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Every few years, thousands of the finest athletes in the world gather together to compete in
the Olympic games.
They come from hundreds of countries, from all parts of the globe, and for the length
of the games the world comes together on common ground in a celebration of peace and unity.
But what are the Olympics?
The first Olympic games took place in Greece nearly three thousand years ago in 776 BC.
They were athletic competitions held in honor of Zeus, the king of the gods.
The games happened every four years, and during the games there was an Olympic Truce when
wars and battles were not allowed so that athletes from different cities could travel
safely to and from the games.
Originally, the Olympic games only had one event - a short race across a stadium - but
through the years more events were added including boxing, wrestling, long jump, throwing javelins
and discus, and chariot racing.
In the ancient Olympics, only men were allowed to compete.
The winners were awarded a wreath or crown of olive branches, which was a great honor,
and often received money and other prizes.
The final games of the ancient Olympics were held in 393 AD, ending a tradition of over
It wasn't until almost 1500 years later that someone tried to hold the Olympics again.
Small events modeled after the ancient Olympics were held in various places in Europe off
and on for over a hundred years, until the International Olympic Committee was created
in 1894 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France.
The first games organized by the IOC took place in Athens, Greece, in 1896, and featured
241 athletes from 14 countries.
Since that small beginning, many things have changed.
Women first competed in the Olympics in 1900.
The Olympics were expanded to include winter sports like skiing and figure skating, and
special Winter Olympics were held to make that possible.
'Parallel Olympics,' now known as the Paralympics, began to be held for athletes with disabilities.
Not so long ago, Youth Games were introduced, which allows athletes between the ages of
14 and 18 to compete.
Today, the Olympic games are held every two years, with Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics
alternating, so that there are four years between each Summer Olympic games and four
years between each Winter Olympic games.
These are only some of the differences between the ancient Olympics and the modern Olympic
While the ancient Olympics were held in the same place each time, the modern Olympics
are held in different cities around the world.
In the ancient Olympics winners were awarded olive branches, but in the modern Olympics
the victors receive medals.
Third place wins bronze, second place wins silver, and first place gets a gold medal.
The gold medals are not actually made of solid gold, however: they are made of silver covered
with a thin layer of gold.
Another important symbol of the Olympics is the Olympic rings: five interlocking rings
of blue, yellow, black, green, and red on a white background.
The colors of the rings were chosen because every flag in the world at the time had at
least one of those colors on it.
Each of the five rings represents one of the inhabited continents of the world: North and
South America are counted as one, along with Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia.
After the rings, one of the most important symbols of the Olympics is the Olympic flame,
The lighting of the torch is a reminder of the ancient Greek myth when Prometheus stole
fire from the god Zeus to give it to humans.
Before each Olympics, the torch is lit in a special ceremony at the site of the ancient
Olympics in Olympia, Greece.
It travels around Greece and then begins a special journey to the city that will host
During the opening ceremonies of the games, the torch is used to light a huge cauldron,
which stays burning until the Olympic's last day.
When the flame is put out, it means the official end of the games.
The goal of the Olympics is to help build a better, more peaceful world through international
cooperation, friendship, and the love of the games.
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the
most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
ALL ABOUT THE OLYMPICS FOR KIDS. THE HISTORY AND SYMBOLS OF THE OLYMPICS: FREESCHOOL
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