The Ancient Olympics
The first ancient Olympic Games can be traced back to 776BC. Dedicated to the Olympian gods, the Games were staged on the ancient plains of Olympia. They continued for nearly 12 centuries until Emperor Theodosius decreed in 393AD that all such “pagan cults” be banned. Olympia is in the western part of the Peloponnese, an island named after the Greek god Pelop and, according to Greek Mythology, the founder of the Olympic Games. Imposing temples, elaborate shrines and ancient sporting facilities combined to create a site of unique natural and mystical beauty.
The Victory Ceremonies were a momentous occasion; the Olympic victor received his first awards immediately after the competition when a Hellanodikis (Greek judge) would place a palm branch in his hands, while the spectators cheered and threw flowers to him. Red ribbons were tied on his head and hands as a mark of victory. The official award ceremony always took place on the last day of the Games, at the elevated temple of Zeus. In a loud voice, the herald would announce the name of the Olympic winner, his father’s name, and his homeland. Then, the Hellanodikis placed the sacred olive tree wreath, or kotinos, on the winner’s head.
The ancient Olympic Games were initially a one-day event until 684 BC, when they were extended to three days. In the 5th century BC, the Games were extended again to cover five days. The ancient Games included running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration and equestrian events.
To find out more information on the Ancient Olympic Games click here.
The Modern Olympics
In Paris in 1892, Pierre de Coubertin announced the forthcoming re-establishment of the Olympic Games. The move was applauded, but nobody at the time imagined the scale of the project. He was essentially creating an international movement. The International Olympic Committee was created on 23 June 1894 and the first Olympic Games of the modern era opened in Athens on 6 April 1896. The Olympic Movement has not stopped growing ever since.
Canoe at the Modern Olympics
Canoe Sprint became a full medal sport at the 1936 Berlin Games. The programme has varied a great deal over the years with many events now discontinued (such as the 10,000m) and several new races added (such as the 200m, which will appear for the first time at the 2012 London Games). The first Women’s events appeared in the Olympic programme in 1948. In the 2012 Olympic Games there will be five Men’s Kayak events over two distances, the 1000m and the 200m. In the Women’s Kayak category there will be four events over two distances, the 500m and 200m. The last category, the Men’s Canoe will have three events over 1000m and 200m.
The other Olympic Discipline under the ICF, Canoe Slalom, did not appear in the Olympic Programme until the 1972 Munich Games. But there was a 20-year hiatus, as Canoe Slalom didn’t make it onto the Olympic programme again until the 1992 Barcelona Games. Ever since, Canoe Slalom has evolved: the penalty and the two run system were changed. It was also after these Games the sport saw a massive increase of interest outside of its traditional home of Europe and North America to all other continents.
On the whole, Europe has dominated both Canoe Sprint and Canoe Slalom. The most successful Olympic competitor is the German Birgit Fischer who in her long Olympic career between 1980 and 2004 won 8 gold and 4 silver medals. Her achievements mark her as both once the youngest- (aged 18) and oldest-ever (aged 42) Olympic Canoe Champion. Birgit also won 28 World Championship Golds, 6 silver and 4 bronze medals throughout her career.
To keep up to date with the upcoming London 2012 Games, visit www.london2012.com.