The Olympics amaze and inspire us and in 2012 the world watched as some astonishing Olympic records were set and broken. Usain Bolt affirmed his reputation as the fastest man on the planet, and Bradley Wiggins amazed the Cycling world by grabbing gold after his Tour De France win.
But it’s not just the most recent Olympic Games that have inspired a generation. A look at the modern Olympic history can inspire us all to want more, to be more and to do more.
Origins in Athens
The Modern Games was launched in 1896 in Athens, although the games were unrecognizable compared to what we know and love today. For example, Bob Garrett, gold medalist for this game’s discus event had never even seen a discus before arriving in Athens to compete!
Despite Nicola Adams’ amazing victory in the first ever female boxing in the 2012 Olympics, in the 1896 games in Athens women were not allowed to compete whatsoever.
246 athletes from 14 different nations competed at the Athens games in just 9 sports.
Fallouts in France and Serious Trouble in St Louis
Paris was the home of the next Olympic Games, although the event was reported as being very poorly organized. There was no opening or closing ceremony (a celebration that has, in the last two games at Britain and China been in itself spectacular and the topic of much online discussion) and the living conditions for athletes were reported as being appalling.
Most winners didn’t receive medals either; however, the number of sports at these games had doubled to 18. 1,225 athletes competed from 24 different nations.
The 1904 Olympic Games were held at St Louis, Missouri after the original location, Chicago, was changed following a request from President Roosevelt. Unfortunately the first USA games were also as troublesome as those held in France, and only half the number of athletes compared to France arrived in the USA to compete.
From London to Los Angeles
Over the next few years the Summer Olympic Games travelled from country to country, gaining more and more attention and support from participants and crowds alike.
Over the next few decades the Olympic Games were held at the following locations:
- 1908 – London
- 1912 – Stockholm (Sweden)
- 1916 – No Olympic games were held
- 1920 – Antwerp (Belgium)
- 1924 – Paris (France)
- 1928 – Amsterdam (Netherlands)
- 1932 – Los Angeles (USA)
More than 1,000 athletes attended each of these Olympic Games, and the number of sports and competing nations continued to increase.
During these difficult times the Olympics withstood vast amounts of social pressures, and each time the crowds came out in their thousands to show their support.
1924 – The Beginning of the Winter Olympics
The first ever Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix in France, and the games were held in association with the summer Olympics.
The tradition of holding the Winter Olympics in the same year as the Summer Olympics would remain right up until 1992. From then on, the date of the Winter Olympics would be changed and they would run two years after the Summer Olympics, so the next Winter Olympics after 1992 was in 1994. Ever since then the Winter Olympics have run every four years, just like the Summer Olympics.
Because of the nature of the Winter Olympics these particular games have only ever been held in the northern hemisphere.
1936 to 1944 – Dark Days in Olympic History
The rise of the Nazi regime had a dramatic impact on the Olympic Games, and these are undoubtedly some of the darkest days in Olympic history.
Berlin was awarded the 1936 Olympic Games in 1931, and despite condemnation from many nations Berlin was allowed to hold the games.
Hitler’s influence was felt heavily throughout this Olympic Games. The Nazi war song was played more than 500 times during this Olympics, and athletes were instructed to salute Hitler.
Despite Hitler’s attempts to use the Olympic Games for propaganda purposes the sense of sportsmanship endured.
No Summer Olympic Games or Winter Olympic Games were held in 1940 and 1944 due to the effects of the Second World War.
- 1940 – China’s involvement in World War 2 prevented the 1940 games being held in Tokyo as planned. Helsinki was selected as an alternative venue, but the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union also prevented this location from being used.
- 1944 – London was due to host the games in 1944, but Great Britain was simply too devastated by the effects of the war to accept the honor of hosting the Olympic Games.
This has thus far been the last time in Olympic history that the summer Olympic Games were not held.
1948 – London Hosts the First Olympic Games Following WW2
The 1948 Olympics are one of the most well known and well respected games in Olympic history. Despite the devastating effects of two world wars Great Britain once again proved its worth and managed to make what should have been an unpleasant Olympic Games into a resounding and inspiring success story. Although competing countries were asked to bring in their own rations a record 59 nations competed side by side. Germany and Japan were both excluded from the 1948 Olympic games.
1952 to 1960 – Great Changes in the Olympic Games
Between 1952 and 1960 the Olympic Games saw a number of changes.
The 1952 Olympic Games were held in Helsinki (Finland). These Games were deemed an absolute success because of its incredible organization, and it was suggested the every Olympic Games should be held at this location!
The 1956 Olympic Games were held in Melbourne; and this was the first time in Olympic history that the Modern Games were held outside of the US and Europe. Australia’s strict quarantine rules created a number of logistical issues.
The 1960 Olympic Games were held in Rome, 54 years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius had prevented Italy from hosting the 1908 Olympic Games.
1964 and 1968 – Tokyo and Mexico
The 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo were the first ever to be held in Asia, and also the first to be televised to America and Europe using satellites.
In 1968 what seemed to be a world on the mend was once again a world in despair. Ten days before the Summer Olympics were due to take place in Mexico City police in Mexico opened fire on protestors; killing more than 200 people and injuring over a thousand.
The high altitude of the location also had massive implications on the Games which were profitable for some sports and problematic for others.
Many people remember the Olympics from the 70’s onwards, and each Olympic Games brings its own set of challenges and heroes.
Each Olympic Games bring something new to the table and there are no doubt the varied sports and sportsman like competition serves as a reminder to the human race that we can overcome anything that we put our minds to. The Olympic Games will always be an inspiration for future generations, and following the resounding success of the Beijing and London Olympics people across the world have high hopes to the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.