The Olympic Games are one of the most spectacular reminders of the debt we owe to the Greeks. The original Olympic Games were held every four years in honour of Zeus, the supreme god of Greek religion. The first record of the games dates from 776 B.C., but it is certain that they existed prior to that. They were held continuously for over 1.000 years until they were abolished in the reign of King Theodosius about 392 A.D. The Olympic festival was a great unifying bond between the Independent city-states of Greece.
The important sports in the original Olympic Games were running, jumping, wrestling, throwing the discus and throwing the javelin. Only men competed and they wore no clothes in order to have greater freedom of movement. Each competitor had to take the Olympic Oath – a promise to behave in a sportsman-like fashion.
The modern Olympic era began in 1894 when Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin decided to revive the ancient Greek tradition of celebrating health, youth and peace with a sports festival. Baron de Coubertin created the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the first modem Olympiad took place in Athens in 1896. Since then the Olympic Games have been held every four years with only two exceptions because of the two world wars.
Even though the modern Olympic Games embrace the whole world, the connection with Greece is still very strong. A lighted torch is brought all the way from Greece, carried by a relay of runners, in order to light the Olympic Flame which bums all through the Games. As in ancient Greek times, the competitors still take the Olympic Oath. The long-distance race is still called the Marathon. Marathon was a village about 26 miles from Athens. In the year 490 BC the Greeks defeated a powerful Persian army at that spot. After the fierce day’s fighting a soldier volunteered to bring news of the victory to the anxious citizens of Athens. He ran all the way and after gasping out the message. “Rejoice, we conquer!” he collapsed and died.
One important rule of the Olympic Games is that the competitors must be amateurs. This rule has been under a lot of pressure in recent years because modem sport is so professional and competitive. Athletes train for years to take part in the Olympics and some countries spend much more than others on equipment and facilities. But despite these pressures, the amateur rule remains.
In modern times the Olympic movement has become an enormous and expensive organisation, It’s controlled by the International Olympic Committee, which consists of members from all the participating countries. The IOC is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. It chooses the locations of both summer and winter games (both take place once very four years, with winter games half a year before summer Olympiads). It also controls the rules of the competitions and selects new Olympic sports. The famous flag of the IOC shows five rings of different colours linked together. The rings represent the five continents.
Many kinds of sport originated from England. The English have a proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. They do not think that play is more important than work; they think that Jack will do his work better if he plays as well. so he is encouraged to do both. Association football, or soccer is one of the most popular games in the British Isles played from late August until the beginning of May. In summer the English national sport is cricket. When the English say: “that’s not cricket” it means “that’s not fair”, “to play the game” means “to be fair”.
Golf is Scotland’s chief contribution to British sport. It is worth noting here an interesting feature of sporting life in Britain, namely, its frequently close connections with social class of the players or spectators except where a game may be said to be a “national” sport. This is the case with cricket in England which is played and watched by all classes. This is true of golf, which is everywhere in the British Isles a middle-class activity. Rugby Union. the amateur variety of Rugby football, is the Welsh national sport played by all sections of society whereas, elsewhere, it too is a game for the middle classes. Association football is a working-class sport as are boxing, wrestling, snooker, darts, and dog-racing. As far as fishing is concerned it is a sport where what is caught determines the class of a fisherman.
Walking and swimming are the two most popular sporting activities, being almost equally undertaken by men and women. Snooker (billiards), pool and darts are the next most popular sports among men. Aerobics (keep-fit exercises) and yoga. squash and cycling are among the sports where participation has been increasing in recent years.
There are several places in Britain associated with a particular kind of sport. One of them is Wimbledon where the All-England Lawn Tennis Championship are held in July (since 1877). The other one is Wembly – a stadium in north London where international football matches, the Cup Finals and other events have taken place since 1923.