Olympic Games past and present

The Olympics, named after the city of Olympia in Greece, where the ancient Olympic games held from 8th Century BC to 4th Century AD. It is the largest international sporting event that brings together athletes from more than 200 nations around the world. Held in every fourth year, the Olympic events are divided into seasonal categories such as Summer and Winter Games, as well as categories based on athlete’s physical attributes (e.g. Paralympics for persons with disabilities) and demographic features (e.g. Youth Olympics for teenage athletes). However, it is the Summer Olympics that attracts most of the global attention both in social and mainstream media. In Bangladesh also, the Summer Olympic is highlighted in media as none of the athletes participate in winter Olympics. This year, the Summer Olympic Games is hosted in Rio de Janeiro of Brazil. Since the beginning of modern Olympics in 1896, a total of 31 Summer Olympic events took place in 22 different cities. Los Angeles, Paris and Athens hosted twice each and London hosted three of these events. A historical snapshot of key events of Summer Olympics is given in the following section.

Olympic Timeline:

800 BC- 400 AD : Historical records show that the ancient game of Olympics started in Olympia, Greece before 776 BC and continued up until 396 AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius I abolishes the Games. The detailed description of the ancient games is missing except for the fact that it originally consisted only of foot races. Other events such as wrestling and the pentathlon were gradually added.

1896 – Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympics foundedthe International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. Two years later, the first event of modern Olympics took place in Athens, Greece. A total 245 men from14 countries competed in 43 events. Women were not allowed to participate in this first even of Olympic Games.

1900 – Four years later in Paris, women were allowed to participate first time in the history of modern Olympics.However, their participation was restricted to only in lawn tennis and golf.

1908 – The marching of athletes into the stadium behind their National Flagswas introduced for the first time in the London Olympics this year. Athletes from 22 countries marched behind national flag that year.

1912 – In Stockholm, Sweden Olympics was the first event where athletes from five continents (as symbolized in the Olympic rings) participated. It was in this event where women athletes first partook in swimming competition. Surprisingly, America then did not allow itsfemale athletes to compete in events without long skirts.

1928 – In Amsterdam, the Olympic Flame was first lit and it was first to bear the name Summer Olympic Games. Germany was allowed to return after being banned in 1920 (it was initially banned for being at the wrong side in WWI). Female athletes competed in track and field events but large number of causalities happened as many of them collapsed at the end of the 800-meter race. Therefore the even was banned for women until 1960.  As Olympics that time was only limited to amateur players, therefore the professional sports like football (soccer) was not included. As an alternative, two years later Football World Cup was organized separately in Uruguay by FIFA.

1936- In Berlin the Olympic Games were first televised and shown in large screens.  It was in this event, Jesse Owens, an African-American athlete became the star of the Games,in the times of racial discrimination. He won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events.

1948 – After being halt for two consecutive times (due to WWII), the Summer Olympic resumed in London. The record number of countries (59) participated. However, Germany and Japan were not invited in this event.

1960 – At the Rome Olympics, Summer Games were first covered by television worldwide. A record 5,348 athletes from 83 countries competed. The 18 years old American boxer Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay was light heavyweight boxing champion. AbebeBikila, the Ethiopian marathoner ran barefoot to become first black African to take home a gold medal. During this time the Soviets led the medal table with 103 medals (43 gold), followed by America with 71 medals (34 gold).

1964 – Tokyo Olympic was first Olympic event in Asia.  Sixteen nations made their first appearance in the Tokyo Olympics. $3 billion was spent to rebuild Tokyo, a city that had been devastated by earthquakes and bombings of WWII. 25 Olympic and world records were broken in this event. In this Olympic Swedish sailing brothers Lars Gunnar Käll and StigLennartKäll were first endowed with Fair Play award as they gave up a potential medal to rescue two fellow competitors from a capsized boat.

1968 – The first Olympic Games held in Latin America, in Mexico. The Games were controversially held at the highest altitude ever (7,349 feet high). The Athletes compete in 122 men’s events, 39 women’s events, and 11 mixed events. It was in this event when America surpassed Soviet Union winning 107 medals (45 gold) to 91 medals (29 gold).

1980 – Moscow Olympic in Russia, the first Olympic Games to be held in a Communist country. As a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, USA and many other countries boycotted the event. The participant countries reduced to 80 from 122 in Montreal in 1976.

1984 – Los Angeles Olympics was the first privately financed Olympic games. In retaliation to American boycott of Moscow Olympic, the Soviet Union led a 14-country boycott this year. In this event, soccer was first introduced, but restricted to those who haven’t been part of FIFA World Cup event. Bangladesh first participated in Olympic Games this year.

1992 – In Barcelona Olympic, a record of 172 nations participated, represented by 10,563 athletes. With the exception of Afghanistan, all the IOC countries participated this year. As the door opened for professional athletes, USA sent its basketball ‘Dream Team’ including Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Karl Malone. As expected, they finished undefeated.

2000 – The Sydney Olympic was the ‘Millennium Games’ or the ‘Games of the New Millennium’. 10,651 athletes (4,069 of them women) from 199 nations participate; the only nation excluded was Afghanistan. Surprisingly the North and South Korea entered the stadium under one flag.

2008- The Olympic torch was carried to 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest in Beijing Olympic. This event is marked by two speedsters, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. It was during this oneevent,Michael Phelps or known as “Baltimore Bullet”won eight gold medals. He participated in eight events and set seven world records.  Withhis 14 career gold medals, Phelps broke the previous record (since 1928)of9 career gold medal of PaavoNurmi of Finland.  On the other hand, Jamaican Usain Bolt won 3 gold and registered a new world record in the men’s 100 meter dash at 00:09.69.

2012 – One of the most talked about events of London Olympic was the stunt by James Bond actor Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth’s jumping from an airplane and entering the stadium by parachuting. This was first time in Olympic Games all the 205 participating nations sent at least one female athletes.Surpassing the Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina, Michael Phelps became the winner of most medals in Olympics with his 22 (18 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medals).

Rio 2016

Up until now, South America only hostedevents like Copa America and FIFA World Cup. But this is apparently the first time in history that Olympic Games are hosted in a South American city, Rio de Janeiro. A total of 10,500 athletes are competing for 4,924 medals in 28 sporting events. This is also for the first time in the history of Olympic Games that a refugee team is competing. This team is called “Olympic team”, consisting of 10 athletes who are stateless refugees from different countries. This also goes with the motto of Rio Olympic “ A new world” that thrives for inclusion and justice.

Vinicious, the mascot of Summer Olympics is mixture of all Brazilian animals and Tom, the mascot of Paralympics is combination of all plants in the Brazilian forests. According to the experts, the Rio 2016 is the ‘richest event’ in 120 years history of Olympics. The organizers of this event are expected to revenue $9 billion (705,572,550,000 or 705 billion Taka). The two most famous Olympic athletes Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are in the limelight this year, which is possibly their last Olympic event before retirement.

Bangladesh in Olympics:

Since the first participation in 1984, Rio 2016 is ninth consecutive appearance of Bangladesh in Olympic Games. Bangladesh, even though home of 160 million people and 8th most populous country in the world, the Olympic story of her is a sad reading for its supporters. Before golfer SiddikurRahman this year, none of the athletes reached Olympic by merit. In the past the athletes participated through wildcard system, which is issued for countries that cannot meet qualifying criteria. Many blame lack of investment for equipment and grooming facilities to train the athletes for Olympics. While it is also reality that the excessive magnetism and fame involved with cricket (which is not part of Olympic games) is no less an important cause. Putting all of the nation’s sporting interest solely on cricket not only demotivates potential athletes to dram high, but also restrains investment for other sports outside cricket.

Given all these structural and financial limitations, Bangladesh sent seven athletes to compete in five different sports in Rio.Six of the seven participants are from Bangladesh Armed Forces (five from Navy and one from Army). Beside athleticism, a proud moment for Bangladesh in Rio 2016 was the participation of Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus in Olympic Torch Relay. Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of Microfinance carried the torch when the relay reached at Campo Grande. Microfinance has recently made major contribution to the development of Brazilian economy, especially in underprivileged areas such as Campo Grande.

Interesting facts behind
Rio 2016:

There are voluminous arrangements required for an Olympic game to take place. The amount of money and manpower spent for security, transport, infrastructure, food and other amenities is mind-boggling. Some of those facts are shared in the falling part just to give an idea how big deal is organizing an event of such scale:
It is estimated that a fleet of 21 jumbo jets is required to fly all 10,500 athletes out to Rio. That’s a total space the size of 21 football pitches.
In this Olympic, countries like USA, Brazil and Germany has around 400-500 athletes, while countries like Bhutan, Chad, Brunei and Afghanistan have only 2-3 athletes per country. More surprisingly, Tuvalu has only one athlete representing the country in Rio 2016.
The Maracana Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies held boasts the world record for the most fans ever to attend in a soccer game. In 1950 World Cup final at least 173,000 fans squeezed in that stadium whose capacity is 78,000 in recent time.
This year Golf returned to the Olympics after 112 years absence. However, the golf course in Rio is overrun by wild animals. It is also anticipated that there are around 263 species of animals in Rio Olympic golf course.
There are 7.5 million tickets for Rio 2016 events. The price of which ranges from $40 (around 3000 TK) for some swimming events to almost $3,000 (around 2.5 lakh TK) for the best seats at the opening ceremony.
As plenty of athletes gather together in Olympic, the food required to feed them is huge. Organizers say they have prepared 60,000 meals per day to feed the athletes only.
For the protection of the athletes and visitors, around 85,000 soldiers and policemen are deployed. This is the largest security force assembled at any event in Brazil’s history and twice as large as the security presence for London 2012.
Beside security force, this type of events requires large number of volunteers. In Rio, about 140,000 people worked to host the Games and 50,000 of them are volunteers (which means 5 volunteer per athlete).
32 tonnes of dead fish removed from the rowing and canoeing lagoon before the water-based activities take place. This is projected as enough fish to feed 47,032 locals their favorite Moqueca dish.

Records and wins in
Rio 2016:

It is often said that records are made to be broken. In Olympics, the old records are replaced by new ones faster than in any other international competition. At the time this article is being written (mid August), 44 Olympic records and 15 world records are already broken in Rio. One of those who are at the forefront is Michael Phelps, who won unprecedented 13th individual Olympic victory by braking 2000 years old Olympic record of ancient Greek runner Leonidas. Phelps, who already broke the record of most career medal inOlympic last time, has already won 4 gold medals in Rio 2016 (total 22 gold so far). The official page of Gunnies World Record declares him the most decorated Olympian of all time. However alongside him, there are many others whose victories are equally source of our inspiration:

One of such sensational instances is the gold medal win by Kuwaiti shooter Faheed Aldeehani. However, as Kuwait is banned from Rio 2016 for its governmental corruption, Faheed had to compete under Olympic flag. He is the first athlete to win medal from ‘ Olympic Team’ of refugees. When OIC asked Faheed to carry Olympic flag during the Opening ceremony, he refused. “I am a military man and I will only carry the Kuwait flag, Faheed Aldeehani said”

Egypt’s Sara Ahmed has become an inspirational name for Muslim female athletes. Sara won bronze in the women’s 69kg weight class. She is the first Arab woman to win medal in weightlifting event. For her country, this 18-year old Egyptian is the first female athlete to win Olympic medal in 104 years. Beside Sara, another Egyptian athlete (beach volleyball player) DoaaElghobashydrew attention in Rio by playing with Islamic modest dress of long sleeves and hijab.

Kristin Armstrong (USA), also known as cyclist mom has won her third consecutive gold in cycling just one day before her 43rd birthday. She is the first person ever to win the same cycling Olympic eventthree consecutive times. Moreover, she is also the third oldest woman in Olympic history to win an individual event. Following her second medal in 2012, Kristine declared her retirement and then came back again in Rio to win her third gold.  After celebrating her victory with five year old son Lucas, she told the reporters that “people have asked me, over and over: Why I am back? And ‘ it is because I can’.

All these stories disseminate lessons that are not only applicable for out athleticism, but also for our personality and character build up. Kristin who conquered her age, Sara who stood up to female stereotypes, Doaa who remained farm to her religious principal andFaheed who became embodiment of patriotism, all of them are motivation for both athletes and non athletes around the world.

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