The Tokyo Olympics are almost upon us! But how much do you know about the history of the games?
Greece’s Ancient Olympic Games were held at the temple of Zeus in Olympia, hence why they are known as the Olympic games. Meant as a religious festival to honor Zeus, every four years the warring Greek City-States were meant to lay down their arms for the sporting event. While the ceasefires never really happened, the Olympic games were a message of peace in a time of war.
For the Greeks, the Olympic games were a celebration of both peace and their religion. While the modern Olympics have lost the religious aspect, the overarching theme of peace remains.
In a similar way, both the Ancient Olympics and our modern version are inherently a political event. While many athletes and politicians advocate to keep politics out of sports, it is near impossible for all the world’s nations to join in one city for three and a half weeks and not have politics play a role. For the ancient Greeks, the games were a place of diplomacy where warring City-States could look to peacefully negotiate the ends to a war.
In the modern day, however, the political aspects of the Olympics have been less about diplomacy and more about displaying the physical might of a nation. For example, the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were the first Olympic Games that saw Hitler in power over Germany. This gave Hitler and the Nazi party an opportunity to display the might of their nation.
Slowly emerging from the year and a half long pandemic, we look to these games to be a celebration of the world coming back together. And while the event may remain closed to fans, there will be billions of viewers around the globe watching their country win gold.
From Coroebus, the Elis cook turned first Olympic champion, to American Olympic icons like Michael Phelps, the Olympic games have a rich history to explore. We’ll continue to do that next week, as the games roar on!
Garrett is an Intern at the FHA and undergraduate student at Saginaw Valley State University.
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