Sunday, June 17, 2012

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games 1924 Paris

Paris became the first city to host the Olympics for a second time. These Games were originally planned to take place in Amsterdam, however, they were moved to Paris at the urging of Baron de Coubertin. He was about to retire and wanted to see them in his homeland one last time. Forty four countries sent 3,092 athletes (136 women, 2,956 men) to the 1924 Paris Olympics. The athletes were accommodated in an Olympic Village for the first time. Despite the country's financial problems and a major flood in the spring before the Olympics, the 1924 games were very successful. In fact, 1924 is often considered the beginning of a truly modern Olympic era. International sports became big during the 1920s, mainly because of Wimbledon and the French Open in tennis, the British and French Opens in golf, and major cycling events in Europe. Public interest was at a premium and over 1,000 journalists attended the events. Germany was still banned, but the other four nations banned in 1920 were allowed back. Ecuador, Haiti, Ireland, Lithuania, the Philippines, Mexico and Uruguay attended the Olympic Games for the first time. Latvia and Poland attended the Summer Olympic Games for the first time . The cost of the Games was estimated to be 10,000,000 ₣rancs. With total receipts at 5,496,610 ₣rancs, the Olympics resulted in a hefty loss despite crowds that reached 60,000 people at a time. The Olympic marathon distance was standardized to 26 miles and 385 yards.

The surprise winner of the games was Harold Abrahams of Great Britain in the 100-meter dash.

Eric Liddell, "The Flying Scotsman", was a committed Christian and would not consider running on a Sunday, so could not run in his favoured event the 100m. The only alternative was to run in the 400m. As Liddell went to his starting blocks, an American slipped a piece of paper into Liddell's hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, "Those who honour me I will honour." Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand. He not only won the race, but broke the existing world record with a time of 47.6 seconds. Eric ‘The Flying Scotsman, ‘ Liddel (UK) always ate roast beef before a race. The Scots champion also liked to dance about on his toes while training. He also believed in upper thigh massages to improve speed and how and no-one under the age of 20 should run further than a quarter of a mile at a time.

American William DeHart Hubbard became the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal; he triumphed in the long jump.

Tennis champion Richard (R) Norris Williams almost lost his legs as a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. Exposed to the freezing water doctors seriously contemplated amputating them. After 1924 tennis was withdrawn as an Olympic sport and only reinstituted in 1988.

American Johnny Weissmuller won three gold medals for swimming and a bronze with the water polo team.

At the 1924 Paris Games, the Olympic motto, 'Citius, Altius, Fortius', (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) was introduced, as was the Closing Ceremony ritual of raising three flags: the flag of the International Olympic Committee, the flag of the host nation and the flag of the next host nation. The Olympic motto is the hendiatris or figure of speech : Citius, Altius, Fortius , which is Latin for "Swifter, Higher, Stronger". (The Latin words are comparative adverbs, not adjectives.) The motto was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin on the creation of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. De Coubertin borrowed it from his friend Henri Didon, a Dominican priest who, amongst other things, was an athletics enthusiast. The motto was introduced in 1924 at the Olympic Games in Paris.

In 1924, France also hosted a "Winter Sports Festival" at Chamonix that was sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, over Coubertin's opposition. The festival retroactively became the first Winter Olympics.

Reviewed 19/02/2016

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 1920 Antwerp

Because of World War I there was no game held in 1916. Twenty nine (29) countries were represented at Antwerp, Belgium in 1920. Germany, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey were all excluded and the Societ Union chose not to attend. The VII Olympiad saw the introduction of the Olympic flag and the recitation of the Olympic oath. The ancient Games had opened with the taking of the oaths at the first official ceremony. The event took place in front a statue of Zeus Horkios (Zeus of the Oaths). A sacrifice was offered and the athletes swore that they had trained properly (for the prescribed 10 months) and that they would obey the rules of the Games. Interestingly, their trainers, and even father and brothers, would join them in similar oaths. Finally, the Hellanodikes (ancient judges/officials) swore to judge fairly and without bias. Baron de Cobertin was keen to adopt a similar cermeony of committment and took the sentiment of Ethelbert Talbot, Bishop of Pennsylvania who addressed the athletes at the 1908 London Olympic Games. He said:

"The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

Baron de Cobertin adopted this creed into an oath for the athletes to recite at each Olympic Games. During the opening ceremonies, one athlete recites the oath on behalf of all the athletes.

"In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

The Olympic oath was first taken during the 1920 Olympic Games by Belgian épée fencer Victor Boin. Now a judge from the host city recites the Olympic creed, which appears on the scoreboard during the Opening Ceremony. The 1920 Olympic Games were not well attended and plagued with bad weather.

French runner, Joseph Guillermot ran the 10,000m race just after he had eaten a large meal. On the finishing line he was sick over an opponent's shoes.

. At age 72, Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn earned a silver medal in the team double-shot running deer event to become the oldest medallist ever.

The winner of the silver medal for the1500m was Philip Noel-Baker (GB) who later went on to become the only Olympian to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games - The Olympic Flag

Pierre de Coubertin created the Olympic Flag circa 1913 from a doodle based on a five-rings symbol engraved on an altar-stone unearthed at Delphi. The five rings symbolize the five major regions of the world: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania committed to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition. The interconnection of the rings symbolizes the friendship to be gained from these international competitions. The rings, from left to right, are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The colours were chosen because at least one of them appeared on the flag of every country in the world. He presented the rings and flag in June 1914 in Paris at the Olympic Congress.

The First World War prevented the Games from being celebrated in 1916 in Berlin (Germany). It was not until 1920 in Antwerp (Belgium) that the flag and its five rings could be seen flying in an Olympic stadium. After the First World War (1914-18) Nationalism was very strong and the tension between certain countries high. The universality conveyed by the symbol and the flag aimed to encourage world unity. At the end of the Antwerp Games, the flag could not be found and a new Olympic flag had to be made for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.

As a result of the flag going missing at the end of the Antwerp Olympics, at the closing ceremony (or Antwerp Ceremony) the Olympic flag is passed from the mayor of next host city. The flag is taken and displayed at city hall for next four years until the Opening Ceremony of their Olympic Games. The 1924 flag continued to be used at the Summer Olympics until the Games of Seoul 1988 when it was retired.

The absence of the original flag remained a mystery for over seventy years. Then in 1977, at an Olympic Committee banquet, American, Haig "Hal" Prieste, a bronze medallist at the 1920 Olympics in platform diving, revealed, he climbed the flagpole and stole the Olympic flag at the suggestion of Duke Kahanamoku.

At a special ceremony at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Prieste, (now 103), returned the Olympic flag which is kept at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Olympic flags are now designed and created specifically for each games, which are flown over the host stadium and then retired. Because there is no specific flag for this purpose, the flags flown over the stadiums generally have subtle differences, including minor color variations, and, more noticeably, the presence (or lack) of white outlines around each ring. The Olympic symbol, flag and emblems are the exclusive property of the International Olympic Committee and cannot be used without the IOC’s authorisation. This symbol is among the most widely recognised symbols in the world.

Interesting site

The Olympic Museum

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 1912, Stockholm

The 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm were the fifth modern Games. Swedish organisers benefited from having the full four years to prepare and they learned a lot from previous mistakes. They ensured the Games were a stand-alone event and the schedule was shortened to two months. For the first time, competitors in the Games came from all five continents symbolized in the Olympic rings. The Stockholm Olympic Games were attended by 28 countries, comprising 2,500 athletes, of which 55 were women. The modern pentathlon was introduced at the instigation of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The event symbolically depicted a messenger fighting his way through enemy lines. This was the last Olympic Games where the gold medals made entirely out of gold. Today the Olympic medals are designed for each individual Olympic Games by the host city's organizing committee. Each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter. Gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5 percent silver, with the gold medal covered in six grams of gold. The Swedish hosts introduced the use of unofficial electronic timing devices (capable of registering to the tenth of a second) for track and swimming events. Public address systems helped organise athletes and allowed the crowds to follow events. Chalk was used instead of cord to outline the lanes for races in the main stadium. No boxing was held at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics because the sport was illegal in Sweden.

The hero of these games was Jim ‘Bright Path’ Thorpe, the half Sac-Fox Indian, half Irish athlete from Carlisle Indian School. He won Olympic gold medals for pentathlon and decathlon. Thorpe was the easy victor in both his chosen events, scoring twice as many points as his nearest pentathlon rival and breezing to the decathlon title. Legend has it that King Gustav V asked for an official visit to congratulate Thorpe, but the Indian claimed he was engaged in weight lifting and begged not to be disturbed. What he was lifting was tankards of Swedish beer. Gustav did meet Thorpe, finally, to present a bronze bust of himself for the decathlon win, and a jeweled Viking ship model for his pentathlon victory.

George S Patton, who would later become a famous U.S. general, competed in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics pentathlon, an event combining pistol shooting, swimming, fencing, cross country and steeplechase. Patton performed poorly in his best event, pistols, but shined in fencing, defeating the French army champion. 'Old Blood and Guts' finished fifth overall, the only non-Swede to make the top seven.

Hannes Kolehmainen, "the Flying Finn," won gold medals in the 5,000-m., 10,000-m., and cross-country events of 1912. A brother competed in the 10,000-m. and marathon. The marathon was won by K. K. McArthur, South Africa, ahead of Lewis Tewanima, one of Thorpe's Carlisle teammates. The race was marred by a fatality when Portugal's Lazaro collapsed after 19 mi. and died the next day. A Japanese marathon runner failed to complete the course when he stooped exhausted and joined a family on a picnic. He then fell asleep woke up, and realized it was too late to finish the race.

Surprise shot-put victor was Pat McDonald, a policeman who directed traffic at Times Square, well-known for stopping traffic to escort ladies across the street. The shot-put favorite, 2-time champion Ralph Rose, lost (legend has it) because the event was held in the morning and Rose's trainer had great difficulty getting him out of bed.

The Hawaii born, Duke Kahanamoku won an Olympic gold medal for the first time in the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games. "The Duke", as he was commonly known was a passionate surfer and promoted the sport around the world. He became the "Father of Australian Surfing". A Greco-Roman wrestling match lasted more than 11 hours. Although momentarily victorious, the winner was so exhausted by the end of the match that he was unable to compete in the championship and was forced to settle for a silver medal.

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 1908, London

These games were originally scheduled for Italy but after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906 the venue was changed to London. The event took 187 days to complete with more than 2,000 competitors in over 100 events. Countries competing for the first time included Iceland, New Zealand, and Turkey. The 1908 London Olympics saw the introduction of the first opening ceremony procession. The procession of athletes was led by the Greek team, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order (in the language of the hosting country), except for the last team which is always the team of the hosting country. The 1908 London Olympics was not without political intrigue when objections were made in regard the Irish and Finish teams wanting to display their national flags. These requests were refused but when the British Royal family made a request to extend the marathon start to Windsor Castle so that the royal children could witness the start and finish, it was granted. The distance from the Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium was 42,195 meters (or 26 miles and 385 yards). There was controversy in this event and Italian Dorando Pietri needed to be helped across the finish line of the marathon. He was initially declared the winner before later disqualified in favor of Johnny Hayes of the USA.

Complaints by the British concerning qualified US athletes had cheated in the 400-meter final heat. As four runners came into the final stretch, W.C. Robbins (U.S.) was first, followed by J.C. Carpenter (U.S.), with British Wyndham Halswelle coming in third, and followed by a fourth runner from the U.S. As Carpenter and Halswelle (second and third runners) swung out to pass Robbins, someone shouted "Foul!" Though Carpenter (the U.S. runner who had been in second) finished first, with Robbins (U.S.) in second, and Halswelle (U.K.) in third, the British officials accused Carpenter of blocking and elbowing Halswelle and voided the whole race. The race was ordered to be rerun, but since the American runners refused to redo the race, Halswelle ran the race all by himself to win the gold after he ran a solo 50.0. Motor Boating was an official sport at the 1908 Olympics.

Discus thrower, Martin Sheridan maintained sartorial eloquence throughout competition by wearing sock garters. Britain's recent refusal to give Ireland its independence caused Irish athletes to boycott the Games and caused contestants from the U.S to not dip the American flag to the British royalty during the opening ceremony (a tradition the U.S. continues to this day).

Joshua Milner (UK) won gold in the free rifle shooting competition. He had a most unorthodox shooting style and lay on his back with his knees drawn up and the rifle supported by his feet.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 1906, Athens

In 1906 there were games held in Athens which were called the 1906 Olympic Games or the Intercalated Games. These games were not awarded the title of Olympiad because they were held between the III and IV Olympiads. While medals were distributed to the participants during these games, the medals were not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). After the successful games of Athens 1896, the Greeks suggested they could organize the games every four years. Since they had the accommodations and had proven they could hold well-organized games, they received some support. However, Pierre de Coubertin, opposed this and preferred organizing the games in different countries to make the Olympic Movement more international.

The 1906 games were quite successful and short by comparison to the Olympiad. These Games were the first to have the Opening of the Games as a separate event. Athletes entered the stadium as national teams, marching behind their flags. The official opening of the games was done by King Georgios I.

The 1906 Intercalated Games was also the first to have an Olympic Village at the Zappeion. They also introduced the closing ceremony, and the raising of national flags for the victors.

Peter O'Connor of Ireland won gold in the hop, step and jump (triple jump) and silver in the long jump.

In protest at being put on the British team, O'Connor scaled the flagpole and hoisted the Irish flag (Erin Go Bragh), while the pole was guarded by Irish and American athletes and supporters.

Reviewed 12/02/2016

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 1904 St Louis, US

It took over five months to complete and was organised in conjunction with the World Fair held in St Louis. For the first time winners received gold medals, runners up silver and third placed, bronze medals. Fred Lorz ran past the finishing looking rather fresh and it was revealed the US athlete had stopped running because of exhaustion after nine miles (14.5 km). His manager gave him a lift in his car for the next eleven miles (17.7 km), after which it broke down. Lorz then continued on foot back to the Olympic stadium, where he broke the finishing line tape and was greeted as the winner of the race. Lorz was later disqualified and banned from competition for life. The decision was recanted and Fred went onto win several marathons, but never again in an Olympic event.

The man who finished fourth in the St Louis marathon was called Felix Carvajal (Cuba). He was not an official representative of the country but had hitchhiked 700 miles to get to the race. Felix was postman from Cuba and paid to enter the marathon after collected enough cash by giving running demonstrations around Havana town square. On his way to St Louis he lost the money playing dice and had to beg the rest of the way. Carvajal ran in dress shoes and during the race stopped to practice his English. To amuse spectators he would run backwards as he chatted and joked. Sadly the amazing Felix Carvajal did not complete the race and collapsed suffering severe gastric pain due to diet of stolen green apples and peaches.

One of the most remarkable athletes was the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made out of wood. He lost his left leg as a child in a train accident.

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games 1900 Paris

The 1900 Olympics ran in conjunction with the Paris Universal Exposition and there were no opening or closing ceremonies. Over a thousand competitors took part in 19 different sports (Archery, Cricket, Croquet, Golf, Polo, Rugby and Rowing were added). The decision to hold competitions on a Sunday brought protests from many American athletes, who travelled as representatives of their colleges and were expected to withdraw rather than compete on the Sabbath. Twelve women took part in the games for the first time and Charlotte Cooper (tennis) became the first female Olympic champion. Instead of gold medals the winners received paintings because the French believed they were more valuable. The Second Olympiad took 5 months to complete.

Women’s golf was an Olympic Event for the first and last time. The French lady golfers handicapped themselves by wearing tight fitting skirts and high heels.

The American Tug of War team wanted to compete wearing spikes but other teams objected so they competed barefoot.

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games 1896 Athens

Baron Pierre de Coubertin was a Frenchman who establishment of the modern Olympic Games. The first modern Olympic Games were held in the home country of the Ancient Olympics, Greece in 1896. Only thirteen countries competed in these first games and nine sports featured on the program. These were: athletics, cycling (road and track), fencing, artistic gymnastics, and lawn tennis, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and Greco-Roman wrestling. The first prize was a silver medal and an olive branch. Second place got a bronze and third place got nothing. The first final event was the hop, skip, and jump (later became the Standing Triple Jump) and was won by James B. Connolly (United States) who became the first Olympic champion of the modern Olympic Games. The first marathon was 25 miles or 40km (approximately the same length Pheidippides [409 BCE]) and a French runner insisted in running in gloves because he was competing before royalty. Spyridon 'Spryros' Louis won it in 2hr 58min, nearly eight minutes ahead of the second placed runner. No women competed in 1896, because de Coubertin felt that to include them would be "impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect." The Athens 1896 Olympics was over in 8 days.

The Olympic Hymn was a choral cantata composed by opera composer Spyros Samaras with words added by Kostis Palamas. It was first performed at the ceremony of the 1896 Athens Olympic Games. The Olympic Hymn was only declared the official anthem by the IOC until 1958. It is played when the Olympic Flag was raised. In the following years every hosting nation has commissioned various musicians the composition of a specific Olympic hymn for their own edition of the games. This happened up to the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome but now each host nation performs the Olympic Hymn in their own language. The Olympic Anthem, is played when the Olympic Flag is raised.

Immortal spirit of antiquity
Father of the true, beautiful and good
Descend, appear, shed over us thy light
Upon this ground and under this sky
Which has first witnessed thy unperishable fame
Give life and animation to these noble games!

Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors
In the race and in the strife
Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!
In thy light, plains, mountains and seas
Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple
To which all nations throng to adore thee
Oh immortal spirit of antiquity!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Olympics: Wenlock Olympian Society:The inspiration for the Modern Games

The inspiration for the modern Olympic movement came from the inhabitants of small Shropshire village called, (Much) Wenlock. Dr. William Penny Brookes started the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850. The purpose of which was to promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighborhood of Wenlock. The focus was specifically to encourage the working classes to participate in out-door recreation, and recognize skill in athletic exercise and proficiency in intellectual and industrial attainments by the award of prizes.

The Wenlock Olympian Games was a four-day event held annually in the town during the second weekend in July. The first games were a mixture of athletics and traditional country sports such as quoits, football and cricket. Also were included running, hurdles, football and cycling on penny farthings. Some of the early games included "fun events" as the blindfolded wheelbarrow race. Dr William Penny Brookes was also instrumental in setting up the Shropshire Games in 1861 and five years later, the National Olympian Games. In 1865, Penny-Brookes, along with a Mr Hulley from Liverpool and a German, Herr Ravenstein, developed the idea further, founding the National Olympian Association. This body organised a festival of athletics at Crystal Palace in South London.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin was invited to visit the Olympian Society in 1890, which held a special festival in his honour. He and Penny Brookes met in a local hotel and the former was so inspired he went on to establish the International Olympic Committee. Dr Brookes is credited as a founding father of the Modern Olympic Games. In 1859 the Wenlock Olympian Society sent £10 to Athens as a prize for the best runner in the longest race at the first Olympic Games.

The Wenlock Prize, the largest prize on offer was won by Petros Velissarios of Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire.

In 1994 the president of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, laid a wreath of the grave of Dr. Penny Brooke and acknowledged him as the 'real' founder of the Modern Olympic Games.

One of two mascots for the London 2012 Summer Olympics has been named Wenlock in honour of the Wenlock Olympian Games.

Reviewed 6/02/2016

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Olympics: The Kynodesme

In Ancient Greece athletes competed naked both as a mark of honor and general appreciation of the body beautiful. Modern athletes are no different albeit today’s’ decency codes determine more clothing is worn but no less revealing.

In antiquity the Greek code of genital etiquette determined a visible glans penis in an uncircumcised man was considered indecent within the arena. The sight of which was taken as evidence of sexual arousal. To prevent a penis from detracting from performance the naked athletes wore a kynodesme (or dog tie) from circa 5th century BCE. The kynodesme was a thin leather strip tied tightly round the prepuce (i.e. the foreskin that protrudes beyond the glans) then attached to a waist band. The raised member exposed the scrotum which to the Ancient Greeks was considered pleasing to the eye. The thong also restrained the penis during running and was often tied in bow.

The restraint stretched the foreskin causing it to elongate and tapered the prepuce which became a fashionable look for young athletes. Depictions of attractive, virtuous, heroic, or divine subjects frequently featured a prepuce up to three-quarters the entire length of the penis. The longer prepuce served as an object of erotic interest and as a signifier of the sexually attractive male. Vase paintings and statues frequently portray nude athletes wearing the kynodesme.

The penis restraint became a general convention used by men to preserve their dignity when nude in public. The Greek code of genital etiquette placed circumcised Jews at an embarrassing disadvantage in the public baths, wrestling matches, and competitive games.