Olympic games

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


Between 1896 and 2004, Jews won 306 medals (137 gold, 79 silver, 90 bronze) in Olympic competition. (See Table: Jewish Olympic Medal Winners.) In addition, Alfred Hajos (Guttmann) of Hungary, a winner of Olympic swimming medals, was awarded a silver medal in architecture in 1924, and Ferenc Mezo (1885–1961) of Hungary received a 1928 gold medal in literature. As the official historian of the Olympic Games, Mezo wrote numerous articles and books on the subject. He served as a member of the International Olympic Committee and president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee.

[Jesse Harold Silver]

Alfred Flatow, Germany, gymnastics3
Felix Schmal, Austria, cycling.1
Felix Flatow, Germany, gymnastics2
Alfred Hajos-Guttmann, Hungary, swimming2
Dr. Paul Neumann, Austria, swimming1
Alfred Flatow, Germany, gymnastics1
Felix Schmal, Austria, cycling.2
Otto Herschmann, Austria, swimming1
Myer Prinstein, USA, track1
Myer Prinstein, USA, track1
Otto Wahle, Austria, swimming2
Edouard Alphonse de Rothschild, France, polo1
Siegfried Flesch, Austria, fencing1
Myer Prinstein, USA, track2
Samuel Berger, USA, boxing1
Daniel Frank, USA, track1
Otto Wahle, Austria, swimming1
Dr. Jeno Fuchs, Hungary, fencing2
Dr. Oszkar Gerde, Hungary, fencing1
Lajos Werkner, Hungary, fencing1
Alexandre Lippmann, France, fencing1
Richard Weisz, Hungary, wrestling1
Jean Stern, France, fencing1
Alexander Lippmann, France, fencing1
Harald Bohr, Denmark, soccer1
Edgar Seligman, Great Britain, fencing1
Odon Bodor, Hungary, track1
Otto Scheff, Austria, swimming1
Clair S. Jacobs, USA, track1
Dr. Jeno Fuchs, Hungary, fencing2
Dr. Oszkar Gerde, Hungary, fencing1
Lajos Werkner, Hungary, fencing1
Gaston Salmon, Belgium, fencing1
Jacques Ochs, Belgium, fencing1
Edgar Seligman, Great Britain, fencing1
Dr. Otto Herschmann, Austria, fencing1
Abel Kiviat, USA, track1
Alvah T. Meyer, USA, track1
Ivan Osiier, Denmark, fencing1
Imre Gellert, Hungary, gymnastics1
Josephine Sticker, Austria, swimming1
Mor Kovacs (Koczan), Hungary, track1
Samuel Mosberg, USA, boxing1
Alexandre Lippmann, France, fencing1
Samuel Gerson, USA, wrestling1
Gerard Blitz, Belgium, waterpolo1
Maurice Blitz, Belgium, waterpolo1
Fred Meyer, USA, wrestling1
Montgomery "Moe" Herzowitch, Canada, boxing1
Gerard Blitz, Belgium, swimming1
Alexandre Lippmann, France, fencing1
Harold Abrahams, Great Britain, track1
Elias Katz, Finland, track1
Alexandre Lippmann, France, fencing1
Louis A. Clarke, USA, track1
Jackie Fields, USA, boxing1
Janos Garai, Hungary, fencing1
Harold Abrahams, Great Britain, track1
Elias Katz, Finland, track1
Gerard Blitz, Belgium, waterpolo1
Maurice Blitz, Belgium, waterpolo1
Alfred Hajos-Guttmann, Hungary, architecture1
Baron H.L. De Morpurgo, Italy, tennis1
Janos Garai, Hungary, fencing1
Sydney Jelinek, USA, crew1
Fanny Rosenfeld, Canada, track1
Attila Petschauer, Hungary, fencing1
Hans Haas, Austria, weightlifting1
Dr. Sandor Gombos, Hungary, fencing1
Janos Garai, Hungary, fencing1
Dr. Ferenc Mezo, Hungary, literature1
Fanny Rosenfeld, Canada, track1
Attila Petschauer, Hungary, fencing1
Lillian Copeland, USA, track1
Fritzie Burger, Austria, figure skating1
Ellis R. Smouha, Great Britain, track1
Harry Devine, USA, boxing1
Harry Isaacs, South Africa, boxing1
S. Rabin, Great Britain, wrestling1
Attila Petschauer, Hungary, fencing1
Endre Kabos, Hungary, fencing1
Gyorgy Brody, Hungary, waterpolo1
Miklos Skarnay, Hungary, water polo.2
Irving Jaffee, USA, speed-skating2
Lillian Copeland, USA, track1
George Gulack, USA, gymnastics1
Hans Haas, Austria, weightlifting1
Abraham Kurland, Denmark, wrestling1
Dr. Philip Erenberg, USA, gymnastics1
Fritzie Burger, Austria, figure skating1
Rudolf Ball, Germany, ice hockey1
Endre Kabos, Hungary, fencing1
Nikolaus Hirschl, Austria, wrestling1
Nathan Bor, USA, Boxing1
Albert Schwartz, USA, swimming1
Jadwiga Wajsowna (Weiss), Poland, track1
Gyorgy Brody, Hungary, water polo1
Miklos Skarnay, Hungary, water polo.2
Endre Kabos, Hungary, fencing2
Samuel Balter, USA, basketball1
Irving Meretsky, Canada, basketball1
Helene Mayer, Germany, fencing1
Jadwiga Wajsowna (Weiss), Poland, track1
Gerard Blitz, Belgium, waterpolo1
Frank Spellman, USA, weightlifting1
Henry Wittenberg, USA, wrestling1
Agnes Keleti, Hungary, gymnastics1
Dr. Steve Seymour, USA, track1
James Fuchs, USA, track1
Norman C. Armitage, USA, fencing1
Maria Gorokhovskaya, USSR, gymnastics1
Boris Gurevich, USSR, wrestling1
Mikhail Perelman, USSR, gymnastics1
Agnes Keleti, Hungary, gymnastics1
Judit Temes, Hungary, swimming1
Eva Szekely, Hungary, swimming1
Claude Netter, France, fencing1
Dr. Gyorgy Karpati, Hungary, waterpolo1
Sandor Geller, Hungary, soccer1
Grigori Novak, USSR, weightlifting1
Agnes Keleti, Hungary, gymnastics1
Maria Gorokhovskaya, USSR, gymnastics1
Henry Wittenberg, USA, wrestling1
Lev Vainshtein, USSR, shooting1
Agnes Keleti, Hungary, gymnastics2
Judit Temes, Hungary, swimming1
James Fuchs, USA, track1
Alice Kertesz, Hungary, gymnastics1
Leon Rottman, Romania, canoeing1
Laszlo Fabian, Hungary, canoeing1
Isaac Berger, USA, weightlifting1
Agnes Keleti, Hungary, gymnastics4
Dr. Gyorgy Karpati, Hungary, waterpolo1
Boris Gurevich, USSR, wrestling1
Mark Midler, USSR, fencing1
Allan Jay, Great Britain, fencing2
Vladimir Portnoi, USSR, gymnastics1
Isaac Berger, USA, weightlifting1
Boris Goikhman, USSR, waterpolo1
Ildiko Uslaky-Rejto, Hungary, fencing1
Klara Fried, Hungary, canoeing1
Moses Blass, Brazil, basketball1
Albert Axelrod, USA, fencing1
Vladimir Portnoi, USSR, gymnastics1
David Segal, Great Britain, track1
Robert Halperin, USA, yachting1
Rafael Grach, USSR, speed-skating1
Leon Rottman, Romania, canoeing1
Imre Farkas, Hungary, canoeing1
Dr. Gyorgy Karpati, Hungary, waterpolo1
Lawrence Brown, USA, basketball1
Gerald Ashworth, USA, track1
Grigory Kriss, USSR, fencing1
Mark Rakita, USSR, fencing1
Dr. Gyorgy Karpati, Hungary, waterpolo1
Tamas Gabor, Hungary, fencing1
Mark Midler, USSR, fencing1
Arpad Orban, Hungary, soccer1
Ildiko Uslaky-Rejto, Hungary, fencing2
Irena Kirszenstein, Poland, track1
Yakov Rylsky, USSR, fencing1
Irena Kirszenstein, Poland, track2
Alain Calmat, France, figure skating1
Marilyn Ramenofsky, USA, swimming1
Isaac Berger, USA, weightlifting1
Vivian Joseph, USA, figure skating1
Ronald Joseph, USA, figure skating1
James Bregman, USA, judo1
Yves Dreyfus, France, fencing1
Irena Kirszenstein-Szewinska, Poland, track1
Mark Spitz, USA, swimming2
Victor Zinger, USSR, ice hockey1
Boris Gurevich, USSR, wrestling1
Valentin Mankin, USSR, yachting1
Mark Rakita, USSR, fencing1
Eduard Vinokurov, USSR, fencing1
Mark Spitz, USA, swimming1
Mark Rakita, USSR, fencing1
Grigory Kriss, USSR, fencing2
Josef Vitebsky, USSR, fencing1
Semyon Belits-Geiman, USSR, swimming1
Ildiko Uslaky-Rejto, Hungary, fencing1
Ildiko Uslaky-Rejto, Hungary, fencing1
Mark Spitz, USA, swimming1
Semyon Belits-Gieman, USSR, swimming1
Naum Prokupets, USSR, canoeing1
Ildiko Uslaky-Rejto, Hungary, fencing1
Mark Spitz, USA, swimming7
Valentin Mankin, USSR, yachting1
Faina Melnik, USSR, track1
Neal Shapiro, USA, equestrianism1
Ildiko Sagine-Rejto, Hungary, fencing1
Mark Rakita, USSR, fencing1
Eduoard Vinokurov, USSR, fencing1
Andrea Gyarmati, Hungary, swimming1
Neal Shapiro, USA, equestrianism1
Grigory Kriss, USSR, fencing1
Andrea Gyarmati, Hungary, swimming1
Irena Kirszenstein-Szewinska, Poland, track1
Donald Cohan, USA, yachting1
Peter Asch, USA, water polo1
Irena Szewinska, Poland, track1
Ernest Grunfeld, USA, basketball1
Eduard Vinokurov, USSR, fencing1
Yuriy Liapkin, USSR, ice hockey1
Valentin Mankin, USSR, yachting1
Wendy Weinberg, USA, swimming1
Victor Zilberman, Romania, boxing1
Edith Master, USA, equestrianism1
Ildiko Sagine-Rejto, Hungary, fencing1
Valentin Mankin, USSR, yachting1
Svyetlana Krachevskya, USSR, track and field1
Johan Harmenberg, Sweden, fencing1
Mitch Gaylord, USA, gymnastics11
Carina Benninga, Netherlands, field hockey1
Dara Torres, USA, swimming1
Robert Berland, USA, judo1
Mitch Gaylord, USA, gymnastics1
Bernard Rajzman, Brazil, volleyball1
Mitch Gaylord, USA, gymnastics2
Mark Berger, Canada, judo1
Dara Torres, USA, swimming1
Brad Gilbert, USA, tennis1
Carina Benninga, Netherlands, field hockey1
Seth Bauer, USA, rowing1
Joseph Jacobi, USA, canoeing1
Dara Torres, USA, swimming1
Valeri Belenki, Unified Team, gymnastics1
Yael Arad, Israel, judo1
Arbital Selinger, Netherlands, volleyball1
Shay Oren Smadga, Israel, judo1
Valeri Belenki, Uni.ed Team, gymnastics1
Dan Greenbaum, USA, volleyball1
Sergei Sharikov, Russia, fencing1
Kerri Strug, USA, gymnastics1
Sergei Sharikov, Russia, fencing1
Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, France, canoe1
Gal Fridman, Israel, sailing1
Maria Mazina, Russia, fencing1
Anthony Ervin, Hungary, gymnastics1
Lenny Krayzelburg, USA, swimming3
Dara Torres, USA, swimming2
Sergei Sharikov, Russia, fencing1
Maria Mazina, Russia, fencing2
Adriana Behar, Brazil, beach volleyball1
Anthony Ervin, USA, swimming1
Scott Goldblatt, USA, swimming1
Jason Lezak, USA, swimming1
Yulia Raskina, Belarus, rhythmic gymnastics1
Sara Whalen, USA, soccer1
Dara Torres, USA, swimming3
Robert Dover, USA, equestrian1
Michael Kalganov, Israel, canoe/kayak1
Gal Fridman, Israel, sailing,1
Lenny Krayzelburg, USA, swimming1
Jason Lezak, USA, swimming2
Scott Goldblatt, USA, swimming1
Nicolas Massu, Chile, tennis2
Gavin Fingleson, Australia, baseball1
Arik Ze'evi, Israel, judo1
Deena Kastor, USA, athletics1
Robert Dover, USA, riding1
Sada Jacobson, USA, fencing1
Jason Lezak, USA, swimming1
Sarah Poewe, Germany, swimming1
Sergei Sharikov, Russia, fencing1
views updated

Olympic Games


The Olympic Games are an international sporting event held quadrennially in different venues. The date of inception remains a point of conjecture among historians, but it is generally accepted that the Olympic Games found their genesis in Olympia, Greece, in 776 BCE and survived in attenuated form until 393 BCE. Inspired by the ancient Greek festival, the modern Olympic Games were revived in 1896 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French nobleman who envisaged that the Games would foster a religion of patriotism by directing the new power of national identity into constructive and peaceful channels. Initially, only amateur athletes were permitted to compete in the Olympics; professional athletes were not allowed to compete until the 1970s when the amateurism requirements were extracted from the Olympic Charter. The revival of the Olympic Games was held in Athens, Greece. The Games attracted a relatively small competitive field, with about 240 athletes competing in 43 events.

In the early years of the twentieth century, the International Olympic Committee encountered an array of difficulties with the hosting of the Games. The subsequent two celebrations that followed the Athens Games failed to command popular support, partly because they were crossed with, and effectively eclipsed by, the Worlds Fair Exhibitions in Paris (1900) and Saint Louis (1904). The 1908 Games, though originally awarded to Rome, were held in London. The majority of the competing countries selected national teams to participate in the London Games, and the athletes were paraded by nation at the opening ceremony. The Olympic Games had institutionalized the nation in international athletics. After the 1912 Olympic Games, held in Stockholm, the Olympic movement entered a period of upheaval. De Coubertin may have seen the Olympics as an agent of international peace in a world moving inexorably toward war, but the ideal of the Olympics as an event that could prevent war proved ill-founded. The Games scheduled for Berlin in 1916 were abandoned because of World War I, and two other Olympiads passed without Games in 1940 and 1944 as a result of World War II.

In the aftermath of World War I, the 1920 Games were awarded to Antwerp as a mark of respect for the Belgian people after the anguish that had been inflicted on them during the war. The 1920 opening ceremony was notable for the introduction of the Olympic flag, the release of doves as a symbol of peace, and the presentation of the athletes oath. The introduction of the flag, representing the unity of the five continents, and the symbolic release of doves also reflected the idyllic vision of the Olympic movement as standing for international peace and unity.

However, it was also in the interwar period that Olympic sport became symbolic of national struggle, with participants as representatives of their national groups. Throughout the twentieth century, John MacAloon argues, a nascent athletic nationalism was already undermining the Olympic ideal (1981, pp. 258259). A notable instance of this was Adolf Hitlers use of the 1936 Olympic Games to enhance his control over the German populace and legitimize Nazi culture. The opening ceremony designed for those games was a shrewdly propagandistic and brilliantly conceived charade that reinforced and mobilized the hysterical patriotism of the German masses. The Berlin Games have also become closely associated in the popular imagination with the African American athlete Jesse Owens. Against a background of Nazi efforts to manipulate the Games to demonstrate the racial and athletic superiority of the Aryan race, Owens won four gold medals at the first Olympic Games to be broadcast on a form of television. The Berlin Games demonstrated how the hosting of the Olympic Games could be manipulated to provide a benign and uncritical backdrop for the parade of national identity.

Another political incident involving African American athletes occurred at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Two African American track-and-field athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, bowed their heads and raised a black-gloved power salute on the victory podium during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. USA Olympics officials asserted that the athletes should not have used the Games as a platform to air their political grievances, and the two athletes were immediately suspended from the U.S. team and banned from the Olympic Village. Politics was also to cast its shadow over the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September. The terrorists killed eleven Israeli athletes and one German police officer in an event that is conventionally referred to as the Munich Massacre.

The 1980 Olympics in Moscow were arguably the most political in the history of the Games and reflected the extremes of nationalism that had emerged as a result of the renewed cold war struggle. In 1980 the United States and sixty-four other Western nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics that year because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott reduced the number of nations participating to only eighty, including only sixteen Western nationsthe lowest number of nations to compete since 1956. The Soviet Union and fourteen Eastern bloc countries (Romania was the exception) retaliated by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

In the Olympic arena, encircled by flags of various nations, the political symbolism of sport is most evident. Young nations make use of the nationalist symbolism of sport to gain recognition on the world stage; established nations do so to demonstrate their strength and prowess. The media make use of sport to construct a battle among nations, giving individuals a public spectacle at which they can cheer on their compatriots. The central role of the Olympics as a forum where new nations can gain acceptance is also clear from the number of nations taking part. In Antwerp in 1920, twenty-nine nations competed; by the Athens Olympics of 2004, that number had risen spectacularly to 201. The importance of the Olympic Games to cultural unity and national identity lies not only within the event as staged but in the sporting occasion as an international spectacle. Beyond the demonstration of physical strength and skill, Olympic sport as collective ritual, highlighting concepts of leadership and heroism, has become part of the language of nationalism.

SEE ALSO Aryans; Black September; Entertainment Industry; Hitler, Adolf; Nationalism and Nationality; Nazism; Racism; Sports; Sports Industry; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics


Coakley, Jay, and Eric Dunning, eds. 2000. Handbook of Sports Studies. London: Sage.

Cronin, Mike. 1999. Sport and Nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic Games, Soccer, and Irish Identity since 1884. Dublin and Portland, OR: Four Courts Press.

Guttmann, Allen. 1984. The Games Must Go On: Avery Brundage and the Olympic Movement. New York: Columbia University Press.

Guttmann, Allen. 2002. The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games, 2nd edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Hill, Christopher R. 1996. Olympic Politics. Manchester, U.K., and New York: Manchester University Press.

Holt, Richard. 1993. Sport and the British: A Modern History. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Houlihan, Barrie. 1994. Sport and International Politics. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

MacAloon, John J. 1981. This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympic Games. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Miller, David. 2003. Athens to Athens: The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC, 18962004. Edinburgh: Mainstream.

David M. Doyle

views updated



The modern Olympic Games began in Athens in 1896 as a result of the enthusiasm of the Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin. His vision, based on the sporting models of elite British and American schools and colleges, was of a peaceful sporting and artistic competition between nations. At the outset the games were closed to professional athletes and only amateurs could compete. This was a core principle at the heart of the Olympic movement that would not be changed until the early 1990s. The beginnings in Athens were small: 14 nations competed in 43 events. By 2004, when the Games returned to Athens, over 10,000 athletes representing 203 nations took part in 300 events. In the years preceding World War I, the Olympic Games struggled to establish themselves because they were linked to, and effectively overshadowed by, the World Expositions in Paris (1900) and Saint Louis (1904). By the time of the last pre–World War I Games, a level of stability had been found. In 1912 in Stockholm, 28 nations came together to compete in 102 events. The number of athletes had risen from 241 in Athens in 1896 to 2,407.


World War I marked a period of change for the Olympic movement. Its administrative body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), moved its headquarters from Paris to Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Games planned for Berlin in 1916 were abandoned. In the wake of the damage Europe suffered in the war, the 1920 Games were awarded to Antwerp to honor the suffering that had been inflicted on the Belgian people. The 1920 opening ceremony was notable for the introduction of the Olympic flag, the release of doves as a symbol of peace, and the presentation of the Athletes' Oath. The Olympic movement had, by virtue of staging the Antwerp Games, proved it had survived the war. The introduction of the flag, representing the unity of the five continents, and the symbolic release of doves also demonstrated that the Olympic movement considered itself a harbinger of peace and unity for the nations of the world. Such beliefs were, however, difficult to sustain. The more the Olympics grew in size and scale, the more readily were they used by nations in pursuit of their own ideological purposes.

In 1924 the Winter Olympics were introduced. These took place in Chamonix, France, and attracted sixteen countries competing in sixteen alpine events. The Winter Olympics have historically been dominated by European nations. Of the nineteen Winter Games that had been staged by 2002, only six had taken place outside of Europe. The medal winners for the winter sports have also been primarily European. Although the Japanese, Americans, and Canadians have performed well, it is the Nordic countries that have traditionally dominated.

In 1931 the Summer (Berlin) and Winter Games (Garmisch-Partenkirchen) were awarded to Germany. Although the German economy under the Weimar Republic lacked political stability, the other bidding city, Barcelona, was in an equally parlous state. The members of the IOC could not have foreseen the rise to power of the Nazi Party, and although there were debates about boycotting the Berlin Games, these were muted. The 1936 Berlin Games were dominated by the Nazi machine and every aspect was meticulously planned. Leni Riefenstahl's film Olympia recorded the event and her footage was transmitted live to a series of receivers across Berlin, creating the first televised Games. The Berlin Games have become associated in many people's minds with the African American athlete Jesse Owens. Against a background of Nazi efforts to use the Games to demonstrate the supremacy of "Aryan" athletes, Owens won four gold medals. The Berlin Games demonstrated how the Olympics could be harnessed for political purposes. Although no host nation would ever again go to such extremes, the Games' political potential had been illustrated for all to see.


World War II resulted in the abandonment of the 1940 Games, set for Tokyo, and those planned for Helsinki in 1944. The first postwar Games were staged in London in 1948, when rationing was still in force and much of the city was still being cleared of bomb damage. Although attended by athletes from fifty-nine nations, the IOC banned Germany, Italy, and Japan for their part in the war. As the IOC's remit became increasingly global, the Summer Games were staged in various nations across the continents. Of the fourteen summer Olympics held between 1952 and 2008, only six were held in Europe. The IOC itself has remained in Lausanne, and its postwar presidents, with the exception of the American Avery Brundage, have all been European nationals. The growing commercial and political power of the IOC has meant that many international sporting organizations have also chosen Switzerland as their administrative base. So although the Olympic Games are staged across the world, the IOC's location, elite personnel, and impact remain dominantly European.

Germany returned to the Olympic Games at Helsinki in 1952 and competed as a unified team until 1972, when it divided along political lines into two separate teams: the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The experience of Germany is indicative of one of the gravest problems for the Olympic Games in the years after 1945: the Cold War. Growing Cold War tensions produced an American-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games (in opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), and a reciprocal Eastern bloc boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. The need for each of the major sporting nations to prove its athletic (and therefore ideological) supremacy also led to widespread use of intensive training methods and drug abuse, particularly by the German Democratic Republic in the 1980s. The 1972 Summer Games in Munich were also darkened by political activity when Palestinian terrorists kidnapped members of the Israeli wrestling team from the Olympic Village. The event culminated in a German attempt to free the hostages at Munich's Fuerstenfeldbruk airfield. The attempt failed and five of the eight Palestinians were killed, as were all of the Israeli hostages. IOC President Avery Brundage led a memorial service in the Olympic stadium and committed the Olympic movement to a policy of distancing itself from political events, stating "the Games must go on."


The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s meant that the Olympic movement had to adapt rapidly to a wide range of new nations. At the 1992 Albertville Winter Games in France, the last to be held in the same year as the Summer Games, the former Soviet states competed under the title of the Unified Team and under the flag of the Olympic movement. The changing geopolitics of that era were also reflected in the first unified German team since 1972, in separate teams for the Baltic states, and in the wake of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in representation for Croatia and Slovenia.

In addition to dealing with the realities of post–Cold War politics, from the mid-1980s onward the Olympic movement also began adapting to the increasingly commercialized world of sport. Under the presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC underwent a series of radical changes. In 1992 it removed any vestiges of its earlier ban on professional athletes and from 1984 onward sold the commercial rights for the sponsorship of the Games and the use of the five-ringed Olympic logo. It also began selling exclusive television rights to the Winter and Summer Games for ever-increasing amounts of money. By 2004 the IOC's income was estimated at $2,236 million from television rights, $1,339 million from sponsorship, $608 million from ticket sales, and $81 million from product licensing.

By the time of the Athens Summer Games, the IOC was, without question, the single most powerful sporting organization in the world. It had successfully adapted de Coubertin's idea for an international sporting competition, charted its way through a plethora of complex political situations, adapted to new media technologies, adopted commercial models, and applied them to the selling of its sporting events.

See alsoCold War; Riefensthal, Leni.


Guttmann, Allen. The Games Must Go On: Avery Brundage and the Olympic Movement. New York, 1984.

——. The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games. Urbana, Ill., 1992.

Hill, Christopher. Olympic Politics: From Athens to Atlanta. Manchester, U.K., and New York, 1996.

MacAloon, John J. This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympic Games. Chicago, 1981.

Miller, David. From Athens to Athens: The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC. Edinburgh, 2003.

Mike Cronin

views updated

Olympic games, premier athletic meeting of ancient Greece, and, in modern times, series of international sports contests.

The Olympics of Ancient Greece

Although records cannot verify games earlier than 776 BC, the contests in Homer's Iliad indicate a much earlier competitive tradition. Held in honor of Zeus in the city of Olympia for four days every fourth summer, the Olympic games were the oldest and most prestigious of four great ancient Greek athletic festivals, which also included the Pythian games at Delphi, the Isthmian at Corinth, and the Nemean at Argos (the Panathenaea at Athens was also important). The Olympics reached their height in the 5th–4th cent. BC; thereafter they became more and more professionalized until, in the Roman period, they provoked much censure. They were eventually discontinued by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome, who condemned them as a pagan spectacle, at the end of the 4th cent. AD

Among the Greeks, the games were nationalistic in spirit; states were said to have been prouder of Olympic victories than of battles won. Women, foreigners, slaves, and dishonored persons were forbidden to compete. Contestants were required to train faithfully for 10 months before the games, had to remain 30 days under the eyes of officials in Elis, who had charge of the games, and had to take an oath that they had fulfilled the training requirements before participating. At first, the Olympic games were confined to running, but over time new events were added: the long run (720 BC), when the loincloth was abandoned and athletes began competing naked; the pentathlon, which combined running, the long jump, wrestling, and discus and spear throwing (708 BC); boxing (688 BC); chariot racing (680 BC); the pankration (648 BC), involving boxing and wrestling contests for boys (632 BC); and the foot race with armor (580 BC).

Greek women, forbidden not only to participate in but also to watch the Olympic games, held games of their own, called the Heraea, also at Olympia. Those were also held every four years but had fewer events than the Olympics. Known to have been conducted as early as the 6th cent. BC, the Heraean games were discontinued about the time the Romans conquered Greece. Winning was of prime importance in both male and female festivals. The winners of the Olympics (and of the Heraea) were crowned with chaplets of wild olive, and in their home city-states male champions were also awarded numerous honors, valuable gifts, and privileges.

The Modern Olympics

The modern revival of the Olympic games is due in a large measure to the efforts of Pierre, baron de Coubertin, of France. They were held, appropriately enough, in Athens in 1896, but that meeting and the ones that followed at Paris (1900) and at St. Louis (1904) were hampered by poor organization and the absence of worldwide representation. The first successful meet was held at London in 1908, where 22 countries were represented, more than 2,000 athletes participated, and medals were presented for the first time. Since then the games have been held in cities throughout the world (see Sites of the Modern Olympic Games, table). World War I prevented the Olympic meeting of 1916, and World War II the 1940 and 1944 meetings. The number of entrants, competing nations, and events have increased steadily.

To the traditional events of track and field athletics, which include the decathlon and heptathlon, have been added a host of games and sports—archery, badminton, baseball and softball, basketball, boxing, canoeing and kayaking, cycling, diving, equestrian contests, fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, judo and taekwondo, the modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, soccer, swimming, table tennis, team (field) handball, tennis, trampoline, the triathlon, volleyball, water polo, weight lifting, and wrestling. Olympic events for women made their first appearance in 1912. A separate series of winter Olympic meets, inaugurated (1924) at Chamonix, France, now includes bobsledding, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating, skeleton, skiing, and snowboarding events. Since 1994 the winter games have been held in even-numbered years in which the summer games are not contested. Until late in the 20th cent. the modern Olympics were open only to amateurs, but the governing bodies of several sports now permit professionals to compete as well. The increasing costs of holding the games led in 2014 to the adoption of changes that would permit multicity or countrywide hosting of the Olympics, beginning with the 2024 summer games.

As a visible focus of world energies, the Olympics have been prey to many factors that thwarted their ideals of world cooperation and athletic excellence. As in ancient Greece, nationalistic fervor has fostered intense rivalries that at times threatened the survival of the games. Although officially only individuals win Olympic medals, nations routinely assign political significance to the feats of their citizens and teams. Between 1952 and 1988 rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, rooted in mutual political antagonism, resulted in each boycotting games hosted by the other (Moscow, 1980; Los Angeles, 1984). Politics has influenced the Olympic games in other ways, from the propaganda of the Nazis in Berlin (1936) to pressures leading to the exclusion of white-ruled Rhodesia from the Munich games (1972). At Munich, nine Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which sets and enforces Olympic policy, has struggled with the licensing and commercialization of the games, the need to schedule events to accommodate American television networks (whose broadcasting fees help underwrite the games), and the monitoring of athletes who seek illegal competitive advantages, often through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The IOC itself has also been the subject of controversy. In 1998 a scandal erupted with revelations that bribery and favoritism had played a role in the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City, Utah, and in the selection of some earlier venues. As a result, the IOC instituted a number of reforms including, in 1999, initiating age and term limits for members and barring them from visiting cities bidding to be Olympic sites.

See also Paralympic games.


See R. Mandell, The First Modern Olympics (1976); J. Lucas, The Modern Olympic Games (1980); J. J. MacAloon, This Great Symbol (1981); A. Guttmann, The Games Must Go On (1984); A. Kitroeff, Wrestling with the Ancients: Modern Greek Identity and the Olympics (2004); S. G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics (2004); T. Perrotet, The Naked Olympics (2004); N. Spivey, The Ancient Olympics (2004); J. Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games (rev. ed. 2008); N. Faulkner, A Visitor's Guide to the Ancient Olympics (2012).

views updated

Olympianantipodean, Crimean, Judaean, Korean •Albion •Gambian, Zambian •lesbian •Arabian, Bessarabian, Fabian, gabion, Sabian, Swabian •amphibian, Libyan, Namibian •Sorbian •Danubian, Nubian •Colombian • Serbian • Nietzschean •Chadian, Trinidadian •Andean, Kandyan •guardian •Acadian, Akkadian, Arcadian, Barbadian, Canadian, circadian, Grenadian, Hadean, Orcadian, Palladian, radian, steradian •Archimedean, comedian, epicedian, median, tragedian •ascidian, Derridean, Dravidian, enchiridion, Euclidean, Floridian, Gideon, Lydian, meridian, Numidian, obsidian, Pisidian, quotidian, viridian •Amerindian, Indian •accordion, Edwardian •Cambodian, collodion, custodian, melodeon, nickelodeon, Odeon •Freudian • Bermudian • Burundian •Burgundian •Falstaffian, Halafian •Christadelphian, Delphian, Philadelphian •nymphean • ruffian • Brobdingnagian •Carolingian • Swedenborgian •logion, Muskogean •Jungian •magian, Pelagian •collegian •callipygian, Cantabrigian, Phrygian, Stygian •Merovingian • philologian • Fujian •Czechoslovakian • Pickwickian •Algonquian • Chomskian •Kentuckian •battalion, galleon, medallion, rapscallion, scallion •Anglian, ganglion •Heraklion •Dalian, Malian, Somalian •Chellean, Machiavellian, Orwellian, Sabellian, Trevelyan, triskelion •Wesleyan •alien, Australian, bacchanalian, Castalian, Deucalion, episcopalian, Hegelian, madrigalian, mammalian, Pygmalion, Salian, saturnalian, sesquipedalian, tatterdemalion, Thessalian, Westphalian •anthelion, Aristotelian, Aurelian, carnelian, chameleon, Karelian, Mendelian, Mephistophelian, Pelion, Sahelian •Abbevillian, Azilian, Brazilian, caecilian, Castilian, Chilean, Churchillian, civilian, cotillion, crocodilian, epyllion, Gillian, Lilian, Maximilian, Pamphylian, pavilion, postilion, Quintilian, reptilian, Sicilian, Tamilian, vaudevillian, vermilion, Virgilian •Aeolian, Anatolian, Eolian, Jolyon, Mongolian, napoleon, simoleon •Acheulian, Boolean, cerulean, Friulian, Julian, Julien •bullion •mullion, scullion, Tertullian •Liverpudlian •Bahamian, Bamian, Damian, Mesopotamian, Samian •anthemion, Bohemian •Endymion, prosimian, Simeon, simian •isthmian • antinomian •Permian, vermian •Oceanian •Albanian, Azanian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lithuanian, Mauritanian, Mediterranean, Panamanian, Pennsylvanian, Pomeranian, Romanian, Ruritanian, Sassanian, subterranean, Tasmanian, Transylvanian, Tripolitanian, Turanian, Ukrainian, Vulcanian •Armenian, Athenian, Fenian, Magdalenian, Mycenaean (US Mycenean), Slovenian, Tyrrhenian •Argentinian, Arminian, Augustinian, Carthaginian, Darwinian, dominion, Guinean, Justinian, Ninian, Palestinian, Sardinian, Virginian •epilimnion, hypolimnion •Bosnian •Bornean, Californian, Capricornian •Aberdonian, Amazonian, Apollonian, Babylonian, Baconian, Bostonian, Caledonian, Catalonian, Chalcedonian, Ciceronian, Devonian, draconian, Estonian, Etonian, gorgonian, Ionian, Johnsonian, Laconian, Macedonian, Miltonian, Newtonian, Oregonian, Oxonian, Patagonian, Plutonian, Tennysonian, Tobagonian, Washingtonian •Cameroonian, communion, Mancunian, Neptunian, Réunion, union •Hibernian, Saturnian •Campion, champion, Grampian, rampion, tampion •thespian • Mississippian • Olympian •Crispian •Scorpian, scorpion •cornucopian, dystopian, Ethiopian, Salopian, subtopian, Utopian •Guadeloupian •Carian, carrion, clarion, Marian •Calabrian, Cantabrian •Cambrian • Bactrian •Lancastrian, Zoroastrian •Alexandrian • Maharashtrian •equestrian, pedestrian •agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, barbarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian •Adrian, Hadrian •Assyrian, Illyrian, Syrian, Tyrian •morion • Austrian •Dorian, Ecuadorean, historian, Hyperborean, Nestorian, oratorian, praetorian (US pretorian), salutatorian, Salvadorean, Singaporean, stentorian, Taurean, valedictorian, Victorian •Ugrian • Zarathustrian •Cumbrian, Northumbrian, Umbrian •Algerian, Cancerian, Chaucerian, Cimmerian, criterion, Hesperian, Hitlerian, Hyperion, Iberian, Liberian, Nigerian, Presbyterian, Shakespearean, Siberian, Spenserian, Sumerian, valerian, Wagnerian, Zairean •Arthurian, Ben-Gurion, centurion, durian, holothurian, Khachaturian, Ligurian, Missourian, Silurian, tellurian •Circassian, Parnassian •halcyon • Capsian • Hessian •Albigensian, Waldensian •Dacian • Keatsian •Cilician, Galician, Lycian, Mysian, Odyssean •Leibnizian • Piscean • Ossian •Gaussian • Joycean • Andalusian •Mercian • Appalachian • Decian •Ordovician, Priscian •Lucian •himation, Montserratian •Atlantean, Dantean, Kantian •bastion, Erastian, Sebastian •Mozartian • Brechtian • Thyestean •Fortean • Faustian • protean •Djiboutian •fustian, Procrustean •Gilbertian, Goethean, nemertean •pantheon •Hogarthian, Parthian •Lethean, Promethean •Pythian • Corinthian • Scythian •Lothian, Midlothian •Latvian • Yugoslavian •avian, Batavian, Flavian, Moldavian, Moravian, Octavian, Scandinavian, Shavian •Bolivian, Maldivian, oblivion, Vivian •Chekhovian, Harrovian, Jovian, Pavlovian •alluvion, antediluvian, diluvian, Peruvian •Servian • Malawian • Zimbabwean •Abkhazian • Dickensian •Caucasian, Malaysian, Rabelaisian •Keynesian •Belizean, Cartesian, Indonesian, Milesian, Salesian, Silesian •Elysian, Frisian, Parisian, Tunisian •Holmesian •Carthusian, Malthusian, Venusian

views updated


Held for the first time in the modern era in Athens, Greece, in 1896, and then every four years until the sequence was interrupted by World War I, the Games were a nineteenth-century creation inspired by ancient Greek precedents. By the 1912 Games, held in Stockholm, Sweden, the organizers of the Games had begun to invent its modern traditions, but the Games still lacked the scale and most of the symbols associated with them later in the century.

The 1896 Games are often described as a continuation of the ancient Olympic Games, held from the eighth century b.c.e. (the year 776 b.c.e. is canonical) until either 393 or 424 c.e., when the pagan cults associated with the Games were suppressed by the Christianized Roman Empire. In fact, though the modern Games were inspired by the example of the ancient ones, and by the broader respect in which prewar Europe held ancient Greece, the differences between the ancient Games and those of 1896 are at least as important as their similarities.

The modern Games are, in the words of Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, an "invented tradition," one of many institutions—including sports such as baseball—that were either "refounded" or made instantly traditional in the decades before World War I. These institutions filled a social need for new civic religions, a need caused by the changes associated with economic growth, the rise of mass politics, and the decline of the aristocratic elite.

Though credit for the modern Games is often given solely to Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937) of France, he built on and benefited from a heterogeneous array of precedents, experiments, and efforts of other enthusiasts. The Cotswold "Olympick Games" were held from 1662 to 1852 in Britain, the Greek poet Alexandros Soutsos suggested reviving the Games in 1833, and a variety of so-called Olympic competitions were either planned or held across Europe during the nineteenth century. The most important of these were the Zappas Games, held in Athens in 1859, 1870, and 1875. But, like the other competitions, the Zappas Games were not sufficiently successful to be self-sustaining.

The modern Games began in the English village of Much Wenlock. There, in 1841, Dr. William Penny Brookes founded the Agricultural Reading Society to educate the local agricultural laborers. In 1859, the Society held the first Wenlock Olympics, which were followed by National Olympic Games in 1866. By this time, Brookes was corresponding with like-minded "founders" across Europe, including Coubertin. Inspired by Brookes, Coubertin urged the refounding of the Games at the International Athletic Congress in June 1894. This led to the formation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with seventy-nine delegates from twelve nations, and to a decision to hold the first Games in Athens in 1896.

For reasons that remain unclear, Coubertin then lost interest in the Games for a time. Much of the organizational work for 1896 was done by the first president of the IOC, the Greek novelist Demetrios Vikelas. But Coubertin's backing was essential to the success of the Games. Coubertin came from an aristocratic family and was educated in a classical Catholic tradition that emphasized Greek philosophy. Like many contemporaries, he was humiliated by his country's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–1871. He believed that France had lost because it was effeminate and excessively intellectual. Prussia's Turner organizations, which combined fervent nationalism with a form of gymnastics, gave it the physical culture that France lacked. This belief was fortified by Coubertin's respect for Britain, which was expanding its already vast empire while modernizing its domestic political system. Britain was adapting to the new era; France had obviously failed to do so.

Coubertin found the secret of Britain's success in the British system of public—in American terms, private—schools. He believed that the sporting ethic taught in these schools trained Britain's leaders. The Olympics would create this kind of aristocracy in all nations. But the Olympic aristocracy would be one suitable for a democratic age. It would be open to all, with membership granted on the basis of talent and effort. This aristocracy would become modern knights: playing by the rules as an example to others, competing for the love of the game and for female applause, and inspiring healthy patriotism and mutual respect for different nations in all competitors and spectators. While Coubertin wanted to

promote peace, he was not a pacifist: he believed that if the Olympic spirit prevailed, wars would not disappear, but would be less frequent and more humane.

The first Games were a success: three hundred athletes from thirteen nations competed in nine sports. The next two Games, in 1900, in Paris, and in 1904, in St. Louis, were near-disasters. The Paris Games were poorly organized; the St. Louis Games were so remote from Europe that most of the competitors were Americans. The Games were saved by the unofficial but professionally run Athens Games of 1906 and the London Games of 1908. In 1912, 2,500 athletes (including 57 women) from twenty-eight nations competed in thirteen sports. While medal winners continued to come primarily from the United States, Europe, and the British Empire, the future of the Games seemed assured.

While gold, silver, and bronze medals were first awarded in 1904, the 1906 and 1908 Games were—apart from those of 1896—the most important of the era. It was in 1906 that the athletes first entered the stadium in national teams; before then, they had competed as individuals. The 1908 Games, for their part, witnessed a series of nationalistic disputes between the Americans, eager to show their superiority on British soil, and the host nation, equally eager to ensure they retained pride of place. These Games thus proved that the Olympics had become a forum for competitive nationalism. This became increasingly important when the Games invented new traditions and expanded, both in scale and with the addition of the Winter Games, in the interwar years and after 1945.

See alsoAthens; Philhellenic Movement; Red Cross; Sports.


Guttmann, Allen. The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games. 2nd ed. Urbana, Ill., 2002.

Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1983. Reprint 1992.

MacAloon, John J. This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origin of the Modern Olympic Games. Chicago, 1981.

Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics: Athens 2004 Edition. Wilmington, Del., 2004.

Young, David C. The Modern Olympics: A Struggle for Revival. Baltimore, Md., 1996.

Ted R. Bromund

views updated

Sites of the Modern Olympic Games

Sites of the Modern Olympic Games
Summer Games
Year Site
1896 Athens, Greece
1900 Paris, France
1904 St. Louis, Mo.
1908 London, England
1912 Stockholm, Sweden
1920 Antwerp, Belgium
1924 Paris, France
1928 Amsterdam, the Netherlands
1932 Los Angeles, Calif.
1936 Berlin, Germany
1948 London, England
1952 Helsinki, Finland
1956 Melbourne, Australia
1960 Rome, Italy
1964 Tokyo, Japan
1968 Mexico City, Mexico
1972 Munich, West Germany
1976 Montreal, Canada
1980 Moscow, USSR
1984 Los Angeles, Calif.
1988 Seoul, South Korea
1992 Barcelona, Spain
1996 Atlanta, Ga.
2000 Sydney, Australia
2004 Athens, Greece
2008 Beijing, China
2012 London, England
2016 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2020 Tokyo, Japan
Winter Games
Year Site
1924 Chamonix, France
1928 St. Moritz, Switzerland
1932 Lake Placid, N.Y.
1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
1948 St. Moritz, Switzerland
1952 Oslo, Norway
1956 Cortina, Italy
1960 Squaw Valley, Calif.
1964 Innsbruck, Austria
1968 Grenoble, France
1972 Sapporo, Japan
1976 Innsbruck, Austria
1980 Lake Placid, N.Y.
1984 Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
1988 Calgary, Canada
1992 Albertville, France
1994 Lillehammer, Norway
1998 Nagano, Japan
2002 Salt Lake City, Utah
2006 Turin, Italy
2010 Vancouver, Canada
2014 Sochi, Russia
2018 Pyeongchang, South Korea

views updated

O·lym·pi·an / əˈlimpēən; ōˈlim-/ • adj. 1. associated with Mount Olympus in northeastern Greece, or with the Greek gods whose home was traditionally held to be there. ∎  resembling or appropriate to a god, esp. in superiority and aloofness: the court is capable of an Olympian detachment. 2. relating to the ancient or modern Olympic Games. • n. 1. any of the twelve Greek gods regarded as living on Olympus. ∎  a person of great attainments or exalted position. 2. a competitor in the Olympic Games.

views updated

Olympic Games World's major international athletic competition, held in two segments – the Summer Games and the Winter Games – since 1992 it has alternated so that there are two years between segments, but four years before a segment is repeated. In 776 bc, the Games were first celebrated in Olympia, Greece, and were held every four years until ad 393, when they were abolished by the Roman Emperor. The modern, summer Games were initiated by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, and were first held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Women did not compete until 1912. The Games were cancelled during World War I and World War II. Summer events include archery, track and field events, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, diving, equestrian sports, fencing, hockey, gymnastics, handball, judo, rowing, shooting, soccer, swimming, volleyball, weightlifting and yachting. Winter events include the biathlon, bobsledding, ice hockey, skating, and skiing. Control of the Games is vested in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which lays down the rules and chooses venues. In 1999, corruption scandals rocked the IOC.


views updated

Olympiad •multi-layered •beard, weird •greybeard (US graybeard) •bluebeard • Iliad • Olympiad • myriad •period •hamadryad, jeremiad, semi-retired, underwired, undesired, unexpired, uninspired •coward, Howard, underpowered, unpowered •froward •leeward, steward •gourd, Lourdes, self-assured, uncured, uninsured, unobscured, unsecured •scabbard, tabard •halberd • starboard •unremembered • tribade • cupboard •unencumbered, unnumbered •good-natured, ill-natured •Richard • pilchard • pochard • orchard •unstructured • uncultured •standard, sub-standard •unconsidered • unhindered •unordered • Stafford • Bradford •Sandford, Sanford, Stanford •Hartford, Hertford •Bedford, Redford •Telford • Wexford • Chelmsford •Clifford • Pickford • Guildford •Linford • Mitford • Hereford •Longford • Oxford • Watford •Crawford • Salford • Rutherford •haggard, laggard •niggard • unsugared • sluggard •unmeasured • uninjured • tankard •becard • bewhiskered • unconquered •drunkard

More From Encyclopedia.com

You Might Also Like