The XXXII Olympic Games are ahead of us. What is their beginning?

Ryunosuke Kikuno | Unsplash

“So, I raise a chalice for an Olympic idea which, like a ray of a powerful sun, broke through the mists of the ages and returns to throw the glow of joyful hope on the threshold of the twentieth century.” – these are words spoken over a hundred years ago by Pierre de Coubertin, the man to whom we owe one of the largest sports events in the world.

More than 1,500 years have been waiting for the return of the event known as the “Olympic Games.” The last ancients were played in 393 AD. Then, by decree of the Roman emperor Theodosia I the Great, their organization was forbidden, and the memory of such rivalry was slowly fading away. Until the French educator Pierre de Coubertin. Thanks to him, we can watch the largest and oldest sports festival in the world every four years.

Ancient Olympic Games

They were organized every four years from 776 BCE. until 393 AD and were a religious festival in honor of Zeus at Olympia, located in the Peloponnese. Only native Greeks were allowed to take part in competitions called agons. Women were not allowed to participate in the competition or even watch it. Failure to comply with this law was punishable by death. However, games for women were held every four years. From the goddess Hera, they are called Herai. During the Games, wars and conflicts ceased throughout Greece. They were supposed to conform to the Greeks that despite their disputes, they remain one people. Initially, the competition lasted one day, and then it turned into a five-day form. They included inter alia, chariot races, running events, classic pentathlon, and boxing. The winner of the Olympic pentathlon was the one who won at least three events, including wrestling. He received a laurel wreath made of olive tree branches, and he was also exempt from paying taxes. Apart from sports competitions, the Games were also a celebration of the Greeks’ culture, music, and religion. The four-year period that separated the individual Games was called the “Olympics.” The Olympics lasted 1168 years until 393 AD when Emperor Theodosius I the Great forbade the games because he considered them a cult of pagan gods.

The modern Olympic Games

Archaeological excavations at the end of the 19th century uncovered the ruins of Olympia’s main structures. This sparked a great deal of interest in Europe in the history of the ancient Olympic Games, including that of Pierre de Coubertin: “International Youth Festival, the festival of the spring of humanity.”

At the jubilee session of the Union of French Athletic Sports Societies in 1892, held within the walls of the Paris Sorbonne, Coubertin proposed the revival of the Olympic Games. During his speech, he called on the audience to support him. In 1894, he invited all sports organizations in the world to attend an international congress in Paris. It was planned to adopt a resolution resuming the competition. Even though some countries did not express interest in this event, in 1894, representatives of a dozen or so countries came to the Sorbonne. They decided that the first modern games would be held in Athens in 1896. The choice of place was obvious. Which city would be better to host the competition, if not the homeland’s capital of this type of sports entertainment? About 80,000 people gathered at the Panathenaic Stadium at the opening ceremony of the Games. Two hundred forty-five players from 14 national teams participated in the games. Participants competed in nine disciplines: gymnastics, swimming, athletics, weightlifting, shooting, fencing, tennis, and wrestling. After the Olympics, several athletes wanted the event to be played exclusively in Greece. Coubertin, however, was against it, stating that the Modern Olympics should be held periodically in different venues. By his wishes, the second Games were held in Paris, although they were not as successful as those in Athens.

Olympic symbols

The sign of the Olympic movement is five circles intertwined with each other: blue, black, and red at the top, and yellow and green at the bottom. Each color has a different symbolism: blue-Europe, black-Africa, red-America, yellow-Asia, green-Australia. It was invented by Coubertin in Stockholm in 1912 and is part of the Olympic flag. The wheels represent the union of five continents and athletes from around the world at the Olympic Games.

On the other hand, the Olympic torch is a symbol of the durability of the Olympic ideal. It burned for the first time in Amsterdam in 1928. From 1936, a practice was established in Berlin to carry fire by a relay race running from ancient Olympia through Athens to the city of the following games.

Summer Olympics 2020

Officially, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will be held in the capital of Japan – Tokyo. The city has already hosted the 1964 Summer Games. So far, the Games have not been held only four times: in 1916 because of World War I, in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II, and in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, decided to postpone the Games until 2020, but not later than Summer 2021, and the old name of the Games has been retained.

Participants in the 2020 Summer Olympics will compete in 37 disciplines. The Olympic Committee decided to restore baseball and softball, which were removed from the Olympic program after the Beijing Olympics. It was also decided to add four new disciplines such as karate, skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing, and street basketball 3×3. Due to the introduction of the state of emergency in Tokyo until August 22, due to the growing number of cases of coronavirus infection, the organizers of the Olympic Games in the Japanese capital decided that the competition would be held without the participation of fans.

Kacper Król


Histmag: „Pierre de Coubertin – ojciec nowożytnych igrzysk olimpijskich”

 Wikipedia: „Letnie Igrzyska Olimpijskie 1896”

 Kierunek Tokio: „Jak to się wszystko zaczęło, czyli pierwsze nowożytne igrzyska olimpijskie” “Historia Igrzysk Olimpijskich”

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