itself in including all people from all walks of life, especially since incorporating the Special Olympics and Youth Olympics. Plus women were allowed to compete as early as the 1900’s in sports like golf, tennis and equestrian events. Today every sport in the Games must have a women’s competition.

And the rest of the story, well we’re watching it unfold in Rio right now, because this is Before They Were Famous.

 





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