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This Months Need To Know: A Guide to the Olympic Games, Both Past and Present

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Along with holidays and deadlines and eating I haven’t been able to give you a rundown of the weeks most important topics in almost a month, so as a special treat I’m going to give you the lowdown on what I think is this months need to know – exciting.

I have noticed that all my past updates have been slightly on the sad or angry side; from the coldhearted murder of Harambe, to my slight meltdown* over the EU Referendum results, and have decided that this post shall be a happy celebration of the excellent human beings that are currently gracing our screens thanks to the Olympic games happening in Rio de Janeiro.

The night before last, my partner and I watched the USA women’s gymnast team storm to a terrific victory with an 8.209 point lead over silver medal winner’s Russia. With a mouthful of smushed Tucs crackers, my partner exclaimed ‘I love watching the ‘lympics!’ and I couldn’t help but agree; the celebration of the worlds finest athletes is truly a marvel to watch. I decided to do a little more research into the Olympic games; including its history, some of the most iconic moments, and some athlete profiles of those currently competing in the Rio 2016 games.

 

A Brief History of the Olympic Games

The name ‘Olympic Games’ is derived from the birthplace of the first ever games recorded; 776 B.C in Olympia, Athens. The games were closely linked to religious festivals and as Olympia functioned as the cities meeting ground for religious and political events they were first hosted in the western part of the Peloponnese; home to the ‘Pelops’ and to the dominating temple of Zeus. The games continued for around 12 centuries until they were banished by Emperor Theodosius in 393 AD, along with all other ‘pagan cults.’

Jump forward to Athens, 1896, to the games reopening in its founding city. Athletes from 14 nations participated in the games, with the majority coming from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain.

April 6th 1896 saw the first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years, when American competitor James Connolly won the triple jump.

Its been queried relentlessly why the diving pool in Rio has turned a suspicious shade of green over the course of the 2016 games, but compared to the long swimming event back in Athens 1896 – where the swimmers were dropped off in the sea, some distance from land, and left to race back to shore – a green pool is plain sailing. I wonder how Michael Phelps would manage?

National Olympic Committees: 14

Athletes: 241

Events: 43

Volunteers: N/A

 

Controversial and Iconic Moments in Olympic Games’ History

Paris, 1900: Women Allowed!

The first games in which female athletes could participate in lawn tennis and golf (nothing else). London 2012 saw the introduction of women’s boxing and marked the first games where there were female athletes participating from every competing country.

NOCS: 24

Athletes: 997 (22 women, 975 men)

Events: 95

Volunteers: N/A

 

Berlin, 1936: Owens for Gold

Jesse Owens, an African-American athlete, broke multiple records and won multiple gold medals in the first televised games, simultaneously ruining Hitler’s aim to use the games as an example of Aryan superiority.

The games also marked the youngest female athlete to ever win gold, Marjorie Gestring –also of the USA – when the thirteen year-old triumphed in springboard diving.

NOCS: 49

Athletes: 3,936 (331 women, 3,632 men)

Events: 129

Volunteers: N/A

 

Mexico City, 1968: Making Room for Civil Rights

At the height of the Civil Rights movement, black athletes were encouraged to boycott the games. John Carlos and Tommie Smith still exercised their right to compete, but during the playing of their national anthem during their medal ceremony, the pair raised their fists in a Black Power salute. They were banned from the Olympic Village as a result, but their actions gave their cause an international platform for the first time.

NOCS: 112

Athletes: 5,516

Events: 172

Volunteers: N/A

 

Munich, 1972: Terror Triumphs

On the 5th September 1972, 8 Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympic Village and murdered two Israeli athletes, taking another nine hostage. In the ensuing conflict the other nine athletes also lost their lives, along with one police officer. The ideal of the games promoting peace worldwide was thwarted for the first time. After a 34-hour pause the games resumed.

NOCS: 127

Athletes: 7,134 (1,059 women, 6,075 men)

Events: 195

Volunteers: N/A

 

Sydney, 2000: A Brief Reunion 

During the Sydney opening ceremony, North and South Korea marched together, holding hands and in matching uniforms, under a unification flag featuring a map of Korea.

NOCS: 199 (plus 4 individual athletes)

Athletes: 10,657 (4,069 women, 6,582 men)

Events: 300

Volunteers: 46,967

 

I could go on for longer, but I thought these were the most interesting and important moments of the Olympic Games’ history; if you’d like to know more about these events, or read up on each individual games, head to www.olympic.org where there are enough facts and figures to keep you going til Tokyo 2020.

Anyway, onto this games; Rio 2016.

This years Olympics are the first to welcome a Refugee team, representative of the 60 million refugees across the world and selected, as stated by the Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, to ‘send a message of hope to all the refugees of the world’. The team consists of ten athletes; Rami Anis, Yiech Pur Biel, James Chiengjiek, Paolo Amotun Lokoro, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith,Rose Nathike Lokonyen, Yonas Kinde, Yolande Mabika, Yusra Mardini and Popole Misenga. Their sports span from judo to athletics, but – despite all their incredible achievements thus far – the athlete I wish to focus on is Yusra Mardini. The 18 year old Syrian swimmer is already making waves at her first Olympics – and not just because she won her butterfly 100m heat. Mardini used her incredible swimming ability to not just impress on the worlds biggest sporting stage, but to save 20 peoples lives after the boat they were using to escape from Damascus capsized. She swam in open waters for three hours, pushing the boat, and the 20 on-board to safety in Germany. Medal or not, I think we can already agree that this girl is a hero.

Other game highlights include the other-worldly form of Michael Phelps winning his 20th gold medal, even after fierce pre-swim tactics from his long in-water rival Chad le Clos – see Buzzfeed for updates on their beef – proving to us all that the man is definitely, probably, half vertebrate, and of course, watching the pint-sized Simone Biles vaulting herself, her team, and her country into gold-medal winning position in the team all-around gymnastics final. If you haven’t watched her final floor routine that gave the team the seven required points (plus 8 more for luck) to place them in number one spot, then I suggest you YouTube it.

As it stands, the USA holds the number one spot in the medal table with 13 gold medals (thanks Mike), 12 silver and 10 bronzes. The UK is 8th, with 16 medals in total (four of which are gold) but with much still to come – including the cycling and athletics (you’ve got this Jess Ennis-Hill) – its still all to play for.

If I don’t update next week, it’s because I’ve finally put down the Tucs and hopped on a treadmill – you won’t be laughing when you see me at the Tokyo 2020 games!

 

*In a world where slight meltdown means throwing the tantrum of all tantrums, and publicly calling the ex-Prime Minister a ‘smug pig-fondler’, and probably dashing any and all hopes of ever becoming a reputable journalist. Oops.

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