The Olympic Games that we know today are very different from the original Olympics that took place in Olympia, Greece, more than 2,700 years ago. Since then, they have been held all over the world, been attended by more than 200 countries and have included many different sports. Some Olympic information might be particularly interesting to children.
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The Olympic Games were created and first held in 776 B.C. in ancient Greece in honor of the king and queen of the Greek gods, Zeus and Hera, and only men could compete. The first official modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Since then, the Summer Olympic Games have been held every four years in many major cities around the world. In 1924 the first Winter Olympics were held. They also take place every four years but are held two years after the Summer Olympics. The city where the games are held is called the “host city.” Women were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1928.
The number of sports played at the Olympics changes from year to year. Some of the most popular Summer Olympic sports are swimming, cycling, gymnastics, volleyball and horse riding. There also are many events collectively known as athletics, such as the 100-meter dash, the marathon, hurdling, relay racing, the long jump, the high jump and the pole vault. The Winter Olympic sports include downhill and cross-country skiing, bobsledding, figure skating, ice hockey, snowboarding and ski jumping. Sports that are no longer played in the games include golf, lacrosse, rugby union and water motor sports. If a sport is very popular among spectators and there are a lot of athletes qualified to compete, the International Olympic Committee might decide to introduce it in the next Olympic Games, which usually means that one of the less-popular sports must be dropped.
The Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony of the games usually is a dramatic celebration involving hundreds of people. The opening ceremony begins with the raising of the flag of the host country and the singing of its national anthem. There is then a performance involving music, dance and colorful costumes, along with a high-tech lighting and special effects show. After that, every athlete marches into the stadium under the banner of his country. At the end of the opening ceremony, the Olympic torch is passed to the last carrier, who lights a huge fire to open the games.
The Olympic Torch
The Olympic torch is a symbol of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The flame is lit in Greece several weeks before the games and travels around the world to the host city of the games. It usually is carried by runners, but has traveled by ship, camel, airplane and canoe. In 2000, the torch traveled underwater for the first time, as a diver brought it past the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Other Olympic Games
The Paralympic Games are held just after both the summer and winter games and are for athletes with a physical disability. The Special Olympics is a competition held every two years and all athletes are intellectually disabled.