Editorial Comment – Reach out for “Olympism”

“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the 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 Pierre de Coubertin – founder of the modern Olympic Games.

Olympism is a word foreign to most of us but familiar in its concept. You do not have to be an Olympic athlete to have Olympism. Olympism is about the pride in yourself gained through the glory of participation and the quest for achievement. The five ideals that should guide your life are embodied in the concept of Olympism: Vision, Focus, Commitment, Persistence and Discipline. Olympism is being the best you can be and gaining life’s tools to build self-confidence, self-esteem, personal effectiveness and the spirit of adventure.

We should reach out for Olympism. Embrace those ideals that Olympism represents. These ideals have lapsed from our consciousness and need revival. After over a century of the modern Olympic Games and the associated competition and sportsmanship the United States Olympic Academy is seeking to inspire all of us to accept these ideals.

Life can be difficult and the lessons of Olympism — Vision, Focus, Commitment, Persistence and Discipline — can help us overcome its obstacles. Sport can be a vehicle that instills the timeless values learned from participating and striving for a goal. Today’s youth needs strong values because the obstacles seem to be harder than in earlier times. The choices along the path of life today are many. Olympism can provide guidance and insight to young people to make the right choices with confidence. Olympism is the choice to participate and to make the best effort with the knowledge that you have given everything. We should encourage our young people to participate in life using the ideals learned through Olympism as a model. Whether in sports, music, academics we should instill the lesson that if you participate you win.

Did You Know?

The Olympic flag was conceived by Pierre de Coubertin. The flag consists of five colored interlocking rings on a white background. The rings are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. After more than a century the flag still maintains its symbolism.

At least one of the colors is found in all of the flags of the world. The Olympic symbol of the interlocking rings represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of the athletes of the world at the Olympic games.

Beginning in 776 B.C., the Olympic Games were held in the valley of Olympia in Greece every four years for almost 1200 years. Inspired by the ancient Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin created the modern Olympic Games.

First staged in 1896, they attracted about 245 athletes (all men) in 43 events. At the Sydney 2000 games, more than 10,000 athletes took part in 300 events. The Olympic Movement has survived wars, boycotts, and terrorism to become a symbol of the ability of the people of all nations to come together in peace and friendship.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions about the Ancient Olympic Games

  1. Where did the Olympic games come from?
  2. Why were they held at Olympia?
  3. Were there other contests like the Olympics?
  4. Who could compete in the Olympics?
  5. Were women allowed at the Olympics?
  6. How were the athletes trained?
  7. What prizes did Olympic victors get?
  8. Who were the Olympic judges?
  9. What was the penalty for cheating?
  10. Where did the marathon come from?

For further resources or information see www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/faq1.html

 

  1. Where did the Olympic games come from?There are many different stories about the beginning of the Olympics. One myth says that the guardians of the infant god Zeus held the first footrace, or that Zeus himself started the Games to celebrate his victory over his father Cronus for control of the world. Another tradition states that after the Greek hero Pelops won a chariot race against King Oenomaus to marry Oenomaus’ daughter Hippodamia, he established the Games.

    Athletic games also were an important part of many religious festivals from early on in ancient culture. In the Illiad, the famous warrior Achilles holds games as part of the funeral services for his best friend Patroclus. The events in them include a chariot race, a footrace, a discus match, boxing, and wrestling.

  2. Why were the Olympic games held at Olympia?Olympia was one of the oldest religious centers in the ancient Greek world. Since athletic contests were one way that the ancient Greeks honored their gods, it was logical to hold a recurring athletic competition at the site of a major temple.

    Also, Olympia is convenient geographically to reach by ship, which was a major concern for the Greeks. Athletes and spectators traveled from Greek colonies as far away as modern-day Spain, the Black Sea, or Egypt.

    An international truce among the Greeks was declared for the month before the Olympics to allow the athletes to reach Olympia safely. The judges had the authority to fine whole cities and ban their athletes from competition for breaking the truce.

  3. Were there other contests like the Olympics?There were three (3) other games which were held on 2 or 4 year cycles: the Isthmean Games at Corinth, the Pythian Games at Delphi, and the Nemean Games at Nemea. Because it started 200 years before the other competitions, the Olympics remained the most famous athletic contest in the ancient Greek world.

    Many athletes competed at several athletic festivals. Inscriptions on victors’ statues at Olympia often describe victories in 2, 3, or even all 4 major athletic festivals. Pausanias’ description of Olympian architecture includes a list of the more famous victors’ statues, and summaries of the inscriptions.

  4. Who could compete in the Olympics?The Olympics were open to any free-born Greek in the world. There were separate mens’ and boys’ divisions for the events. The Elean judges divided youths into the boys’ or mens’ divisions based as much on physical size and strength as age.
  5. Were women allowed at the Olympics?Not only were women not permitted to compete personally, married women were also barred from attending the games, under penalty of death. (Maidens were allowed to attend.)

    Pausanias tells the story of Callipateira, who broke this rule to see her son at the Games:

    She, being a widow, disguised herself exactly like a gymnastic trainer, and brought her son to compete at Olympia. Peisirodus, for so her son was called, was victorious, and Callipateira, as she was jumping over the enclosure in which they kept the trainers shut up, bared her person. So her sex was discovered, but they let her go unpunished out of respect for her father, her brothers and her son, all of whom had been victorious at Olympia. But a law was passed that for future trainers should strip before entering the arena. (Pausanias 5.6.8ff)

    Athletic competitions for women did exist in ancient Greece. The most famous was a maidens’ footrace held at Olympic Stadium in honor of the goddess, Hera. There were three (3) separate races for girls, teenagers, and young women.

    The length of their racecourse was shorter than the mens’ track; 5/6 of a stade (about 160 meters) instead of a full stade (about 192 meters). The winners received olive crowns just like Olympic victors.

  6. How were the athletes trained?Athletics were a key part of education in ancient Greece. Many Greeks believed that developing the body was equally important as improving the mind for overall health. Also, regular exercise was important in a society where men were always needed for military service. Plato’s Laws specifically mention how athletics improved military skills. Greek youth therefore worked out in the wrestling-school (palaestra) whether they were serious Olympic contenders or not.

    The palaestra (wrestling school) was one of the most popular places for Greek men of all ages to socialize. Many accounts of Greek daily life include scenes in these wrestling-schools, such as the opening of Plato’s Charmides.

  7. What prizes did Olympic victors get?A victor received a crown made from olive leaves, and was entitled to have a statue of himself set up at Olympia.

    Although he did not receive money at the Olympics, the victor was treated much like a modern sports celebrity by his home city. His success increased the fame and reputation of his community in the Greek world. It was common for victors to receive benefits such as having all their meals at public expense or front-row seats at the theater and other public festivals. One city even built a private gym for their Olympic wrestling champion to exercise in

  8. Who were the Olympic judges?Unlike the modern Olympics, judges did not come from all over the Greek world, but were drawn from Elis, the local region which included Olympia. The number of judges increased to 10 as more events were added to the Olympics.

    Even though the judges were all Eleans, local Elean Greeks were still allowed to compete in the Olympics. The Elean people had such a reputation for fairness that an Elean cheating at the Games was a shock to other Greeks.

  9. What was the penalty for cheating?Anyone who violated the rules was fined by the judges. The money was used to set up statues of Zeus, the patron god of the Games of Olympia. It was the custom for athletes, their fathers and their brothers, as well as their trainers, to swear an oath, upon slices of boar’s flesh that in nothing will they sin against the Olympic games. The athletes take this further oath also, that for ten successive months they have strictly followed the regulations for training. An oath is also taken by those who examine the boys, or the foals entering for races, that they will decide fairly and without taking bribes, and that they will keep secret what they learn about a candidate, whether accepted or not. (Pausanias 5.24.9ff)
  10. Where did the marathon come from?

The marathon was never one of the ancient Olympic events, although its origin dates back to another episode in ancient Greek history.

In the 5th century B.C., the Persians invaded Greece, landing at Marathon, a small town about 26 miles from the city of Athens. The Athenian army was seriously outnumbered by the Persian army, so the Athenians sent messengers to cities all over Greece asking for help.

The traditional origin of the marathon comes from the story how a herald named Phidippides ran the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory and died on the spot. Phidippides was sent by the Athenians to Sparta to ask for help. A man named Eukles announced the victory to the Athenians and then died. Later sources confused the story of Phidippides, also called Philippides, with that of Eukles. Although most ancient authors do not support this legend, the story has persisted and is the basis for the modern-day marathon.

Perseus Project at Tufts University

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu

The World Olympians Association Introduction

The World Olympians Asociation is an independent global organization representing Olympians. It was created following the Centennial Olympic Congress’ Congress of Unity in Paris in 1994. The WOA is formally recognized by the International Olympic Committee under Rule 4 of the Olympic Charter.

Upon his election as President of the WOA, Mr. Pal Schmitt expressed his goal to increase the number of members in order to achieve a universal representation of national associations of Olympic athletes in the WOA. It is his expressed desire to involve Olympians in Olympic activities in their own countries to educate young people, promote Ollympic ideals and strengthen the Olympic Movement. He believes that the WOA is becoming the fourth pillar of the Olympic Movement together with the other three: the International Olympic Committee ( IOC), the International Federations and the National Olympic Committee (NOC).

The officers of the WOA are:

Honorary President: Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, Spain

President: Mr. Pal Schmitt, Hungary

Vice Presidents: Dr. Elizabeth A.E. Ferris, Great Britain; Dr. William A. Toomey, United States

Secretary General: Dr. Liston D. Bochette, Puerto Rico

Executive Committee Members: Mr. Herb Elliot, Australia; Mr El Hadj, Amadou Dia BA, Senegal, and Mrs Irena Szewinska, Poland

The medium/long term objectives of the WOA, which the Executive Board is now pursuing, include the following:

Further growth in the membership with the ultimate goal being to include every country recognized by the IOC which has an Olympian living within its territory. The WOA has the names and brief information on every Olympian since 1896. Direct liaison with the National Association of Olympic Athletes (NAOA) to indicate both domestic and international activities in which Olympians may become involved. The WOA Executive Board has indicated its strong support for the involvement of Olympians worldwide in the IOC’s humanitarian and environment activities. The WOA is also active in supporting the IOC in its policy development regarding women in sport. The WOA has commenced discussions with the IOC and SOCOG with regard to the special interest of Olympians in connection with the celebration of a particular Games i.e. Olympians to be allowed to participate in the Torch Relay, have access (at normal cost) to tickets to their own event and to be included as volunteers as possible, etc. The IOC has initiated the concept of the Olympians Reunion Center in Atlanta – a great success that the WOA hopes to be able to promote in future Games.

The WOA hopes to be able to assist NAOAs in conjunction with NOCs in the development of Olympian affinity cards which may provide benefits to Olympians – hotels, travel etc. The WOA is currently working on a model to be used globally.

At its most recent meeting, the Executive Board resolved to work towards the globalization of the Olympic Job Opportunity Program which now operates in a small number of countries. The WOA feels that the program should include all Olympians – not only active elite competitors. This process will need to be developed via NOCs and the NAOAs.

Although the exact number of Olympians since 1896 is relatively clear, it is not clear as to the number of Olympians who are still alive. President Samaranch has sent letters to all Olympians via the NOCs – the only method of directly contacting the Olympians. This is apparently the first time that an IOC President has directly corresponded individually with all Olympians.

The IOC has guaranteed free admission to the Olympic Museum to all Olympians upon production of the IOC participants pin.

The WOA does not see itself as a bureaucracy to mirror the IOC but rather as a catalyst to stimulate involvement of Olympians in the activities of the Olympic Movement, particularly in the framework established by the IOC and the NOCs. Olympians are the greatest resource of the IOC and have an enormous potential contribution to make. As a group, they are the greatest role models in the world.

 

It is estimated that there are slightly more then 60,000 living Olympians around the world. To be an Olympian is one of the most significant achievements that any person can realize during his or her lifetime. Hopefully, the creation of the WOA and its respective members, the NAOAs, will retain and strengthen the involvement of Olympians around the world within the Olympic Movement.

The IOC may well regard the Olympians as its strongest arm in the quest to contribute to a more harmonious, peaceful, prosperous and enjoyable world.