Modern Olympics vs. Ancient Olympics
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Modern Olympics vs. Ancient Olympics
In Ancient Greek times, the Olympics was a yearly event, which took
the whole preceding year to prepare for. Today the Olympics take place
every four years and we spend the 4 or 5 years leading up to it to
prepare. The ancient Olympics lasted for 5 days but today the Olympics
last 3 - 4 weeks.
We prepare today, by cleaning the whole country/ town it is going to
take place in, by advertising the event and even building a new
airport, as they have done in Athens for the Olympics, which will be
happening in 2004. In the ancient Olympics the events were held in the
same place each year so they didn't need to put in as much effort as
we do in modern day. However, courses did have to be dug and sand pits
prepared, as well as general tidying up having to be done around the
buildings and monuments.
For the Ancient Olympics all the competitors took up residence one
month before the games at Elis and were under supervision from the
Hellanodikai. They were trained hard and harshly and the correct
criteria of the athletes were checked. They had to be fit, from the
correct parentage and they had to be fairly rich. The athletes were
put on strict diets and under strict supervision from the judges
(Hellanodikai). They had this constantly for one month before the
games began. Nowadays, the competitors come from all over the world
and train in their own hometowns until the events take place. They are
usually on healthy diets and they have to train hard, but not usually
as strict as it was in ancient times. Nowadays, the checks done on
athletes are usually drug tests to check they haven't been taking
During the actual events of the Olympics in Ancient times, the
athletes were naked. Today athletes wear the latest state of the art
aerodynamic clothing to make them streamlined to give them the best
performance in competitions. Another difference between the athletes
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is that in Ancient Olympics, only men could take part but today both
men and women can compete, and there are different competitions for
male and female competitors.
The running events of the ancient Olympics were similar in a way to
modern Olympics. They had all different length races - some long
distance and some short distance, as we do today. But in the ancient
Olympics they had a Race in Armour, which was a two-length race of
which the athletes had to run in full war Armour. This was to keep the
athletes fit for war.
Another small, but significant difference between the events of the
Olympics, is the way the athletes started the race. In the ancient
Olympics, a competitor would stand with his arms stretched forward,
one foot in front of the other, and toes in the groove holes in the
marble start point. In modern Olympics and races, an athlete would
place their knee behind the start line, and have their second foot up;
behind the start line and they would be in a crouched position, with
their hands on the ground in front of their feet/ knee.
For the all-round athlete competing in ancient Olympics, there was a
Pentathlon, which consisted of: Discus, Long Jump, Javelin, Running,
and Wrestling. Today the events of a pentathlon are slightly
different. They are: Pistol shooting, Fencing, Horse riding, Swimming
In wrestling, the rules were quite different to the rules of modern
wrestling. There used to be two types of wrestling, which were upright
(proper) wrestling, and ground wrestling. Today the only type of
wrestling is similar to upright wrestling. Today the main objective of
wrestling is to get the opponent on their back, or to gain the most
points. Similarly, in ancient wrestling the main objective was to get
the opponent to the ground. Today, wrestlers wear clothes, and
sometimes where clothes which advertise the character of their
nickname. Ancient wrestlers wore nothing, but anointed themselves with
olive oil and then dusted powder on to them. They had very short hair
or wore tight leather caps.
In Greek boxing, there were also some similarities and some
differences to modern boxing. The main aim, as it is today, was to
punch the opponent to defeat. However, there were no rounds or points
to fight for. They didn't wear gloves, as we do today. Instead they
had thongs wound around their hands for extra protection for their
knuckles. Most punching and attacking was allowed, but boxers couldn't
gouge with the thumb. Unlike today, the boxing competitions didn't
take place in a boxing ring.
There were some events in ancient Olympics, which we do not have
today. These include Chariot Racing and Mule cart racing. However, in
ancient Olympics they didn't have hurdles or pole vaults as we do
Overall, the Greek Olympics were more hard going and dangerous than
today but today they aren't so much an event that everybody goes to or
the highlight of the year.
The Sports: In the Ancient Greek Olympics there were only ten sports while in modern day Olympics there are substantially more. Still, as in the modern games, they slowly added more. In the ancient games they had 4 running races, equestrian racing, wrestling, boxing, pancratium, pentathlon, and chariot races. In Modern Day Olympics they have gymnastics, triathlon, cycling, fencing, and volleyball to name a few, and of course there are all the winter sports. However, the sports of chariot races and pancratium have been discontinued.
The sport of boxing was added to the ancient games in the 23rd Olympiad during the year 688 B.C. E. It was very different from what we see today. First the competitors wore strips of leather tied about their palms and had no gloves. Also, boxing took place in open space, not in a ring, and they did not break the fighters into different categories by weight. Punches were mostly thrown to the head and not the body as in today's sport and importantly, there were no rounds or breaks. The fight continued until one of the men could not fight back or was unconscious. If the fight continued for a long period, the judge could ask for a "climax". During such times, punches were exchanged and the defender could not protect himself. This brought about an often brutal but quicker end to the match. That which remains the same from the ancient games is that boxing still requires a one on one competition, overseen by judges. Also, the goal is the same, to knock out or disable your opponent by as many blows as is needed.
Wrestling: ...Wrestling may have evolved from the original Greek games but it is very different today. In ancient Greece, there were two forms of wrestling. First there was upright wrestling. During this competition the combatants stood upright and the winner was the man who could throw the other to the earth. This was a sport of skill and grace rather than brute force. It was also part of the ancient Greek Pentathlon. The judges declared a looser if knees or the man's hips, back or shoulders touched the ground. It was held in a sandpit unlike the mats used today. That which is the same is that there can be no illegal moves such as hitting, gouging or twisting of hands, feet, arms or legs during the event.
Ground wrestling was very different as well. During this event hitting and kicking were allowed. It seems almost like boxing and wrestling combined because just like boxing, the end of the match occurs when the looser admits defeat or is disabled. This event was part of the Pankration, an event that is no longer a part of the modern Olympics.
Pancration:...The name of this event meant all-powerful. It is a combination of wrestling and boxing. In the ancient Olympics, there were very few rules in this fight. Everything was allowed including biting, dislocating joints and gouging of each other's eyes. This event was so brutal that an occasional contestant would not survive the event. This same fact however, also made the Pankration the most popular of the sports at the ancient Olympics.
Pentathlon: In ancients Greece the Pentathlon was made up of five different events which were discus, javelin, long jump, running, and wrestling. One important similarity between this event in ancient times and that of modern day is that finishing in second or third place mattered in the individual events. This was because the finishes in all the five events needed to be combined to determine a winner. The first event in ancient times was the discus throw. This is perhaps one of the least changed of the sports in all the years that have passed. Next was the long jump. Like the discus throw this was done with flute music being played in the background. Another difference of note is that they would carry weights in their hands called halteres. It is also believed that for a while in ancient Greece, they may have jumped a series of five jumps in a row for there is a recorded jump of 52 feet in the 664 Olympic Games. The javelin of old is similar to today's event except they competed not only for distance but there was a competition for accuracy as well. Also, the man could use a leather-throwing loop on the pole. The fourth event was the stade race. This mirrors the sprint races of today. At the signal, the men would race the length of the stadium to determine who was the fastest. The last event of the ancient pentathlon was upright wrestling as was discussed above. This event is no longer a part of the modern Olympic pentathlon.
Chariot Races: Chariot racing is no longer a part of the Olympics and is an event which is identified strongly with ancient Greece. There were four horses per chariot and they would race 24 times around two poles at either end of a rectangular area that was about twice the length of the stadium. There was no direction given so there would often be head-on collisions. This was a sport that did not need the strength and endurance of the others and may have been added to give out of shape nobleman a place to compete.
Equestrian Races: Another horse race was part of the ancient Olympics. This was unlike today's Olympics and yet very much like other horse races of modern day. The owner of the horse hired a jockey to ride the animal. It was even possible for a rider-less horse to win as long as it was the fastest. This was a competition more about horse training and breeding, both very important to the Greeks, than about any human athletics.
Running Events: In ancient Greece the Olympics had three foot races. First was the long distance Dolichos. Second was the Stade Race which was a short distance sprint and the third was the Diaulos which is known as the double Stade Race as it was exactly twice its length. The Dolichos is similar to today's marathon but is much shorter. It was about two and one quarter miles long. Also, it was run within the stadium and not through the surrounding countryside. The Stade Race and the Dolichos were run much like today's shorter Olympic foot races with one important exception, the runners were nude as were many of the sports events in that time.
Opening Ceremonies and Pre-Olympics: The opening ceremonies in Ancient Greece were nothing like they are today. In Ancient Greece they had a Festival of Heraia, Zeus' wife. It was nothing completely separate though like the Opening Ceremonies are today. It was just simply a festival, which continued throughout the games. Today, we have huge ceremonies where famous performers sing and dance, people were very amazing and intricate costumes, and there are usually fireworks or something similar to that. The Opening Ceremonies today are quite commercial as well. Ancient Greece did not have the extensive celebration of an Opening Ceremony. Athletes trained for ten months and they were examined by a ten member panel assessed them. Today athletes trained their whole lives and go through a series of drug tests before they can compete. In the Ancient Greek games as well as today athletes have swear in oath to play fairly.
Competitors: In Ancient Greece, Greek male citizens competed against each other in the ten sports. They competed nude and put olive oil on themselves. The competitors would pray to Hermes (a god) for speed. Today, people from all nations come to compete in various sports. Countries wear different types of uniform depending on the sport which show the athlete's flag colors.
Women in the Olympics: Women were not allowed to compete in the Ancient Olympics games and were forbidden to watch. If I woman was caught watching the Olympic games, she would be killed. In modern Olympics, women are allowed to watch and/or compete Between 1940 and 1948, there was a large increase of women competitors in the Olympic games. There are many famous women athletes today such as Cathy Freeman, Marion Jones, Olga Korbut, and Mary Lou Retton to name a few.
What Athletes Were Awarded: Today athletes are awarded gold for first, silver for second, and bronze for a third place finish. They also receive flowers and fame. Many Olympic medallists go on to be in commercials, magazines, write books, and even act in TV shows and movies. In the Ancient Times the athlete's wreath of olive leaves that was worn on their head. Their athletes were also awarded a branch from a wild olive tree. The branch was cut off the olive tree with a golden handled knife. The winning athlete would give public thanks to Zeus and the Gods would favor the town of a winning athlete.
Captions: The first picture shows an entrance of a stadium in Olympia. The second picture is of Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan who competed in Women's artistic gymnastics (Sydney 2000). The third picture is a drawing of a chariot race competition. The fourth picture shows Australian girl, Nikki Webster, flying above Australian 'aboriginals' during the Sydney 2000 Opening Ceremonies. The fifth picture is a pot, which shows Greek's in a running competition. The sixth picture is a stone carving which shows what wrestling would have looked like in the Ancient Games. The seventh picture is of again, Romanian Andreea Raducan with a gold medal. The eighth picture is of Zeus' temple in Athens, Greece. Zeus was the main god that was worshipped.
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