Friday, February 19, 2010

Symbols of the Olympics: Past and Present

The Olympics began in Greece around the year 776 BC. They have been around since ancient times and continue today in the modern world. There are several symbols in the Olympics that have unique significance. There were symbols in ancient times and now there are new, original symbols of the current games. The ancient games’ symbols were more based on religion and their gods and goddesses. Today, the games are based on more of unity and good sportsmanship.
The ancient Olympic Games in Greece were as much of as much of a religious festival as an athletic event. The games had a high emphasis on the Gods. The athletes who competed in the events believed that they were dedicating their efforts to the Gods. The games were held specifically for the main god of Greece, Zeus. The games were held at Olympia which was where the Gods were believed to reside. Throughout the games numerous religious ceremonies were held for the Gods. In the games that took place in the middle of the day, one hundred oxen would be sacrificed to Zeus (Wikipedia). Before the start of the games, every athlete had to say an oath that they would do their most excellent and respect the other countries and fighters. The ancient Greeks came up with the idea that the games should be divided in four year intervals. The time in between the games was known as the Olympiad.
One symbol involved in the Olympic Games was a massive statue of Zeus that was made of ivory and gold. It stood around forty two feet tall and was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The act of giving the winner an award also came from Greek mythology. It was said that three Greek gods, Herakles and his two brothers, raced around Olympus and the winner was giving an olive wreath (Wikipedia). During the Olympics, athletes from all the city states would come to Mt. Olympus to compete against each other in the games which fueled the games. Politics were also involved. Ancient Greece was very violent because all the city states would fiercely compete for the limited resources. The city states were in close proximity to one another and were almost in constant war. During the Olympics, the entire country would go into a truce where all the fighting would stop.
In the ancient and present Olympics, the Olympics represent unity amongst everyone. That is the main symbolic object that has held true. The ancient athletes sought to bring back publicity and honor to their city state, much like the athletes in today’s Olympics compete for fame and hope to bring honor to their home countries. In Greece, only Greek speaking men were allowed to participate in the games which made any man who fought in the Olympics a symbol of wealth and Greek culture. The athletes had to have their names written down on a list and make an oath to Zeus that he would train for ten months. The Olympics were a symbol of hard work for everyone who participated in them. The same concept is held accurate today. The Olympic Games have come a long way since those in ancient Greece, but some of the traditions and ceremonies left behind from them are still in effect today.
The Olympic symbols that are seen throughout the games today, are just as important of those in the past. The Olympic motto is “Citius—Altius—Fortius”. This means faster, higher, stronger (The Olympic Museum). The motto was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin, father of the Modern Olympics, in 1894 (Ross). The main symbol that is recognized all over the world are the Olympic rings. The rings are to symbolize the five different occupant continents with no solitary color for a certain country. North and South America are included as one. The interlocking rings also symbolize that the Olympic Games are universal and convey athletes from the entire world to compete (The Olympic Museum). Another symbol is the flag, “The Olympic flag places the Olympic rings on a white background. As every national flag in the world contains at least one of the flag's six colors (black, blue, green, red, yellow, white), this further symbolizes the universality of the Olympics.” (Ross). The Olympics Anthem is sung when the Olympic flag is being raised.
The Olympic flame is lit in front of the Temple of Hera symbolically connecting the Modern Olympics to the Ancient Olympics (Ross). Another famous symbol is the Olympic torch. The flame can only be lit by the sun’s rays (The Olympic Museum). The torch is carried from the Temple of Hera to the site of the Olympics by a relay of runners. The torch lights an Olympic cauldron which stays lit until the end of the Closing Ceremonies. After the cauldron is lit, doves are released to symbolize peace. In the winter Olympics white balloons are released instead of the doves, so that the birds do not expire in the winter weather. “The Olympic Oath is taken by one athlete and one judge from the home nation during the Opening Ceremony of every Olympics, acting on behalf of all the competitors and judges while holding a corner of the Olympic flag”. The Oath is to declare that the athletes are not taking drugs and will abide by the rules and be good sportsmen (Ross).
The values of excellence, friendship and respect are the foundation upon which the Olympics’ brings together sport, culture and education for the betterment of human beings. The value of excellence is to give ones best on the playing field and in life. It is not about winning but about participating, making progress in personal goals, and striving to do our best in our daily lives The value of friendship is to build a peaceful and better world thanks to sport through, solidarity, team spirit, joy and optimism. Consider the sport as a tool for understanding among the individual and peoples regardless of their differences. The value of respect is to respect oneself, one’s body, others, the environment, and the rules and regulations. In the sport respect fair play and fight against drugs or unethical behavior (The Olympic Museum).

Ross, Shmuel. "Modern Olympic Symbols and Traditions". infoplease. 2/18/10 .
"The Olympic Symbols". The Olympic Museum. 2/18/10 .
"Ancient Olympic Games -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 19 Feb. 2010. .

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