The city of Olympia, on the plain of Altis, Peloponnese (Ilia). In the middle of it stood the great temple of Jupiter. It was surrounded by other places of worship, to honor different gods, and other buildings for the races: the Stadium, the Hippodrome, the Theatre, the Gymnasium, the Gymnasium. In this environment, in 776 BC, were officially born the Olympic Games. They were held every four years, as it happens at present.
A journey through time that testifies that people back then, defined as less emancipated than today, were able to stop the hate to give humanity a break. Wars, which at that time were very frequent among the various Greek cities, were suspended to ensure that all citizens without distinction could be present. How distant is the so-called “modern civilization” from a thought like that… A slap in the face of the human ability to dominate the fiercest instincts in the name of dialogue.
The city responsible for the organization of the games, Olimpia, took care of everything, starting with the verification procedure of the appointment of magistrates in charge of receiving, accept and reject competitors’ registration. The possibility to partake in the Olympics was given to adults and youths of Greek origin, who were not guilty of crimes and able to prove they were properly trained. The games lasted seven days, from the end of June till the first fortnight of July: the first and the last days were devoted to religious propitiatory rites. Then followed a big procession in Jupiter’s honor, the god to whom the feast was dedicated.
As many as 294 editions have taken place, and neither the defeats nor the subsequent conquests at the hands of the Macedonians and Romans later on managed to eliminate them. Only in 396 A.D., that is, more than 1172 years after their inception, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I ordered the abolition of the Olympic Games. Five years later, his successor Theodosius II went so far as to destroy Olimpia. Thus disappeared one of the most beautiful and most interesting places in the ancient world, where sports had triumphed for the first time, even if it happened mainly from an ethnic and religious point of view.
Only in 1892, namely on November 25, in Paris, in the amphitheater of the Sorbonne, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the ”French Union of Athletic Sports”, stated that it was necessary to re-establish the Olympic Games. The proposal, despite not being welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm, had a follow-up thanks to De Coubertin’s tenacity and passion. In fact, after two preliminary meetings, the first one in New York in 1893 and the second one in London in 1894, an international Congress in Paris, which consisted of 79 delegates, determined the re-establishment of the Olympic Games on June 16, 1894. It also designated Athene as the first venue for this big event, in honor and memory of the ancient games.
An International Olympic Committee was formed (a name that is still in vogue, under the acronym C.I.O.) and De Coubertin himself was unanimously elected to its presidency (a position he had held until his death in 1925). Since 1896, the Olympics take place regularly, every four years, interrupted only three times because of war in 1916, in 1940, and in 1944.
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games –, to bear witness to the changing times the world experiences at present – there will be a national team without a flag: a team of refugee athletes will compete under the Olympic flag. There are going to be ten people: five athletes from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from Congo, and one from Ethiopia. A way to recover old values. A first step to win another medal in the future, the most important one: that of peace.