I was very lucky to be a spectator at one of the summer Olympics: no, not really the one from the 19th century J, but the one in London, in 2012.
I read quite a lot about the Olympics before I got to be in the audience, because I couldn’t brag that I knew much… I found out a lot of information that I had no idea about, some even about Romanian athletes! And I discovered a lot of unique things!
Telling you what I found during my research, I hope to get you a little into the atmosphere of the Tokyo Olympics, a competition that we have been waiting for during the last year and which is, even now, in the middle of controversies…
In 1896, in Athens, the first edition of the “Modern Olympic Games” took place. They are called like that because, long before them, there were the ancient Olympics, dedicated to Zeus and which took place in the city of Olympia in Greece. Only men could take part in them, regardless of their status. (There were tests considered far too harsh for women – throwing the spear, running in long or short races, fighting, horse racing etc.)
The first ancient Olympics goes back a long time, before Christ, in the year 776. It was an edition during which, what do you know, a Chef becomes an Olympic champion in an athletics competition – 600 feet. I imagine that the man trained in running away from the clients for whom he cooked J.
Don’t think that any medals were given to the champions. The prize was a wreath made of palm leaves.
All the athletic competitions of the ancient Olympics were organized under the patronage of a deity. It was believed that the gods gave athletes the physical abilities to be able to successfully participate in the Games.
Tradition says that starting with 720 BC, athletes competed… naked! Maybe that’s why women weren’t allowed to be there, not even as spectators? J))
I found another great thing: one of the tests of the ancient Olympics was the test of… art and literature! The men competed in poetry, music and painting. Isn’t that cool?
During the Olympic Games, any political and military conflicts between Greek cities ceased. “Olympic peace” was established.
After 12 centuries (293 editions), the games were stopped. In 393 BC, the Roman emperor Theodosius I, being a Christian, considered the Olympics a pagan tradition and banned it.
PIERRE DE COUBERTIN
In one form or another, we’ve all heard of this man, to whom we owe the rebirth of the Olympics.
However, what I find very interesting, is that, before Coubertin, a Romanian led the first battles in this direction: Evanghelie Zappa (1800-1865), born in Greece, but settled in Wallachia, where he got the Romanian citizenship.
Enriched by the grain trade, Mr. Zappa left in his will a huge sum to the Greek state, in order to
re-establish the Olympic Games. And he also set some conditions, including the construction of an Olympic venue. Which the Greeks actually did, in 1888.
Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) proposed the resumption of the Olympic Games in 1894, at an international congress organized in France. And from here it all started…
From what I read, the man dedicated himself to the Olympic movement until his death. Moreover, although buried in Switzerland, he wanted his heart to be buried in Greece, right on the site of the ancient ruins of Olympia.
Pierre de Coubertin paid great attention to the organization of the Olympic ceremony and symbols, considered to be a true spiritual and traditional force.
The most famous Olympic symbols are:
• the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, higher, stronger)
• the Olympic flame, which symbolizes sacredness in Greek mythology. (It is lit from the rays of the sun in Olympia, in the temple of Goddess Hera and then carried by various means to the place of the Olympics.)
• the Olympic circles – representing the union of the five continents, through the participants in the Olympics.
THE OLYMPIC CIRCLES
Even though there are 7 continents on the globe (Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe), the Olympic Committee tried to reconcile everyone and divided the world into 5 continents: America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania-Antarctica.
I never knew the significance of the colors of the 5 intertwined Olympic circles. I thought someone invented a color for each continent.
But I understand that these colors were chosen for a clear reason: at least one of the 5 colors on the circles (plus white in the background, where it exists…) is found on the flag of every country in the world.
FROM THE HISTORY OF THE OLYMPICS
WHAT I FOUND UNIQUE, INTERESTING OR EVEN TRAGIC.
From the first edition of the Modern Olympic Games, we have the youngest participant in the history of the Olympics: a Greek gymnast who was only 10 years old.
It is the first edition in which a Romanian athlete participates: George A. Plagino, who competes in shooting, plate competition, and ranks 13th out of 51 participants.
The Paris edition is also the first edition in which women compete.
The winners do not receive gold medals, but… paintings! The French considered them much more important. The truth is that for a Picasso I would have run too…
SAINT LOUIS (USA) 1904
It is the first edition to award gold, silver and bronze medals.
Speaking of medals, the American gymnast George Eyser wins six medals, although he has a wooden left leg!
The 15,000-seat stadium built especially by the Americans on the occasion of this major event remains almost empty during the competitions. The small presence of athletes seems to have had two causes: the long distance from Europe and, therefore, complications related to transport, but also the European tension caused by the Russian-Japanese war.
These are the longest Olympic Games in history! They started in April and ended in October, people!!! 187 days, to be precise!
London had not competed to become the host. Rome won then (defeating Berlin and Milan), but due to the eruption of Vesuvius in 1906, London had to organize the Olympics…
Romania did not officially participate in this edition, but the Romanian Stefan Somodi won the silver medal in the high jump, competing under the Hungarian flag, because Transylvania was at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Solid gold medals are awarded at this Olympics. What luck for the champions! J
After this edition, Olympic gold becomes… silver plated with gold.
In 1916 Berlin was to host the Olympic Games, but due to the First World War, they were no longer held.
The oldest medalist in the history of the Summer Olympics was awarded the medal here: the Swede Oscar Swahn (72 years old), who wins the silver medal in shooting.
The American swimmer of Romanian origin, Johnny Weissmuller, wins three gold and one bronze medal. In a few years he would become the star of the Tarzan movie.
For the first time, the Olympic flame lighting ceremony takes place.
And, as a miscellaneous fact, Coca-Cola appears as a sponsor J. We’re talking about 1928, right?…
LOS ANGELES 1932
Who do you think writes about these Games as a newspaper editor? None other than Mahatma Gandhi!!!
Now the awards ceremony is organized: the podium, then the raising of the flags and the singing of the national anthem.
A Polish athlete wins the gold medal in the women’s 100 meters (at the next Olympics she takes the silver in the same event). After her death, in 1980, it was discovered that she was a hermaphrodite and should not have competed…
Berlin + year 1936 = not good…
It is the first Olympics to rise political protests. The games are officially opened by Adolf Hitler himself.
A Romanian, Henri Rang, loses in a tiebreaker race the gold medal for horseback racing, individual training, after obtaining the same time with a German. Scheise!
World War II stops the Olympics for 12 years! It was not until 1948 that they resumed.
Germany and Japan are forbidden to participate in this edition, being considered responsible for the outbreak of World War II.
Romania was also among the countries that were not present, but not because this was banned by anyone, but because the Romanian authorities declared that the country was in a disastrous economic situation, dried up by the war.
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, the host country does not rank in the Top 10.
The first Olympic gold for Romania, since the competition existed! Iosif Sarbu, in shooting. Well done, Iosif!!!
Nicolae Linca gets the first Olympic boxing title, a performance unmatched since then by any Romanian! (There were 5 gold medals for Romania at this edition – shooting, kayaking, canoeing, boxing)
An unprecedented fact: due to legislation restricting the entry of animals on the Australian territory, the riding trials took place in Stockholm, Sweden.
A Danish cyclist collapsed during the race, under the influence of amphetamines, later dying in hospital. It is the second Olympic death after that of a Portuguese marathon runner, who died during the race, at the 1912 Olympics.
The first edition in Asia!
Considered the Olympics of Records, because it registered several records: participation – 95 countries, 76 Olympic records, 45 world records etc.
And a surprise for everyone: an unknown Romanian, only 17 years old, becomes the Olympic champion in throwing the spear, breaking the world record. Mihaela Penes.
MEXICO CITY 1968
A woman lit the Olympic flame for the first time in history.
The altitude of Mexico City, located at 2,200 meters, caused breathing problems for many athletes.
11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and killed by the terrorist organization “Black September”.
Nadiaaaaa!!! And I said it all!
Only 14 years old, our gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, gets the first 10 in the history of the Olympic Games (uneven bars) and does not stop here: there were 7 in total!
The Olympic flame for this edition has a long story: from Greece, from the stadium where the competitions of the first edition of the modern Olympic Games took place, it is transmitted through a special laser beam system, via satellite, directly to Canada. After the opening of the Olympics, following a storm, the flame goes out, and a member of the staff lights it… with a lighter. How simple hihi. The organizers, however, extinguish the torch again and light it with the help of a spare flame, so that the public opinion does not… catch fire from indignation J.
We go to our brothers at the time with the largest delegation in history: 239 athletes!
Where there are many, the power increases, so Romania is on the 7th place in the ranking, with 25 medals (6 gold, 6 silver, 13 bronze).
LOS ANGELES 1984
Well, here Romania was the best of the best! It ranked 2nd in the final ranking (after the USA), from 140 participating countries. Our athletes were great and won 20 gold medals!
At this Olympics, Romania was the only country in the communist bloc who did not participate in the boycott initiated by the USSR (in response to the American boycott of the Moscow Olympics), which I understand made Ceausescu grow in the eyes of Western countries. During the opening ceremony, Romanian athletes were greeted with applause in response to their decision to defy the boycott.
This is the first time that China has won a medal – something hard to imagine, given the performance of the Chinese now. Here they won a gold medal in shooting.
After winning the 100-meter race with a great result, a world record – 9.79 seconds, the Canadian Ben Johnson’s record is not approved and the gold medal goes to Carl Lewis, because Johnson was found positive. Three times…
The Belarusian gymnast Vitaly Scherbo manages to win six gold medals, four of them in one day! God, I think this man needed a psychologist J.
The Olympic flame is lit by Muhammad Ali.
A bomb attack takes place on the Olympic Stadium, after which a spectator dies and another 111 are injured. A Turkish cameraman also dies: he has a heart attack while running to capture images of the tragedy…
A memorable moment for us! All-Romanian podium in gymnastics, individual all-around competition: Andreea Raducan, Simona Amanar and Maria Olaru. God, what ecstasy!
Then came the agony: Romania was involved in the most controversial doping case. Andreea is left without a medal, after being tested positive for doping (she had been treated for a cold with Nurofen).
The games return home after 108 years!
I was also there, on vacation in Thassos, where I bought all the souvenirs related to the Olympics hihi.
For the first time, Olympic gold for Romania in judo – Alina Dumitru.
The games are officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip. Each of them had officially opened an Olympics competition: the Queen – in Montreal in 1976, and the Prince – in Melbourne in 1956.
I was in London when the queen “landed” in the arena, helped by agent 007 (Daniel Craig). I will tell you in a future post the experience of my participation in the Olympics. As a spectator, of course, you couldn’t have thought that I competed in 100 meters fences trials J.
What the English did cool at this edition (among many other things) was to rename the 361 London Underground stations with the names of Olympic champions and each line to be dedicated to an Olympic discipline – athletics, basketball, boxing etc.
The new subway map celebrates not only gold medalists, but also other exceptional athletes, known for their abilities, and even certain athletes who have had huge defeats.
So we had the Cassius Clay, Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Sergey Bubka, LeBron James stations, but also the Mary Decker and Zola Budd stations – two runners that collided on the track in Los Angeles, in 1984, although they were favorites for medals.
“Excuse me, will you get off at Usain Bold?”
“No, I’m going to Rafael Nadal.”
That’s how the London Underground conversations could have taken place.
Our Nadia had a privileged position, which seems natural to me: her name was given to the famous King’s Cross station – which became famous all over the world thanks to the Harry Potter book. On the occasion of the Olympics, the English said that the train comes to Nadia Comaneci station not on the 9 ¾ platform, but on… the 10th, because of the mark she received in Montreal!
I was proud of this, as I was proud of Sandra Izbasa, who got the Olympic gold in vault!
(I’ve been there, in the audience, for some competitions and I can’t wait to tell you!)
RIO DE JANEIRO 2016
I never got here, although I would have liked it…
What I find unique from what I learned is that the medals awarded at the Paralympic Games were equipped with a device that triggers a sound – this sound allowed blind people to know what medal they got. Cool!
The intensity of the sound was higher for the gold medals and it decreased as the place on the podium decreased…
…and then the time came for TOKYO 2020. Well, 2021, but we don’t fuss about such a small thing. The pandemic played all sorts of tricks on us, what can I say. I’m curious what this Olympics will stand out for. Apart from COVID.
Unfortunately, any attempt to reach the Tokyo Olympics this year was doomed to failure.
Olympics without spectators, Tokyo without tourists – my God, what times!!!
But I’m glad that, on my Japanese vacation in 2018, I took some souvenirs with the Tokyo Olympics, because they had started to be sold at the time. Towels, big and small, pens, bags, badges, caps, T-shirts, posters and many other goods.
So I, for one, am totally ready for Tokyo 2020!
Ready to watch the competitions on TV, of course J
And to keep my fingers crossed. Go Romania!!!