The Origin of the Olympic Games
7 minute read · Issue Number 78 · July 23rd, 2021
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The postponed 2020 Olympic Games finally kick off today in Tokyo without fans after Japan declared a state of emergency due to the rise of covid cases.
If you’ve seen the news lately, you probably know how much drama is going on around these games.
Nevertheless, The Sports-Tech Biz Magazine always aims to create and share timeless, quality content.
In an attempt to create signal within all the noise surrounding the Olympics – today we’ll learn about Olympia – the place where it all began.
The ancient Olympics happened in only one place —Olympia.
The origins are pretty unknown — there are myths, legends, stories, and theories that suggest the Greeks celebrated the games due to different reasons — but it is known that the Olympic festival was the earliest and the greatest athletic festival of ancient Greece.
The first Olympic festival (also known as Olympiad) happened in 776 BC. Greeks held it once every four years in honor of Zeus, and the experience was insane.
How can I be certain?
To experience the thrill of the Olympiad, rich and poor spectators not only traveled for weeks to arrive at Olympia with intense heat and unsanitary conditions but literally slept in the open and had to deal with packed crowds and criminal thieves at all times.
For several centuries, Greeks were the only ones allowed to participate in the Olympiad until the end of the third century BCE, when Romans were permitted to participate.
With the development of the festival and its increased popularity, more athletes invested effort and commitment into athletic training and preparation. Therefore, towns all over started building gymnasiums and wrestling grounds similar to the one pictured below:
Social exclusion happened as well – athletes were all men, slaves were allowed to compete only representing their masters in some events, and married women and non-Greeks were not allowed to watch.
At the Olympiad, athletes competed naked in multiple sports. Back then, nudity was unique to Greek athletics – and it was considered a source of pride, not shame. Nudity was adopted for ritual and aesthetic purposes rather than practical and performance-enhancing ones.
Blood sacrifices took place every day of the Olympic festival, culminating in a ‘hecatomb’ (the gift of a hundred oxen) — usually donated by states and wealthy individuals.
Athletes went to the games on their initiative; they were not selected or financed by their states, but there was a personal glory related to victory in the Olympiad – it carried certain status.
Additionally, the ancient Olympics featured far fewer events than what you’ll see in Tokyo — there were no team sports at all because individual achievement was what mattered.
Back then, there were equestrian events (horse races and chariot races – which was the most prestigious event of them all) and other regular sports such as wrestling, boxing, running races, long jump, javelin, and discus.
The 3rd century saw a decline in the popularity of the games. By the year 385 – floodings, earthquakes, and barbarian invasions damaged the infrastructure in Olympia — which halted the celebration of the ancient Olympic games.
Regardless of what happened afterward, it’s quite astounding – at least in my opinion –to learn the differences between ancient and modern games. The contrasts between the culture, practices, people, and traditions are a great reflection of how much we’ve changed as humans.
So while you’re enjoying these Tokyo Olympic games with your friends and family, tell them the story of the ancient games in Olympia – the place where it all began.
🎙 Halftime Snack of the Week
Venture Capital in Sports Technology
The 57th Halftime Snack features Keith Bank – CEO & Founder of KB Partners.
Keith is an experienced venture capital investor. In our quick chat, we talked about:
· Skills and traits Keith looks for in people
· Challenges of being a manager
· Venture capital and angel investing
· Sports technology
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Until next week,
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