Today, the Olympic Games are the world’s largest pageant of athletic skill and competitive spirit. They are also displays of nationalism, commerce, and politics. These two opposing elements of the Olympics are not a modern invention. The conflict between the Olympic movement’s high ideals and the commercialism or political acts which accompany the Game. The ancient Olympics were rather different from the modern Games. There were fewer events and only free men who spoke Greek could compete, instead of athletes from any country.
Also, the games were always held at Olympia instead of moving around to different sites every time. Like our Olympics, though, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. One young Athenian nobleman defended his political reputation by mentioning how he entered seven chariots in the Olympic chariot-race. This high number of entries made both the aristocrat and Athens look very wealthy and powerful. The ancient Olympic Games, was also a part of a major religious festival honoring Zeus, the chief Greek god, were the biggest event in their world.
They were the scene of political rivalries between people from different parts of the Greek world, the site of controversies, boasts, public announcements, and humiliations. Politics were present at the ancient Olympics in many forms. In 365 B. C. , the Arcadians and the Pisatans took over the Altis, and they presided over the 104th Olympiad the next year. When the Eleans finally regained control of Olympia, they declared the 104th Games invalid. Some valuable political deeds were recorded at Olympia.
An inscription on a victory statue honored Pantarces of Elis not only for winning in the Olympic horse-races, but also for making peace between the Achaeans and the Eleans, and negotiating the release of both sides’ prisoners of war. Olympia was also a place for announcing political alliances. Thucydides describes a 100-year military treaty the Athenians, Argives, Mantineans, and Eleans entered into, which was recorded in public inscriptions on stone pillars at the first three cities, and on a bronze pillar at Olympia.
The Olympic festival not only celebrated excellence in athletics. It also provided the occasion for Greeks to produce lasting cultural achievements in architecture, mathematics, sculpture, and poetry. The ancient Greeks were architectural innovators. The temple of Zeus, designed by the architect Libon, was one of the largest Doric temples built in Greece. Libon tried to build the temple in an ideal system of proportions, so that the distance between the columns was harmoniously proportional to their height, and the other architectural elements were sized proportionately as well.
The Greek mathematician Euclid expressed this ideal ratio in his Elements, a book on geometry which is said to be the second most popular book of all time, after the Bible. The cultural achievement most directly tied to the Olympic games was poetry commissioned in honor of athletic victors. These poems, called Epinicians, were written by the most famous poets of the day, including Pindar, Bacchylides, and Simonides they were extremely popular. Proof of this is that the playwright Aristophanes portrays an average, not especially literary Athenian man who asks his son to sing a particular forty-year-old epinician poem composed by Simonides.
The poem and the athlete live on in people’s memories long after the day of victory. The epinician odes were written to immortalize the athletic victors and they have lasted longer than many of the statues and inscriptions which were made for the same purpose. A truce (in Greek, ekecheiria, which literally means “holding of hands”) was announced before and during each of the Olympic festivals, to allow visitors to travel safely to Olympia. An inscription describing the truce was written on a bronze discus which was displayed at Olympia.
During the truce, wars were suspended, armies were prohibited from entering Elis or threatening the Games, legal disputes, and the carrying out of death penalties were forbidden. The Olympic truce was faithfully observed for the most part, although the historian Thucydides recounts that the Lacedaemonians were banned from participating in the Games, after they attacked a fortress in Lepreum and a town in Elis, during the truce. The Lacedaemonians complained that the truce had not yet been announced at the time of their attack.
But the Eleans fined them two thousand minae, two for each soldier, as the law required. Another international truce was enforced during the annual Mysteries, a religious rite held at the major sanctuary site of Eleusis. The truces of Olympia and Eleusis not only allowed worshippers and athletes to travel more safely; they also provided a common basis for peace among the Greeks. Lysistrata, the title character in a comic play by Aristophanes, makes this point when she tries to convince the Athenians and the Spartans to end their war.
As you can see that the Olympic Game is a historical event that has lasted through the centuries till today. The Greek then are now taking the privilege of honoring. The assignment of the year’s 2004 Olympic Games to Athens is radically different from previous ones. For a main characteristic of the 2004 Olympics is Greece does not consider the Olympics just to be the foremost athletic event that lasts for a few days every four years because Greece wishes to revive the idea of the Olympiad.
Therefore, it is desirable to organize not just one cultural event but a cultural program of global scope which will develop and culminate during the four years period between two successive Olympic Games. Greece undertakes the responsibility to organize the 2004 Olympic Games in a manner that will incorporate this new cultural dimension and feels committed to set a new vision of the Olympic idea which will have a permanent effect. The main idea is that the Cultural Olympiad will become a permanent institution and extend over the period of the four years between two successive Olympic Games and culminating with the Cultural Olympics.
Greece envisions these Olympics of Culture as the Olympics of the Spirit and Arts, sees itself as the permanent seat of the institution that will cooperate effectively with the various cities which will be assigned the organization of the Olympic Games. The Political and Ideological Problems The political and ideological problems of international athletic gatherings are well-known. Prominent among them is the ideological and media exploitation of the organization itself, as well as the symbolic and media exploitation.
The commer-cialization of the athletic achievements with whatever this entails for athletes. The Cultural Olympiad 2000-2004 and the Cultural Olympic games of 2004 will be hosted in the already existing cultural facilities all over the country. The events will take place in the existing covered or openair exhibition spaces or cultural halls, ancient theaters or other “natural settings”. Special emphasis will be given to places with historic reference (Athens, Olympia, Epidavros, Thessaloniki, Olympus, Philippoi, e. t. c. ).