Despite the appearance of numerous late 18th century and early 19th century forerunners, the modern Olympic Games is most often considered to have officially begun in 1896 in Athens. The Games are one of the most spectacular and renowned of international events in contemporary times. Although not initially conceived of as a for-profit event, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), after 1972, saw corporate sponsorship, advertising partners, and television broadcasting rights as a major source of income for the organisational costs of running and appropriately sponsoring the Olympic Movement. Fortunately for the South African audience, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held in country whose time zone is similar to our own. If, however, you still can’t catch the action live, a DStv HD PVR decoder can be used to record your favourite events.
The founder of the IOC, Baron Pierre de Coubertin (in 1894), saw the Olympics as an opportunity for humanity to celebrate the ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity. The founder further saw the international nature of the event as an occasion to foster trans-national partnerships and international co-operation. As such, the Olympic Charter, a document which can be seen as the constitution which governs the Olympic Movement and its three main organisational bodies (the International Olympic Committee; National Olympic Committees; and International Olympic Sports Federations), describes the first two tenets of the Olympic Movement’s code of beliefs in the following terms:
1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
The official Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, and translates from Latin as “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. The implication of the motto is that humankind should always strive to better itself and its previous achievements. The central idea underpinning the ethos and spirit in which the athletes compete against one another is well described by the following excerpt from the Olympic Creed:
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.
As can be seen, the real honour to be found in the Games lies in the way in which an athlete competes, and not in the end results of the competition. Exceptional performance is, nonetheless, also honoured in the awarding of medals to the top performers of each sport and discipline. The hierarchy of the medal structure is well known: gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to first, second and third places respectively.
Since the first of the Modern Olympic Games held in Athens, the event has grown exponentially and currently includes 35 sports and 30 disciplines, in over 400 events. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing saw over 10 500 athletes participate in the various events.
At the 1921 Olympic Congress held at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, the committee decided that ice and winter sports (although hither to held during the Summer Games) should be expanded to include more events, and should therefore be held during a Winter Olympic Games. The first such event was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924, and was spread over 11 days.
Until 1992, the Winter Olympics were held in the same year as the Summer Games; however, the IOC took the decision in 1992 to schedule the Winter Olympics in the third year of the Olympiad (the four year period between Games). In other words, if the Summer Games are held in the first year of the Olympiad, and the Winter Olympics in the third, there are only two years per Olympiad period that do not have scheduled events. It was thus that the Winter Olympics were held in 1992 as well as in 1994.
If you are lucky enough to attend an Olympic Games, make sure to bring along a good quality camera, and perhaps check out the current laptop deals so that you can upload high quality images to a blog or networking site on a daily basis.