Olympic Archery rounds and Football (Soccer for us Americans) matches are underway. Tomorrow the remaining sports will begin matches, games, races, bouts and so on.
The Olympics have a long history and one that we may not properly appreciate. Even the events have an important historical significance. Take the marathon for example.
The marathon only became an official Olympic sport at the 1896 Athens games. The length of the marathon was based on a Greek story of a man who ran the distance from Athens to Marathon to share news of a Greek victory over Persian forces. After delivering the news the man died of exhaustion. That distance was just over 25 miles. While the official distance has wavered some, it has always been at least 25 miles.
The first Olympics held on American soil took place in St. Louis in 1904. In historical terms this Olympiad was considered disorganized, corrupt and farcical. Organizers for the World’s Fair, which was being held in St. Louis that spring, bullied the fledgling International Olympic Committee into giving them the honors after the IOC had already awarded it to Chicago. Only 12 countries showed up and out of 630 athletes 523 were American. Women were only allowed to participate in one event, archery.
The now-beloved pomp of the torch relay can be traced back to the Berlin Olympics held in 1936 and administered by Adolf Hitler. Hitler and the Berlin Games organizer Carl Diem used the torch relay as a powerful propaganda tool. It appeared to legitimize not only the Berlin Games but Nazi Germany. The British, in organizing the next Olympics in 1948, wanted to make a point of “running a relay of peace” across Europe. And so a tradition was born.
If you enjoyed this post, please stop by the Bellevue University Library and check out our Summer Olympics display.
Photos from Official Olympic Mascot site