The Day The Olympic Games Were Shut Down For Religious Reasons
In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were held every four years in tribute to the Greek god, Zeus. These Games actually began in the year 776 B.C. and continued to be held for more than a thousand years. They were “male participants only” affairs–women were not allowed to compete, or to even watch the competition. These competitions were considered to be so critically important that when the games were held, trade was suspended and wars were postponed. Even after the Romans conquered Greece, the games continued.
But in the year 394 A.D. the Roman emperor, Theodosius, put a stop to the games. Why? After converting to Christianity a decade earlier, Theodosius had become a religious zealot totally determined to stamp out all pagan worship. He considered the games to be a scandalous glorification of the ancient Greek gods. So he ended them for all time–or so he thought.
For the next fifteen hundred years, the Olympics were but a distant memory. But in the year 1892, a twenty-seven-year-old French baron named Pierre de Coubertin proposed reviving the Olympic ideal. The initial response from athletic officials was nothing but a big yawn. They simply were not interested in any way. But Coubertin’s single-minded devotion eventually carried the day. So it was that in 1896 the modern Olympics were reborn and, after a span of more than a millennium, once again brought the world together in sport.
One of Coubertin’s underlying motives in launching the Olympic movement was to improve the physical fitness of the French people, so that his countrymen would be better prepared in the event of war with Germany. (which by the way actually happened a little more than a decade later.)
Coubertin also considered sports to be a great source of moral energy, and believed it to be right and proper for all of his countrymen to benefit therefrom.
The first modern Olympiad–in Athens, Greece–featured just 311 athletes from thirteen different nations, a far cry from the ten thousand that gather at the Olympics today. All of the athletes at those first games were men: just as in ancient times, women were not allowed to compete. (That policy changed with the next Olympics.) The United States led all nations at that first Olympic Games, winning eleven gold medals.
And now you know a little more about something that you did not previously know.
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