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History | Physical Education

The Olympic Games

When did it all begin? The Olympic Games began over 2,700 years ago in Olympia. Every four years, around 50,000 people came from all over the Greek world to watch and take part. The ancient Games were also a religious festival dedicated to ZeusThe king of the gods, known to the Romans as Jupiter.. A sacred flame burnt throughout the competition and  truceAn agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time. would be called across the empire. Athletes would compete to honour Zeus, and victory wreathsOtherwise known as “kotinos”, this was the prize for the champion of the ancient Olympic Games. The branch was twisted into a circle and placed on the winner’s head. were cut from a sacred olive tree. The Olympics ran for nearly 12 centuries until AD393 when Emperor Theodosius I called for a ban of all pagan festivals. What were the competitions like? Originally, athletes only competed in one event: a foot race along the 192-metre track of the stadium. Later, came events like chariotA type of carriage usually pulled using horses. They were a fast way to travel for many ancient people. racing in the HippodromeThe Hippodrome was a stadium set aside for horse racing. It was 780m long, making it the largest building in the ancient Olympic Games., as well as long jump and javelinA light spear designed primarily to be thrown. Today, used mainly for sport.. There was only one Olympic champion each year, and the Games had strict rules. Competitors had to be Greek, with women barredBanned, prevented from doing something. from participating and cheaters beaten publicly. And - athletes all competed naked! Sounds tough, why did they revive it? In the 1880s, Pierre de Coubertin had the idea of organising an international competition based on the Olympic Games. He idealised it as the ultimate athletic competition, promoting peace and encouraging physical exercise. In 1894, a flame was lit to open the first modern Games. Fourteen countries took part. What does the flag mean? Designed in 1913, the five Olympic rings represent five continents. Their colours, together with the white background, include colours from every nation's flag. How have the modern Games changed? Although many events like wrestling and pentathlonAn athletics contest featuring five events. remain, there are now hundreds more events, including team sports like football, and the number of participating countries has grown to 206. Women have competed since 1900 and we also enjoy the Paralympics and Winter Games. Have the modern Olympics ever been cancelled before? Germany was set to host the Games in 1916, when the outbreak of World War One led them to postpone. However, the war lasted longer than expected and Berlin wouldn't host again until 1936. Tokyo was due to host the 1940 summer Games - before war with China forced cancellation. Four years later, the London Games were cancelled due to World War Two. 2020's Games mark the first time disease has affected the Olympics. Luckily, they were able to take place in 2021.KeywordsZeus - The king of the gods, known to the Romans as Jupiter.

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