Past to present, Olympic tradition prevails

Jon Grant, Sports Editor

We are all familiar with the torch, the flag, the ever-popular opening and closing ceremonies; with over 200 nations, 13,000 athletes, 33 sports, and almost 400 events the Olympics are truly the most glorious spectacle of sport and ability in the world.

In London this past summer, more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations competed in the Olympic Games. America claimed more gold medals than any other nation, as well as the most medals overall. America specifically dominated women’s gymnastics, as well as swimming on both the men’s and women’s sides of things.

“We did exceptionally well at this summer’s Olympics and I expect more great performances to come,” senior Adam Davi said. “Like most Americans, I felt great pride while watching the Games; the admiration for our country’s athletes is truly ubiquitous.”

For example, Ryan Lochte, a contender shadowing Michael Phelps, won gold in the 400-meter individual medley. Paradoxically, Phelps placed fourth in the race, not even obtaining a medal – the first time he was not on a podium since the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. However, later in the games Phelps made up for this anomaly by bringing home the gold in the men’s 4×200 meter freestyle relay, in which he was the final leg, and in the 200-meter individual medley. Also making America proud was Matt Grevers who set an Olympic record for the 100-meter backstroke race to bring home the gold.

The women’s swim team caused an uproar as well. Dana Vollner and Allison Schmitt both set records and brought home gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter freestyle races, respectively. Perhaps most impressive were the successes of American swimmer Rebecca Soni who set world records in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke races. Like the men’s team, the women’s swim team won gold in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay as well, setting a record in the process.

The gymnastics team, nicknamed “The Fierce Five”, was all the rage too. The five teenagers Gabby Douglas (16), Jordyn Wieber (17), Aly Raisman (18), Kyla Ross (15), and McKayla Maroney (16) won the gold medal for the U.S. in women’s team gynmnastics for the first time since 1996.

When most people think of the Olympics they think of a few household names, such as Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, or Michael Phelps. They all lived up to expectations by taking home gold medals. Usain Bolt ran a 9.63 second 100-meter dash, not only taking home the gold medal, and setting an Olympic record, but also running the second fastest 100-meter dash ever. In addition, Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova in the final round of women’s singles tennis, taking home the gold medal in a well-deserved victory. Michael Phelps rebounded from his surprising initial defeat and ended up winning two more golds, becoming the most decorated Olympian of all-time.

To be the most decorated Olympian of all time is quite an accomplishment, given that these mesmerizing displays of talent began in ancient Greece in the eighth century B.C. The ancient Olympics began as an honoring of sorts to the Gods – mainly Zeus and Pelope.

The games took place every four years – similar to the present games – in the Sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. Like the present games, tests of strength, speed, agility, and many other favorable attributes were displayed in the forms of chariot races, combat, and other arbitrary athletic events. However, in 393 A.D., Theodosius I ended the games when the Romans infiltrated Greece. No more Olympic games occurred until 1896, when a Frenchman named Pierre de Coubertin suggested they recommence in their birth place of Athens, Greece.

From then on the games have have occurred every two years, alternating between summer and winter competitions. The exceptions to this tradition were in the years 1916, 1940, and, 1944 when the two World Wars caused the Olympics to be cancelled. Similarly, in 1980 and 1984, the Cold War led to selective entry into the Olympics because of boycotts taking place at the time. Some interesting and well-crafted changes have occurred to the games recently in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

One major change to the Olympic tradition was the advent of the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics attracted a broader audience and a greater number of athletes because of the increased number of sporting events available. The International Olympic Committee made all of these alterations and additions possible.

The Olympics are a display of grind, talent, and character that never fail to grab the attention of millions of viewers around the world. The athletes fortunate enough to compete train hard every day of their lives for this glorious spectacle that occurs every four years, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London were satisfying for viewers and athletes alike: there was controversy, record-setting, and many heroes were made. This year the United States came out on top, and Americans will undoubtedly wait eagerly for the next installment in this great global tradition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016.

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