How did the Olympics get started?
“It all began as a series of athletic competitions, predominantly restricted to free men who could speak Greek, in every four years span termed Olympiad. The consensus is that the first ever Olympic Games took place in the summer of 776 B.C and the popular myths suggest they were more ritualistic than gladiatorial. The accepted gods of those days Zeus and Olympians of Mount Olympus in Greece were honoured. The Zeus, the mighty god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology, could not help the ancient rituals of Olympic Games from being banned as a persecution of Paganism by the Theodosian decrees in 389–391 A.D. The decrees by Roman Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official state religion and imposed it on the Roman Empire.
A range of attempts to resurrect the concept of Olympic Games or to commemorate its namesake were made. The Cotswold Olimpicks, an annual event of games and sports by Robert Dover (early 17th century) which like its predecessor ancient Olympics during the Roman period faced disapproval from Puritan Christian sect; the First French Republic held an annual national Olympic festival during 1796-1798; Dr William Penny Brookes made a notable effort to engage the working class people in Wenlock (a small town in the West Midlands region of England) towards sports based recreational activity. One of the two mascots for the London 2012 Summer Olympics had been named ‘Wenlock’ in tribute to the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games.
Pierre de Coubertin was inspired by the Wenlock Olympian Society in 1890, after which he started up the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Pierre de Coubertin (who hailed from a French aristocratic family, a specialist in the theory of education and also a historian) is widely considered as the founding father of the modern Olympic Games. Apparently the combination of Coubertin’s knowledge of history, his aristocratic affiliations and his thoughts concerning the progressiveness of the society had all driven Coubertin to bring about the modern Olympic Games which was bestowed with elements to become the finest artefact of institutionalised capitalism.
The first modern Olympic Games, organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was held in Athens in 1896 and there were 14 nations and 241 athletes who took part and competed in 43 events. From then on the modern Olympics have seen many changes and at times reflected the influential socio-economic elements and also evolved along with the progressive, scientific & technological developments that were collectively accomplished by the society. Some of the notable developments include: women taking part in the 1900 Summer Olympics, the inclusion of Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin being broadcast on television for the first time. There were sporting competition held among the World War II veterans at the initiation of German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital (Britain) in 1948 coinciding with the summer Olympics held in London that year and the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games (1960) is also considered as the first international Paralympic Games although the term ‘Paralympic Games’ was accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) only in 1984. In 2010, Youth Olympic Games was initiated where athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 could compete.”