Primer revised August 12, 2004
The Olympic Games and the Olympic Winter Games are the world's great festivals of athletic competition and international friendship. Athletes from all parts of the globe, and from all walks of life, gather in one place to realize their dreams and experience the glory of Olympic competition.
The Sports Library of the LA84 Foundation, a legacy of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, has created this Olympic Games Primer for teachers, students, and interested individuals who want to learn and teach others about the world's great celebration of sport and friendship: the Olympic Movement.
The Sports Library welcomes your questions or comments. We especially encourage any teachers with questions or comments to contact us. If you would like more information on the Olympic Games, or have related sports questions, please feel free to call us at (323) 730-4646. You can e-mail us at library@LA84foundation.org. Our fax number is (323) 730-0546.
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II. HISTORY OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES
The ancient Games were sacred events. Athletes from all Greek city-states joined the festivals at Olympia. Like the modern Games, the ancient Games were marked by solemn opening and closing ceremonies. The "sacred truce" beginning the first known Games read, "May the world be delivered from crime and killing and freed from the clash of arms." The intent was for warring city-states to lay down their arms for the period of the Games so that athletes could compete in peace.
The program of competitive events in the ancient Games evolved over time. Among the sports contested were the foot race, wrestling, boxing, pankration, the pentathlon, and chariot races. The first recorded winner was the runner Koroibos.
Only men were permitted to take part in the Olympic Games. Women were forbidden to compete or be spectators at the ancient Olympic Games under penalty of death. The only female allowed in Olympia was the high priestess of the goddess Demeter. Women in ancient Greece, did, however, participate in festivals of their own. Exclusively female Games, held in honor of the goddess Hera, were held at regular intervals.
The ancient Olympic Games are known to have existed for 12 centuries. The symbolic power of the Games lived on after their demise in 394 A.D., and came to life again as the modern Olympic Games.
Pierre de Fredy, the Baron de Coubertin, was the founder of the modern Olympic Movement.
Pierre de Coubertin was born in 1863 to an aristocratic French family. He was an avid sportsman as a young man with rowing being one of his favorites. Influenced by the events of the late 19th century and his education, Coubertin developed a passionate belief that sport possessed the power to benefit humankind and encourage peace among the nations of the world.
Coubertin drew his inspiration from the ancient Olympic Games. After visits to England and the United States, Coubertin formulated a plan to revive the Games. His vision was realized, in June 1894, when delegates meeting in Paris voted to hold modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896.
Coubertin was the driving force behind the fledgling Olympic Movement. He became president of the International Olympic Committee in 1896 and held that post for 29 years. Over that time, Coubertin committed his life and his fortune to the establishment and growth of the modern Olympic Games. He died in Geneva, Switzerland in 1937.
Though Coubertin never approved of women competing in the Olympic Games, he fought ferociously for the ideals of Olympism. His vision and determination created a movement that has, like no other, united the athletes and nations of the world in peaceful celebration and competition.
An Olympiad is a period of four years, the beginning of which is marked by the celebration of the Olympic Games. The first modern Olympiad was celebrated by the 1896 Athens Games. Each Olympiad is designated by Roman numerals. The 2000 Sydney Games, for example, were The Games of the XXVII Olympiad. The 2004 Athens Games will be The Games of the XXVIII Olympiad.
The year in which the Olympic Games are to be held cannot be changed. If the Games are canceled for any reason, the number of the Olympiad remains. Although World War I preempted the 1916 Games, the period from 1916 to 1920 remains the VI Olympiad of the modern era.
The term Olympiad does not apply to the Olympic Winter Games. Only the so-called "summer" Games are Games of the Olympiad. The Winter Games are referred to only by numeral. Thus, the 2002 Salt Lake City Games were the XIX Olympic Winter Games.
The term Olympic actually is an adjective, not a noun. Properly speaking, an athlete competes in the Olympic Games, not the Olympics. The phrases Summer and Winter Olympics are commonly used, but they are technically incorrect references to the Games of the Olympiad and the Olympic Winter Games.
The following is a list of the Olympiads of the modern era with the Games of the Olympiads and a list of the Olympic Winter Games.
The Games of the Olympiads and the Cities of the Olympic Games
I 1896 Athens, Greece
II 1900 Paris, France
III 1904 St. Louis, U.S.A.
IV 1908 London, England
V 1912 Stockholm, Sweden
VI 1916 Canceled due to W.W.I
VII 1920 Antwerp, Belgium
VIII 1924 Paris, France
IX 1928 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
X 1932 Los Angeles, U.S.A.
XI 1936 Berlin, Germany
XII 1940 Canceled due to W.W.II
XIII 1944 Canceled due to W.W.II
XIV 1948 London, England
XV 1952 Helsinki, Finland
XVI 1956 Melbourne, Australia
XVII 1960 Rome, Italy
XVIII 1964 Tokyo, Japan
XIX 1968 Mexico City, Mexico
XX 1972 Munich, Germany
XXI 1976 Montreal, Canada
XXII 1980 Moscow, U.S.S.R.
XXIII 1984 Los Angeles, U.S.A.
XXIV 1988 Seoul, South Korea
XXV 1992 Barcelona, Spain
XXVI 1996 Atlanta, U.S.A.
XXVII 2000 Sydney, Australia
XXVIII 2004 Athens, Greece
XXX 2010 London, England
The Olympic Winter Games
I 1924 Chamonix, France
II 1928 St. Moritz, Switzerland
III 1932 Lake Placid, U.S.A.
IV 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
1940 Canceled due to W.W.II
1944 Canceled due to W.W.II
V 1948 St. Moritz, Switzerland
VI 1952 Oslo, Norway
VII 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
VIII 1960 Squaw Valley, U.S.A.
IX 1964 Innsbruck, Austria
X 1968 Grenoble, France
XI 1972 Sapporo, Japan
XII 1976 Innsbruck, Austria
XIII 1980 Lake Placid, U.S.A.
XIV 1984 Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
XV 1988 Calgary, Canada
XVI 1992 Albertville, France
XVII 1994 Lillehammer, Norway
XVIII 1998 Nagano, Japan
XIX 2002 Salt Lake City, U.S.A.
XX 2006 Torino, Italy
King George of Greece opened the first Games of the modern era on a spring afternoon in Athens before a stadium crowd of 70,000, while thousands more watched from a hillside above the stadium.
Greek public opinion strongly supported the idea of Greece hosting the Games, but the organizing effort floundered until Crown Prince Constantine stepped forward to assume leadership. Receiving no government funding, the organizers raised money through private donations and the sale of commemorative stamps and medals. Greek merchant Georgious Averoff contributed generously to the reconstruction of the ancient Panathenaic Stadium.
In keeping with the ancient Olympic tradition, only men competed at Athens.
III. THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT
Modern Olympism is described by the Olympic Charter as a philosophy "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 found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." "The goal of Olympism is to place everywhere sport at the service of the harmonious development of mankind, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."
"The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
The Olympic Movement, encompasses organizations, athletes, and other persons who agree to be guided by the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Movement includes the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations, the National Olympic Committees, the Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games, the national associations, clubs, and persons belonging to them, particularly the athletes. The Olympic Movement also "includes other organizations and institutions as recognized by the IOC."
The International Olympic Committee is the supreme authority of the Olympic Movement. Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC is a non-governmental and non-commercial organization, whose mission is to encourage the growth of sport within the Olympic ideal, including ensuring the regular celebration of the Olympic Games.
The IOC currently consists of more than 130 members who volunteer their services on behalf of the Olympic Movement. Membership is limited to resident citizens of countries having National Olympic Committees. Members must speak either French or English. New members are elected by the existing membership. Individual members represent the IOC in their home countries. They are not delegates of a country to the IOC. Individual members may not be under the authority of any government, organization, or individual that might direct or compromise the independence of their votes.
The International Olympic Committee was formed on June 23, 1894, in Paris, France at the instigation of the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The IOC initially consisted of 14 members, with Demetrius Vikelas as its president. Coubertin assumed the presidency in 1896, and led the Olympic Movement until 1925. As of this writing there have been eight IOC presidents. Jacques Rogge of Belgium was elected to the post in 2001. One American, the late Avery Brundage, served as IOC president from 1952-1972.
-Demetrius Vikelas, Greece, 1894-1896
-Pierre de Coubertin, France, 1896-1925
-Henri de Baillet-Latour, Belgium, 1925-1942
-J. Sigfrid Edstrom, Sweden, 1946-1952
-Avery Brundage, USA, 1952-1972
-Lord Killanin, Ireland, 1972-1980
-Juan Antonio Samaranch, Spain, 1980-2001
-Jacques Rogge, Belgium, 2001- Present
The IOC has three members from the United States: Anita L. DeFrantz, and James Easton, both of Los Angeles, CA, and Robert Ctvrtlik, of Encinitas, CA. In September 1997, DeFrantz became the first woman elected as an IOC vice-president, a term which lasted until July 2001. Winner of a bronze medal in rowing at the 1976 Montreal Games, she is president of the LA84 Foundation. Easton also is a former IOC vice-president and served as president of the International Archery Federation from 1989 to 2005.
National Olympic Committees (NOCs) are organizations which lead the Olympic Movement within each country. They promote Olympism and develop sport nationally. Each NOC represents its country at the Olympic Games and has the power to select its own national team to participate in the Games. NOCs may associate themselves with governmental bodies, but may not act in contradiction to the Olympic Charter. All National Olympic Committees must be officially recognized by the IOC.
NOCs are composed of IOC members in their countries, national Olympic sports governing bodies (a.k.a., national federations) and a number of elected Olympic athletes. NOCs may also include members of affiliated sports and community organizations as well as select individuals. Each NOC must include at least five national governing bodies in order to be recognized by the IOC.
International Federations (IFs) are non-governmental organizations responsible for the international administration of one or more sports. The IFs are responsible for developing their sports worldwide, enforcing the rules of their sports, establishing eligibility criteria, hosting international competitions, conducting their sports at the Olympic Games, and contributing to the goals of the Olympic Movement. One example of an IF is the International Basketball Federation (FIBA, from the French, FÈdÈration Internationale de Basketball). FIBA sets the rules governing international basketball competition. For example, it was FIBA that determined that professional basketball players would be eligible to play in the Olympic Games.
National Governing Bodies (NGBs), also called National Federations, are the organizations that govern a sport within in each country. They are charged with selecting teams for international competition (including the Olympic Games), conducting national championships, and developing their sports within their countries. An NGB is responsible for sanctioning and conducting competitions. It is the sole national representative to a sport's International Federation and, as such, is the only organization that may organize a "national championship" to be recognized by the IF. The sport of gymnastics, for example, is governed in the United States by the organization USA Gymnastics.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is the custodian of the Olympic Movement and the coordinating body for Olympic sports in the United States. Its primary mission is to train athletes, enter athletes into competitions, and underwrite expenses for United States athletes at the Olympic Games. The USOC also determines which U.S. city may present a bid to host an Olympic Games.
The USOC dates to 1894 when a small informal group headed by James E. Sullivan and William Sloane organized to enter U.S. athletes in the first modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896. The committee existed in various forms for decades, taking the name United States Olympic Committee in 1961. In 1978, Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act granting the USOC exclusive rights to organize and govern American teams for the Olympic Games. The USOC has its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The right to host an Olympic Games is awarded to a city chosen by the members of the IOC. Only cities, not countries, may host an Olympic Games. In other words, the 2004 Athens Games will be hosted by the city of Athens, Greece, not by the country of Greece.
All sports on the Olympic Program must be held within the approximate local area of the city bidding for the Games. The Olympic bid committee of the candidate city first must receive support from its National Olympic Committee (NOC) before the IOC will consider its bid. Only one city from a country is allowed to bid for the Games. After a process involving detailed evaluation, the IOC votes to select a host city seven years before the Games are held.
The growth of the Olympic Games has made the bidding process complicated and extremely competitive. Local committees put tremendous effort and expense into their bids. The size of the Games, as well as the cost, requires extensively detailed planning and preparation for the bids alone.
Copyright: LA84 Foundation of Los Angeles, January, 1996; November, 1997; February, 1999; April 2001; March 2002.
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