We’re only three days away from the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games opening ceremony. From February 9th until February 25th, we’ll watch the world’s most athletic compete in skiing, curling, figure skating, and luge, to name just a few disciplines. The Olympic Games have come a long way since their birth almost 3,000 years ago. Who was responsible for starting the Olympics, the most prestigious athletic competition in the world? It kind of depends on who you ask.
As mentioned, the OG Olympics began in Ancient Greece during the 8th century B.C. Up until the 4th century A.D., the games were held every four years in Olympia, in the western Peloponnese peninsula. The games were celebrated to honor the great and powerful Zeus, ruler of all Greek gods.
The earliest record historians have of the ancient Olympics dates back to 776 B.C., although historians believe the games were happening for years before this date. During that year’s games, a cook named Coroebus (or Koroibos) won the only event — a 192-meter footrace called the stade (or “stadion”). In later centuries, more foot races were introduced, as was boxing, chariot racing, and the pentathlon, which consisted of five events — a footrace, long jump, discus and javelin throws, and a wrestling match.
Unfortunately, after 10 centuries of cultivating the Olympic games, the Greeks were conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century B.C. From there, the popularity of the Olympics declined and they were finally wiped out by 393 A.D.
Enter Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France in 1892. He proposed to the Union des Sports Athlétiques in Paris that they bring back the ancient games. The Union liked the idea and allowed Coubertin to found the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which still functions today.
In 1896, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece in front of 60,000 spectators. 280 male participants from 13 nations entered and competed in 43 events. According to History.com, these events include, track and field, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, cycling, tennis, weightlifting, shooting, and fencing.
The ancient Greeks certainly invented the Olympic games. But thanks to Coubertin, we now get to enjoy the games in modern times.
The Olympic games are thousands of year in the making and they keep getting better with age. Over 90 countries are slated to compete in PyeongChang in just a few days. CNN reports that 102 medals will be given out to Olympians.
When you watch the Olympics, you’re watching a 3,000-year-old tradition. That alone, paired with the remarkable athletic talent, is something to be in awe of.