The Olympic Games have evolved significantly over the last century. The number of participants, the rules, and even the requirements have all changed over time. What was once an event reserved for only a few countries has transformed into a global game for everyone. And there's just something special about the Olympics that puts you on the edge of your seat, and the best part is they keep getting better and better.
Photo of 1896 Olympics opening ceremony held in Greece vs. Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony. | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Instagram/olympics
When it comes to thinking about where the first Olympic games were held, most people think it's either Japan or China. Not everyone knows that the Olympics have originated from Greece, and the first modern Olympic games were held in Athens in 1896.
Before the first modern games, the Olympics were only held in Greece since the 6th century. It is said that the son of Zeus and Alcmene hosted the first ancient Olympic Games, and then people started hosting the games every four years as part of a religious festival.
If you're wondering where the name "Olympics" originated from, then it's important to know that it is also associated with Greece. The games were named after Olympia, a sacred place in southern Greece where the events were held.
Photo of olive leaves crown and Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medal | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Instagram/olympics
Did the Olympics winners always receive medals as a token of appreciation? The answer is no. Back in the day, there was no concept of awarding medals to winners. Instead, they would use red ribbons to indicate who the winner was. If you look at ancient Greek paintings, you will find that the Olympic winners wore these red ribbons on either their heads, arms, or legs.
Back in the ancient Olympic games, the winners would get crowns made of olive leaves. Those leaves weren't some leaves taken from ordinary olive trees. They belonged to the sacred tree in Olympia. Unlike what happens today, the contestants standing at the second and third positions got nothing. Securing the first position was necessary back in the day.
Photo of Leon Flameng and Paul Masson at the 1896 Olympics (left) and Simone Biles at Tokyo 2020 (right) | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Instagram/olympics
If you were a woman living in ancient times, you would be disappointed to see how women were treated in the Olympic games. In the ancient Olympics, there were no sports dedicated to women. Only men would compete and win prizes.
It is also said that married women were not allowed to attend the Olympics as spectators. Only unmarried women would cheer for the contestants at the venue. Even after the commencement of the modern Olympics, no women were competing in the games. It wasn't until 1900 that women started to participate in Olympics. There were only 22 female competitors in contrast to 975 men that year.
This year, the gender ratio at the Olympics has almost become equal. According to reports, nearly 49 percent of the competitors are women. This shows how far the Olympic games have come. At first, women were not even allowed to participate, and now there are almost equal numbers of men and women competing in the games.
Olympics Seoul 1988 logo (left) and Olympics Tokyo 2020 medal with logo (right) | Source: Instagram/olympics
Over the years, one thing that has changed in the Olympics is the symbol. Every year, the logo for the Olympics varies according to the city it is being held in. The only thing that remains the same is the set of five colored rings. Each ring represents a continent of the world, and together they indicate that athletes are competing from all around the world.
The continents represented by the rings include America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. There is also a reason behind the colors chosen for the rings. The logo was designed back in 1913, and at that time, the countries participating in the games were limited. The designer chose these colors (blue, black, red, yellow, green) for the rings since at least one of these colors was present in the flags of the participating countries.
Since then, the Olympics rings have remained the same, but the logo has changed throughout the years. The 2021 logo reads "Tokyo 2020" since the games were supposed to be held last year. A "Harmonized Chequered Emblem" is present in the logo, which is made out of three different kinds of shapes. These represent the concept of "Unity in Diversity," and the color used represents Japanese tradition.
First Olympic Swimming Champion Alfred Hajos (left) and Margielyn Arda Didal at the Tokyo 2020 women's street skateboarding event (right) | Source: Wikimedia Commons, Instagram/olympics
It's simple and easy to say that the number of games at the Olympics has significantly increased, but you will be surprised to see the numbers. Back in 1896, when the first modern Olympics was held in Athens, only 12 countries were participating with 280 male contestants, and the number of events was only 43. These events included athletics, gymnastics, swimming, weightlifting, cycling, tennis, shooting, fencing, and wrestling.
If we look at this year's Olympics, we have 339 events in total, 33 sports with 46 disciplines. In addition to the previous games' sports, the International Olympic Committee has introduced five new sports.
These sports include surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, karate, and baseball. The committee explained their move with the reason that these sports are popular amongst the youth and that the people of Japan and other parts of the country are also familiar with them. Tokyo 2020 games are focused on gaining the youth's attention, so they have introduced games that will appeal to the young generation.
These games have still maintained their ability to inspire great human achievements. The Olympics fans are intrigued by the addition of new games. They are looking forward to seeing how these 18 new events turn out to be.
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