OLYMPICS: ONE WORLD, ONE DREAM

These games were held in peace and brotherhood

By KHALIL AHMED
Dec 19 - 25, 2005

we may sing of no contest greater than Olympia,
just as water is the most precious of all the elements,
just as gold is the most valuable of all goods,
and just as the sun shines brighter than any other star,
so shines Olympia, putting all other games into the shade

PINDAR, FIRST OLYMPIAN ODE (5TH CENTURY BC)

The first Olympic games were held in 776 B.C. at the foot of Mount Olympus to honour the Greeks' chief god, Zeus. The ancient games were essentially a religious festival in his honour. Initially, only the elite and military could participate, but with the passage of time, the games were open to all free Greek males with no criminal record. Non-Greeks, slaves and women were barred from competing. These games were held in peace and brotherhood. The contests were held in individual cities, and the winners competed every four years at Mount Olympus. Unlike modern sportsmen with their designer labels, ancient competitors performed naked. Winners were greatly honoured by having olive wreaths placed on their heads and having poems sung about their deeds. In Athens, for instance, Olympic victors would receive a cash payout of 500 drachmai from the city authorities -- a fortune in those days -- as well as a free meal in the city hall for the rest of their lives. Originally these contests were held as games of friendship, and any wars in progress were halted to allow the games to take place. The Greeks attached so much importance to the games that they calculated time in four-years cycles called Olympiads dating from 776 B.C. The contests coincided with religious festivities and constituted an all-out effort on the part of the participants to please the gods. Today the International Olympic Committee, with three uphill tasks: doping, insecurity and corruption, controls the games whereas the Greek Olympic Games were organized and controlled by the city of Elis, 48 kms to the north of Olympia.

The first Games in 776 BC lasted only a single day, and consisted of just one event. Today Olympic games comprise about 28 sports. These sports were added one by one as the time went by. In 1900 and 1904, football was introduced as an exhibition sport and became the first team sport included in the Olympic games. Since 1908, the sport has been held at every Olympic games with the exception of 1932 in Los Angeles. Women's football was introduced in 1996. Archery first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1900 and was contested again in 1904, 1908 and 1920. Archery was re-introduced to the Olympic programme in 1972 with individual events for men and women. Team competition was added to the medal programme in Seoul in 1988. In January 1999, trampoline became a discipline of gymnastics at the Olympic games. Trampoline competitions for both men and women were added to the Olympic programme and made their debut during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. There are three standard events in freestyle skiing - moguls, aerials, and ballet. Freestyle skiing was contested as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, with contests for men and women in all three events. Freestyle became an Olympic medal discipline in 1992 in Albertville. The only event during the Albertville Games was moguls, but Aerials were added for the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer. Volleyball made its Olympic games debut in Tokyo in 1964. Since then, volleyball has continued to witness the rise and fall of great international teams, with countries as diverse as Cuba, Brazil, the Soviet Union, China, the United States, the Netherlands, Poland and Japan collecting gold medals.

The ancient Olympics also suffered from rampant corruption, as is the case in the contemporary era. Bribery of opponents was commonplace. The first recorded instance was that of Eupolus of Thessaly who, in 384 BC, tried to fix the boxing competition. Other examples include athletes from other city-states getting paid to lie about their place of origin. In modern Olympics, there are several instances of the judges who decide who will host the Olympic games. They have been accused of openly accepting bribes and awarding the games to the city that offers the judges the best 'perks'. There are judges in the many 'adjudicated' sports who accept bribes and collude with other judges to rig the results. A newspaper in Japan said that more than $6m were spent entertaining Olympic officials during the bid to host the 1998 winter games in Nagano. The paper said a third of the money was spent on first-class flights and hotel rooms for 180 people attending an International Olympic Committee assembly. In January 1999, two International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, Libya's Bashir Mohamed Attarabulsi and Finland's Pirjo Haeggman resigned in the wake of the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. The Wall Street Journal claimed the US city spent more than 400,000 on gifts and payments during the bidding for and after winning the 2002 Winter Games. In March 1999, it became obvious that Sydney might not have won the bid for Sydney 2000 if hospitality and red carpet treatment given to IOC delegates had been less extravagant. The value of gifts given to Olympic Committee delegates and assistance given to their families were found to have exceeded IOC limits. Some of the international delegates' trips to Sydney were described as holidays in five-star hotels at popular resorts. In 2004, there was a corruption scandal involving the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in which a Bulgarian member was suspended after being hit by bribery accusations. The culture of gift-giving encourages cities wanting to host the games to try to buy the votes of International Olympic Committee members. Although no bribery or corruption charges have been proved in most of the scandals, yet the Nagano winter games 1998, Sydney 2000 and Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics have perhaps opened the eyes of IOC authorities for sweeping changes to restore credibility. Last games were Athens 2004 and the upcoming will take place in Italy named Turin 2006. Beijing 2008 will take place from the 8th August to 24th August 2008. Vancouver 2010 Winter Games will take place from the 12th to 28th February 2010. London has been selected for the 2012 Olympics. For the 2012 Olympics, it was widely speculated that Paris (the Olympics host of 1900 and 1924) would be the winner which has been very consistent also bidding for the third consecutive time but all in vain. It was all in all London's day. As soon as the decision was pronounced, cheers erupted in London's Trafalgar Square. London has become the first city to host Olympics three times (1908,1948,2012). The sad news is that just after 24 hours of winning the bid, London was rocked with four devastating bombs killing more than 52 and injuring around 700 innocent citizens at Liverpool Street Station, Aldgate Station, Russell Square, Edgeware Road, King's Cross and Tavistock Square. This has made it sine qua non for both public and government to exercise increased vigilance.

The extra security comes at a high price. In 1997, when Athens won the bid for the 2004 summer's games, the security costs were estimated to be just a thin slice of the overall budget but ended up spending $1.2 billion; three times more than the amount spent in Sydney in 2000. This steep rise may discourage cities from bidding to host the games in future. The Olympics teach the lesson of peace and brotherhood so we all should believe in One World, One Dream.