Important Events in Olympic History5 min read

by | Feb 28, 2018 | Blog

The 2018 Winter Olympics are coming to a close this week which means we’ll have to wait another four years to see which countries will take home the gold at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022. Since 776 B.C. when the first ancient Olympic Games were held in Elis, a city-state of Olympia, Greece, a lot has changed.

Ancient Greek statues

There’s a First Time for Everything

The first ancient Olympics were held to honor Zeus, king of the gods, and were held every four years in Olympia. At the first Olympics, only one event was held; it was a short sprint from one end of the stadium to the other. As the years went on, more events were added such as chariot racing, boxing, wrestling, and long jump just to name a few. The winners were given a wreath of leaves and were treated as heroes in their hometowns.

1896 was when the first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. All of the 280 competitors were men from 13 different nations. They competed in swimming, gymnastics, track-and-field, wrestling, fencing, weightlifting, cycling, shooting, and tennis. The Olympics became an international event when the Games were held in France in 1924. This was the first year that the games had a closing ceremony in addition to the opening ceremony. Women were allowed to compete in the 1924 Olympics and this was also the first year that the Winter Olympics were held.

Switching Up Schedules

When the Winter Olympics made their debut, they were always held in the same year as the Summer Olympics. In 1922 however, the Winter Games were changed to a different schedule due to the increase in the size of both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Since 1922, the Olympic Games have been held every four years. The Summer and Winter Games are two years apart and occur every four years.

Make that Money, Shaun White!

One other thing that has changed since the start of the Olympics is with the athletes. Originally, athletes were not allowed to earn money for winning or have endorsements, they were expected to stay amateurs. Over time, it has become a big part of the culture and the sport to earn large financial gains for winning. These can be earned through things like product endorsements or personal appearances. This aspect began in 1960 with Communist countries supporting their athletes. In the 1970’s and 1980’s other athletes began looking for sponsors and since then, rules regarding amateurism have since been erased.

Olympic Medals

Olympic Drug Testing

In addition to athletes being able to make money, the Olympic policy on performance-enhancing drugs has slightly changed over time. Performance-enhancing drugs have never been tolerated in the Games, however, athletes did not begin to get tested for performance-enhancing drugs until 1968 and testing wasn’t regularly practiced until the 1972 Games. As more drugs are introduced, more tests are created to help find athletes using these drugs to help their performance in the Games. Unfortunately, as seen in this year’s newest Russian Doping Scandal involving Alexander Krushelnitsky, the tests available have been unsuccessful in certain cases, allowing Olympians into the Games who have utilized performance enhancing drugs.

What are your favorite events to watch in the Summer and Winter Olympics? Let us know!

Information for this article was found on the History website and from Scholastic.