The London 2012 Summer Olympics will be peaceful competitions among nations. The original Olympics were recorded to have been held in the 7th Century B.C. They were based on religious rites and mock battles, and dedicated to the Greek gods who were believed to live on Mount Olympus.
Running In the earliest games, the athletes, all men and usually nude, competed in races that varied in length from 200 to 400 yards. In later Olympics, when there were women's competitions, they ran in 150- to 300-yard races. Women athletes were required to wear toga-like gowns, and married women were forbidden to attend the games. Here's a look at some of the events of the ancient Olympic games:
Discus and Javelin
Use of spears and missiles were part of the battle equipment of ancient Greek warriors, and the weapons were applied in events in the earliest Olympic competitions. The athletic posture of the famed 5th Century B.C. statue of the discus thrower clearly indicates the event has not changed through all the centuries.
Wrestling and Boxing
These competitions were among the most popular, because they were considered close combat without the use of weapons. They were fought with bare hands or with glove-like leather wrappings. In the earliest Olympics, victory was declared when the losing combatant was disabled or dead.
The Pankration was an even more brutal combination of boxing and wrestling. Because there were no requirements based on weight or experience, some of the events were bloody and deadly encounters. They were very popular with the spectators and, several centuries later, may have been the origins of gladiator games in Rome.
The long jump, which was also called the broad jump, of the ancient Olympics was similar to today's event. As with many other skills, it is believed to have started as part of military training. Because of the mountainous terrain of Greece, soldiers were required to practice jumping over wide spaces between the rocks during combat.
The pentathlon, based on the Greek word for five, is still an important endurance competition in today's Olympics. The five events in the original games were running, jumping, wrestling, discus and javelin. Aristotle described it as "a body capable of enduring all efforts, either of the race or of bodily strength. This is why the athletes in the pentathlon are most beautiful."
In many ways, the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London will be similar to the original games of 27 centuries ago. As with the Hellenic theme, they will represent the best efforts of the young participants. Additionally, as it resulted in Ancient Greece, they will be greatly admired and honored by their compatriots.
Olympic and sports fan Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia and went to school with two Olympic medal winners, Kim Gallagher and David Wharton. Watching their skill and determination inspired him. You can follow Freddy on Twitter: @thefredsherman.
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