The Modern Olympics

You might think the Olympics are over, but the countdown to the Paralympics has only just begun. These games, for athletes with impaired physical abilities, start on 7th September in the same place as the Olympics – Rio De Janerio.

 

While we wait, here is some cool info on the Modern Olympics. You can read our post about the Ancient History of the Olympics to catch up.

 

The ancient Olympic games officially began in 776 BC in Greece and occurred every four years, or Olympiads, ending in 393 AD (after about 1000 years) because they were considered a pagan practice.

Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator, believed in the importance of physical education, and in international competition. Coubertin helped to revive the idea of the olympic games in the 1890s and was a founding member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894.

The modern olympic games began with the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Olympic_ringA couple of well known symbols that are used to promote the games are the olympic flag and the olympic flame. The rings on the Olympic flag represent the five parts of the world: the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

 

 

The number of sports that are played in the current olympics are much higher and more diverse than at the ancient olympic games; they include archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, football, golf, gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting, swimming, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling.

And that’s just the summer olympics! The winter olympics are held every four years as well, the next one will be in 2018 in PyeongChang, Korea. The sports at the winter olympics are all done in snow or ice; skiing, bobsleigh, curling, skating, ice hockey, luge, ski jumping, and snowboarding.

 

Check out this Enyclopaedia Britannica article about the history of the Olympic games! (You’ll need your library card to login)

 

Want to know more? Find these books in your local library:

Syndetics book coverThe story of the Olympics : the wacky facts about the Olympics and Olympic champions down the centuries! by Richard Brassey
“Records and reputations, cheats and champs, victors and venues – here’s the lowdown on the modern Olympic games, from bestselling author and illustrator, Richard Brassey. From the games of ancient Greece to the twenty-first century, and with individual tales of heroes and heroines, this is a lively, witty and entertaining guide for young readers everywhere. As always with Richard Brassey’s popular books, this is packed with comic strips, fact boxes, hilarious captions and speech bubbles, plus amazing information and entertaining insight.” (Syndetics summary)

 

Syndetics book coverThe Olympics : ancient and modern by Joe Fullman
The Olympics Ancient to Modern is a fascinating look at the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, from the first events in Ancient Greece right the way up to London 2012 and Sochi 2014. It focusses on when and where each Games has been held, and some key stats, such as how much it cost, how many athletes competed, and how many spectators came to watch.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

 

Syndetics book coverModern Olympic Games by Haydn Middleton
“‘The Olympics’ tells you all about the world’s greatest sporting festival. From ancient Greece to the 21st century, you will read about the winners, losers, triumphs, and tragedies of the Olympic Games.” (Syndetics summary)

 

 

 

Overdrive book coverThe Olympics by Graham Douglas (eBook)
“The Olympic Games: a major international amateur sporting competition that brings together hundreds of nations and thousands of athletes. This book is a collection of fun, facts and figures about the Games (from ancient to modern times) for sports lovers all over the world. ‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well’ Pierre de Coubertin.” (Syndetics summary)

The ancient history of the Olympics

Syndetics book cover

The Olympic games began in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC (that’s almost 3000 years ago!). It was a sporting competition to celebrate excellence and honour the god Zeus.

The first few olympics just had a running race and only lasted one day, but more events got added on later and it became a five day event. Because ancient Greece would often have conflicts going on between city-states there would be a sacred truce (Ekecheiria) during the games so that athletes and spectators could travel to and from Olympia safely.

 

 

 

Competitors from all over Greece and sometimes beyond would compete in sporting events including foot-races (running), the pentathlon (running, long jump, discus, javelin and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, the pankration, and equestrian races (horse and chariot). Pankration is a combination of boxing and wresting and was a particularly brutal event.

Fun Fact: the participants would also compete naked! In fact the Greek word for nude was gymnós which is where our word for gymnasiums comes from.

The ancient olympics also did not allow women to compete in the events, and only unmarried women were allowed to be spectators. Despite this, in 396 BC Kyniska of Sparta became the first female Olympic victor for the chariot race, because the owners of the horses were considered the winners of the race, not the riders.

Instead of receiving gold, silver and bronze medals, there was only one victor in each of the events and they were rewarded with a wreath (wild olive leaf crown), and of course the glory and honour of being an olympic victor (in other words – bragging rights!)

In 393 AD the new Roman emperor and Christian, Theodosius, banned the olympic games because he considered them a pagan practice. So ended 1,000 years of tradition, during which 293 olympics games were held. That is until Pierre de Coubertin, a French academic and historian, pushed to resurrect them and so began the modern olympic games in 1896 Athens, Greece.

 

Want to know more? Find these books in your local library:

Syndetics book coverThe first Olympics of ancient Greece by Lisa M. Bolt Simons

“In ancient Greece different city-states often fought one another in deadly battles. But every four years the Greeks set aside their differences to honor the gods and compete peacefully in the Olympic Games. Learn all about the athletes, competitions, and religious ceremonies of the ancient Olympics.” (Syndetics summary)

 

 

Syndetics book coverOlympics by Richard Platt
“‘In the same spirit as the previous Through Time titles, this book explores the evolution of the Olympic Games, from its ancient origins to modern times. The chronological format allows the reader to experience life in many diverse cities and cultures during different historical periods. Through Time: The Olympic Games tells the complete story of history’s most famous, and most international, sporting competition. The narrative runs from city to city, exploring the impact of the Games on each host nation as well as the key social, political and cultural events of the time. Woven into this narrative are all the major sporting highlights, facts and record-breakers.” (Syndetics summary)

 

 

Flaming Olympics by Michael Coleman

This hilarious guide tells readers everything they need to know, from the torture of Olympic training, to some of the best performances dating back as far as 776 BC.

 

Pop-up Shakespeare Forsooth!

Shakespeare-banner
Do you love to act the fool? Now you can do it at the library!

Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand will have actors from various local theatre groups to come in to Central Library at 11am-12pm on one Saturday per month for the rest of this year.

They will be performing scenes from selected plays, with four plays per event. Anyone’s welcome to join in -trust us, it’s a lot of fun!

Check out the dates and plays for Pop-up Shakespeare;

May 21: Henry VI, Richard III, The Taming of the shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona
June 25: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
July 23: The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, parts 1 & 2
August 20: Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It
September 17: Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Troilus & Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well
October 15: Measure For Measure, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth
November 12: Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Pericles, The Two Noble Kinsmen
December 10: Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, Henry VIII, Cardenio

To see if other Shakespeare events at Wellington City Libraries are coming up, go to Shakespeare lives at the library