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History of the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games were first recorded in 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece, and were developed around a Greek philosophy stressing the importance of competition and excelling in all aspects of one's life. In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were held once every four years and grew from a single foot race, which was the only event in the first fourteen Olympic Games, to include events such as wrestling, long-distance running, and chariot racing. Aside from fostering a competitive spirit among its participants, all of whom were men, the Olympic Games were also held as part of religious ceremonies honoring numerous Greek gods and heroes. However, the importance of the Games gradually declined with the rise of the Roman Empire in Greece. Shortly after recognizing Christianity as the religion of the Empire, the Roman government discontinued the Games in 393 A.D. on the grounds that they represented a pagan festival.

Following the creation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, the Olympic Games were revived in 1896, and while the ancient Olympic Games were competitions solely between Greek men, the modern Olympic Games were established with the goal of promoting a spirit of international friendship among the nations of the world through athletic competition. To achieve this goal, the IOC encouraged international participation of athletes, both men and women, from around the world. In 1920, the concept of unity among nations was symbolized with the introduction of the Olympic flag: a design consisting of five interlocking rings, each of a different color, set against a white background. The five rings represent the countries from five of the seven continents that originally participated in the Games, with North and South America being represented by a single ring. In 1924, the Winter Olympic Games became part of the modern Games due to the popularity of winter sports such as ice skating, ice hockey, and skiing. Both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games are held every four years. Since 1992, however, they no longer occur during the same calendar year.

Olympic Mascots

There are numerous symbols associated with promoting the spirit of the Olympic Games: the Olympic flag, the Olympic hymn, the Olympic flame, and perhaps most importantly, the Olympic mascot. Since 1968, Olympic Mascots have served as an important symbol for creating a festive atmosphere for the Games and conveying the Olympic spirit to the general public, especially children and youth. Most Olympic mascots are represented by animals considered to be important to the country and city hosting the Games. Whatever form they take, Olympic mascots are usually designed to showcase the distinctive geographical features, history, and culture unique to the host country. Since 1968, every Olympic Games, with the exception of the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, has had a mascot.

1968 Summer Olympics: Mexico City, Mexico
A red jaguar

1968 Winter Olympics: Grenoble, France
Schuss—a little man on skis

1972 Summer Olympics: Munich, Germany
Waldi the dachshund dog

1976 Summer Olympics: Montreal, Quebec (Canada)
Amik the beaver

1976 Winter Olympics: Innsbruck, Austria
Schneemann the snowman

1980 Summer Olympics: Moscow, Russia
Misha the bear cub

1980 Winter Olympics: Lake Placid, New York (USA)
Roni the raccoon

1984 Summer Olympics: Los Angeles, California (USA)
Sam the eagle

1984 Winter Olympics: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Vuchko the wolf cub

1988 Summer Olympics: Seoul, South Korea
Hodori and Hosuni the tigers

1988 Winter Olympics: Calgary, Alberta (Canada)
Howdy and Hidy the polar bears

1992 Summer Olympics: Barcelona, Spain
Cobi the sheepdog

1992 Winter Olympics: Albertville, France
Magique the snow imp

1994 Winter Olympics: Lillehammer, Norway
Haakon and Kristin, two Norwegian children

1996 Summer Olympics: Atlanta, Georgia (USA)
Izzy, an abstract figure who lived in the world within the Olympic flame

1998 Winter Olympics: Nagano, Japan
Sukki, Nokki, Lekki, and Tsukki—four owls representing each year between the Games

2000 Summer Olympics: Sydney, Australia
Olly the kookaburra; Syd the platypus; and Millie the echidna

2002 Winter Olympics: Salt Lake City, Utah (USA)
Powder the hare; Copper the coyote; and Coal the black bear

2004 Summer Olympics: Athens, Greece
Athena and Phevos, two Greek children

2006 Winter Olympics: Turin, Italy
Neve, a female ball of snow; and Gliz, a male block of ice

2008 Summer Olympics: Beijing, China
Beibei the fish; Jingjing the giant panda; Huanhuan the Olympic flame; Yingying the Tibetan antelope; and Nini the swallow. Together, all five of these figures are known as the "Fuwa".

Stadiums

The word "stadium" originates from the Greek word stadion, which refers to both the name of the building where the footrace of the ancient Olympic Games took place and to the footrace itself. Today, the word "stadium" refers to a building consisting of a field or stage that is surrounded by a structure designed to allow spectators to view outdoor events such as sporting events and concerts. Closely related to stadiums are "arenas", which follow a similar design pattern but are used for indoor events. While many modern stadiums are designed to accommodate only one sport, such as Turner Field in Atlanta, virtually all stadiums are multi-use in nature. For example, while Turner Field was designed specifically as a baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves, concerts and other outdoor events are occasionally held there as well. Similarly, the Georgia Dome, which functions primarily as a football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons, hosts a variety of other events including concerts and basketball tournaments. Beyond simply serving as the home to a particular sports team, many historians and city planners believe that by bringing people of different social backgrounds together to support their local sports teams, stadiums also play a significant role in enhancing civic pride among the citizens of a city or state.

Additional Reading

1996 Olympics (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
Olympic Mascots
Olympic Mascots


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