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The Olympic Games

Although earlier in his career he had been interested in sports as a way to improve the military preparedness of France, he eventually envisioned them as an instrument to overcome conflicts among nations.
Coubertin had begun developing his ideas for an international sports competition in the 1880s. In 1894 he invited delegates to come to Paris to discuss amateur sports at an international athletic congress. The conference hosted 78 delegates from nine countries. During the conference Coubertin used art and music with classical themes to influence the delegates. When he surprised them with a proposal to revive the Olympian Games of classical times, they voted unanimously to begin the modern cycle. Coubertin wanted the Olympic Games to feature both ancient and modern sports. The discus event, for instance, symbolized continuity with the past, because the ancient Greeks had practiced the sport. Bicycle races, on the other hand, which were a more recent sporting innovation, represented modernity. The marathon race was meant to commemorate the distance from the town of Marathon to Athens run by a Greek soldier in 490 BC to announce a Greek victory over the invading Persians, which was slightly less than the current marathon distance of 42.2 km . (The longest race of the ancient Olympics was about 1000 m) .

Instability in the Greek government threatened preparations for the 1896 Games, but Coubertin traveled to Athens and enlisted support from the Greek royal family to help organize the event.
The program for the 1896 Games, comprising only summer events (the Winter Olympics were not established until 1924), included about 300 athletes from fewer than 15 countries competing in 43 events in nine different sports. In contrast, the program 100 years later for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, included more than 10,000 athletes from more than 190 countries competing in 271 events in 29 different sports. † The Olympic Games have always included a number of ceremonies, many of which emphasize the themes of international friendship and peaceful cooperation. The opening ceremony has always included the parade of nations, in which the teams from each nation enter the main stadium as part of a procession. The Greek team always enters first, to commemorate the ancient origins of the modern Games, and the team of the host nation always enters last. The opening ceremony has evolved over the years into a complex extravaganza, with music and speeches. It is eagerly anticipated and well attended. The torch relay, in which the Olympic Flame symbolizes the transmission of Olympic ideals from ancient Greece to the modern world, was introduced as part of the opening ceremony at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin. In the relay the torch is lit in Olympia, Greece, and is carried over several weeks or months from there to the host city by a series of runners. After the last runner has lit the Olympic Flame in the main Olympic stadium, the host countryís head of state declares the Games officially open, and doves are released to symbolize the hope of world peace.

Two other important ceremonial innovations had appeared earlier at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium. The Olympic Flag, with its five interlocking rings of different colors against a white background, was flown for the first time. The five rings represent unity among the nations of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Another innovation occurring in 1920 was the first reciting of the Olympic Oath, taken in the name of all the athletes by a member of the hostís team. The oath asserts the athletesí commitment to the ideals of sportsmanship in competition.
Medal ceremonies are also an important part of the Games. After each individual event during the Games, medals are awarded in a ceremony to the first-, second-, and third-place finishers. The ceremony occurs after each event, when these competitors mount a podium to receive gold (actually gold-plated), silver (silver-plated), and bronze medals. While the national flags of all three competitors are hoisted, the national anthem of the winnerís country is played.

Spiritul olimpic, Eugen Cristea
Olimpiadele moderne, C.

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