Let the Games Begin – LONDON 2012 Olympics…

Friday, 27th July 2012 – the date thousands of people around the world have been waiting for – the Opening ceremony of the 30th Olympic Games, being held held for a record breaking 3rd time in London, Great Britain.

Australia is again well represented with approx 400 athletes taking part in 35 sports, with our best hopes coming of course from swimming/diving, hurdles, even BMX – one of our top sports for chances of gold however is in sailing & skulls.

Even if you’re not into sports it is kind of hard to escape it during this time. It is though, a great time to try to get inspired yourself, to either trying a new sport/activity or rebooting your own training regime. I am often in awe at the fitness levels it is possible to achieve, when looking at some of these athletes – especially tennis players – who can run around at top speed for up to FIVE hours or more! But you don’t need to be a top athlete to play in any of these sports, most local communities have facilities to participate in many of the sports you will see played at these Olympics.

The history of the Olympics though is a fascinating one, so I have put together my own synopsis of events leading up to London 2012, so….lets start at the very beginning!…

Ancient Olympics:-

According to historical records, the first Olympics were held in 776 BC at Olympia in Elis, on a peninsula about 330 kms south of Athens.

An ‘Olympiad’ was the period of 4 years between the games (one of 4 held in Greece every year) and was used as a measure of time in Ancient Greece.

Running was the only sport initially, held in the Stadion building (where we get our word ‘Stadium’), and named after this –  thousands of people watched the games & in place of a gold medal was an Olive branch. It was men only competing (and competing naked! – in fact our word ‘gymnsium’ comes from the greek word ‘gymnos’ which means ‘naked’) and married women were banned from even watching or this was punishable by death. Other sports introduced after 13 games were boxing, horseback riding, wrestling, the pentathlon and chariot racing. Winners got paid and cheats were fined!

The games continued until 393AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius decreed a ban on all Pagan ‘cults’ thus ending almost 12 centuries of Olympic games.

Modern Olympics:-

It is generally considered that Baron Pierre De Coubertin was the founder of the modern Olympic games, & he did indeed form the IOC (International Olympic Committee) – he did, however base his plans on the already in use ‘Olympian Games’ held in the UK at Much Wenlock in Shropshire (the name of the mascots at this years games). Dr William Brookes, had started his games in the year 1850, from a desire to promote ‘moral, physical and intellectual improvement – open for ‘every grade of man’ (women were still excluded, being 2nd class citizens an’ all!).Though going still further back, a Greek man called Evangelis Zappas had started his “Olympic Games’ in Athens between Greece and the Ottoman empire in 1859,(and also 1870 /5) events from which Dr Brookes adapted into his Much Wenlock games at a later date.

Baron De Coubertin formed his committee and held the 1st recognised International Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.There were 245 competitors (200 greek) from 14 countries. All men, as women were still banned! Games were held every 4 years, and most years were significant to some degree…

1900 –  Paris, Women were allowed to compete for the 1st time, in crocquet, golf, sailing and tennis.

1904 –  Missouri, few competitors compete largely due to distance /  time required to get there!

1908 – London, the first running of the marathon (still men only!) 1st Opening ceremony held, 22 sports and 2,000 athletes

1912 – Stockholm, All continents represented for the 1st time

1916 – Berlin CANCELLED due to World War I1920 – Antwerp

1924 – Paris

1928 – Amsterdam, women allowed to compete in track & field for the first time & 1st sponsor allowed – Coca-Cola.

1932 – Los Angeles, again low number of competitors.

1936 – Berlin, despite Hitlers assertion that his ‘Aryan’ race were superior, African-American Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals!

1940 – Tokyo CANCELLED due to WWII

1944 – London CANCELLED due to WWII

1948 – London, Germany and Japan excluded

1952 – Helsinki, USSR compete for the first time

1956 – MELBOURNE, hosted a successful games

1960 – Rome

1964 – Tokyo, first games to be televised, increasing popularity

1968 – Mexico City, the only games to be held in Latin America, East & West Germany send separate teams for the first time

1972 – Munich, terrorism, 11 Israeli athletes murdered. Mark Spitz American swimmer wins 7 gold, a record

1976 – Montreal, famous for Nadia Comaneci gymnast winning a perfect score of 10

1980 – Moscow, boycotted by USA due to involvement in Afgan war

1984 – Los Angeles, boycotted by USSR in retaliation!

1988 – Seoul, tainted with many athletes failing drugs test, most notably Ben Johnson

1992 – Atlanta, marred by a bombing at the Olympic Park site

1996 – Barcelona, apart from Afghanistan, it was the 1st year all IOC countries participated since the         ’72 Olympics

2000 – SYDNEY– best games ever!! Cathy Freeman triumphs and Kylie sings!

2004 – Athens, back to where it all began!

2008 – Beijing, smoggiest games ever – Michael Phelps wins 8 gold!

2012 – London, 205 countries represented, 26 sports, 17,000 athletes and 500,000 spectators, and about 5 security guards (lol) –  with 9 million tickets sold.

2016 – Rio de Janerio TBA

The Olympic flag, represents the 5 continents of the world, the colours chosen because each one appears on every flag from every country.This was first flown at the 1920 games.

The Olympic Motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Swifter, Higher, Stronger)

The Olympic flame – originated at the Ancient games in Olympia with the flame being lit by the sun & kept burning till the end of the games. This was ‘reignited’ if you like, at the 1928 Olympics and then the Olympic relay first suggested in 1936 which goes on to this day, normally in spectacular fashion at the Opening Ceremony!

I leave for London next week, so look out for my next Olympic photo blog direct to you from the UK!

Let the Games Begin!!

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