Cradle of Games, Greece Plans 2004 Homecoming
By Pepper Provenzano
Chosen host of the 2004 Summer Games of the 28th Olympiad, Athens plans to add a contemporary, high-tech dimension to its original values as the birthplace of the "Olympic Idea."
While Greece is the host country with the smallest population in the recent history of the Summer Games, staging the Olympics could help position this nation to play a pivotal role in the southeast European region.
Today, 73 percent of the facilities for the 28 Olympic sports are in place, according to the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Large-scale infrustructure upgrading is well under way, including a new Athens International Airport and a new subway system.
Some highlights on the Greek Olympics:
-- Scholars speculate that the ancient athletic Games began as early as the 10th century B.C. in Olympia, Greece, but the first written results of the games were listed in 776 B.C., which, coincidentally, is the earliest verifiable date in the history of Western Civilization.
-- The games were held every four years on the first full moon after the summer solstice for the next 1,169 years through 393 A.D. (the 293rd Olympiad). One year later, the Olympic Games were abolished by the Emperor Theodosias I.
-- Women were excluded from participating, or even watching, the ancient games, but women took part in the Heraia, honoring the goddess Hera, independent of the men's games, but in the same stadium.
-- Nudity was common among ancient Greek athletes, who regarded the human body with awe and respect, in contrast to many Greek neighbors who related nudity with immorality.
-- A truce between Greek cities ensured the security of the Games. The conditions of the truce were:
-The interruption of all hostilities among the Greek cities;
-The prohibition of the entrance in Olympia to anyone who carried weapons;
-The suspension of the execution of the death penalty.
The Modern Games
-- French Baron Pierre de Coubertin initiated the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, and created the modern marathon in honor of the Greek messenger Phidippides' legendary run.
-- The International Olympic Committee was also initiated in 1896. Greek scholar Dimitrios Bikelas was the first IOC president.
-- The marathon distance was changed to 26.2 miles in 1908 at the London Games, to cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, with 385 yards added so the race could finish in front of the royal family's viewing box.
-- Women did not take part in the modern Games until 1928 in Amsterdam.
-- The first Olympic flame and the ongoing tradition began in 1936 in Berlin.
-- The marathon and the 200-meter run are the only events that have been included in every summer Olympics since the modern Games began.