for the Gold
His brow covered with sweat,
an athlete crosses the finish line. He glances behind him and realizes
he's done it. He's won the gold. An Olympic medal. Not bad for a cook.
Coroebus of Elis, who won the sprint race in 776 BC. Although he's the
first Olympic champion listed in Greek Olympic records, it's generally
accepted that the games were probably at least 500 years old at that
Flash forward to Sydney, Australia, September, 2000.
Now, get ready for 16 days
and nights of suspense, surprises and super human effort. A $3.5 billion
extravaganza called the summer Olympics is being held in Australia.
(You may think it's already fall-- a bit late for the "summer"
. but it's spring in Australia ).
About 10,200 athletes from
199 countries will compete. More than 15,000 reporters will cover the
Nearly 4 billion people are
expected to keep up with the events through television, the Internet,
magazines and newspapers.
Swimsuits and Old Rivalries
Here's our list of hot stuff
to watch during the games:
in new sleek ankle-to-toe suits:
America's Marion Jones going
for five golds in track and field:
Maurice Green trying to
stay the world's fastest man:
Women's weight lifting for
the first time ever (American Tara Nott has switched from gymnastics
Anthony Ervin, the first black American to make the U.S. swim team;
and, Cubans and Americans
meeting in the boxing ring and on the baseball field.
All Started in Greece
Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world's foremost sports
competition. The athletic festival may have had its origins in ancient
Greece, but it was a European who revived the games in the late 19th
1887 the 24-year-old Pierre Baron de Coubertin began campaigning across
Europe to restore the games and then presented his proposal for a modern
Olympics at an international congress in 1894. His plan was accepted
and the International Olympic Committee was founded.
The first modern Olympic
Games were held in Athens in April 1896, with 13 nations sending nearly
300 representatives to take part in 42 events and 10 different sports.
While human strength and
fortitude take center place at the games, politics have always been
in the wings.
We won't review all of the
games (which are held every four years), but here are some highlights.
Off to a Slow Start
In 1900 the games
were held in Paris, France, over a four month period. To say it was
chaos is putting it mildly. The track-and-field events were held in
an uneven, wet grass field. Broken telephone poles were used to make
hurdles, and hammer throwers occasionally had to retrieve their hammers
There was such confusion
about schedules that few spectators or journalists made it to the events.
Officials and athletes often were unaware that they were participating
in the Olympics. The Olympics were almost retired once again.
This time around the
Olympics were better organized. Electric timing devices and a
public address system were used for the first time. The Games were attended
by approximately 2,500 athletes representing 28 nations.
The Games, scheduled
for Berlin, were canceled because of the outbreak of World War I.
Hitler vs. Owens
A tense, politically
charged atmosphere prevailed during these games. The Nazi Party had
risen to power in 1933, two years after Berlin was awarded the Games,
and its racist policies led to international debate about a boycott
of the Games.
Adolf Hitler viewed the Olympics as an opportunity to advance Nazi ideology.
Pamphlets and speeches about the natural superiority of the Aryan race
the track-and-field competition starred black American Jesse Owens--
who won three individual gold medals and a fourth in the 4 100-meter
relay-- and was considered a particular blow to Hitler's ideas about
Games Down Under
The Olympics were held
in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time-- in Melbourne, Australia.
Because of the reversal of seasons, the Games were held in November
Tragedy and Defiance
These Olympic Games,
held in Mexico City, were politically charged. Ten days before the Games,
students protested because they felt the Mexican government was wasting
money on the Olympics which should have been spent on social programs.
Army troops surrounded the students in the Plaza of Three Cultures and
fired on them. More than 250 protesters were killed and over 1,000 injured.
at the victory ceremony for the men's 200-meter run, black Americans
Tommie Smith and John Carlos (gold and bronze medalists, respectively)
stood barefoot with heads bowed and a single black-gloved fist raised
during the national anthem. The athletes described the gesture -- known
as a "Black Power" salute-- as a tribute to their African
American heritage and a protest of the living conditions of minorities
in the United States.
Officials from the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee decided the display
was counter to the ideals of the Games; both athletes were banned from
the Olympic Village and sent home.
Eight Palestinian terrorists
invaded the Olympic Village and killed two members of the Israeli team.
Nine other Israelis were held hostage for the release of 200 Palestinian
prisoners in Israel. All the hostages, five of their captors, and a
West German policeman were killed in a failed rescue attempt. The Games
were suspended for a day while a memorial service for the victims was
conducted at the Olympic Stadium.
The Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan in December 1979 led to the largest boycott in the history
of the Olympic movement. U.S. president Jimmy Carter took the lead in
the call for a boycott of the 1980 Olympics, and approximately 60 other
nations joined the Americans in staying away from Moscow.
Many communist nations,
including the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Cuba, retaliated for the
U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Games by staying away from the 1984 Games
which were held in Los Angeles.
Though extra security
precautions were taken, a pipe bomb explosion in Centennial Olympic
Park killed two people at the Games being held in Atlanta, Georgia.
What do you think
-- What do we gain from the Olympic Games? Are they worth the trouble