Every athlete would consider an Olympic medal to be the biggest feather in their cap. Known to all as the most prestigious sporting event in the world, athletes from as many as 200 countries travel afar from all 5 continents and gather once every four years to compete for the highest honour in sports.
Believed to have started in 776 BC, the original Olympic Games were held in the ancient Greek city of Olympia as a dedication to the 12 Olympian Gods. With a four-year interval, a period known as an Olympiad, the ancient Olympic Games grew and continued for nearly 1200 years. But as the Romans conquered Greece, the Games began to lose its importance as it was regarded more as a pagan celebration.
In 1894, the Olympic Games saw a revival as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed by Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. As the governing and decision-making body of the Olympic Movement, the IOC determines the host city, sports to be included (the Olympic program), as well as oversees the planning of the Olympic Games.
Rich in tradition and rituals, the Olympic Games traces back to ancient Greek times and begins with the lighting of the Olympic flame in Olympia. The torch is ignited by a female performer, acting as a priestess, by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun’s rays. She then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that will carry the flame to the host city’s Olympic stadium which carries forth with the opening ceremony.
The Olympic Games is sports at its purest form and aims to foster the ideal of a “sound mind in a sound body” and to promote friendship among nations.
Made up of five intertwined rings – blue, yellow, black, green and red – the Olympic rings represent the unity of the five inhabited continents, namely; America, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe. These five colours were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag. In addition, the Olympic truce is the role played by the Olympics in promoting peace.
The Latin expression “Citius, Altius, Fortius” is the Olympic motto; meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. Coubertin believed that sports would help to set the mind and body in equilibrium as well as create moral and social strength. Coubertin’s ideals are further expressed in the Olympic creed:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not to triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
A maximum of 28 sports are featured in the Summer Olympics program of which the only sports that have never been absent are athletics, swimming, fencing and artistic gymnastics.
The Olympic Programme Commission was established in 2004 to review the sports on the Olympic program and all non-Olympic recognized sports with the goal of applying a systematic approach to establishing the Olympic program for each celebration of the Games.
Seven criteria to judge whether a sport should be included in the Olympic program:
• History and tradition of the sport
• Popularity of the sport
• Athlete’s health
• Development of the International Federation that governs the sport
• Costs of holding the sport
The first summer Olympics took place in 1896 in the Panathenaic stadium in Athens. Since then, evolution has caused the Games to develop and grow in terms of representation from participating countries, procedures, space/location/buildings OR in tangent with technology, economic and political realities.
Similarly now, it’s time for the Olympics to add one more to their ranks – SQUASH.