Sunday, June 10, 2012

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!

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