Just looking at Olympia photos can make anyone want to jump on a plane and head out for Greece. Pictures of the Temple of Zeus and the Palaestra take you back to the very beginnings of Olympic competition and you can almost hear the pounding footsteps of the athletes as they race around the track. Those Olympia pictures also might make you curious to know more about the history of the Olympics.
It might surprise you to know that the first recorded Olympic events were held almost 2,800 years ago, in 776 BC, and scholars believe they were probably even competing for many years before that.
This first Olympic competition had only one event, a 210-yard race, and it was won by a cook named Cocoebus. According to the traditions at that time, Cocoebus and his fellow runners all ran the race naked.
Over the next 1,200 years the Olympic Games became increasingly popular and competitors and spectators came from surrounding towns. But emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, put a halt to the games in 393 CE because he said they involved too many pagan traditions.
Move ahead another 1,500 years and Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat, witnessed France being overrun by the Germans. It was Coubertin’s belief that the French soldiers weren’t lacking in military skills, what they needed was exercise and agility training. He spent the next few years of his life trying to convince the leaders of France to bring back the Olympic Games and finally, in 1890, he managed to gain some interest in the project.
At a conference attended by 79 delegates from nine different countries, it was unanimously agreed that the Olympic Games should rise again and Athens, Greece was chosen for the event. Since that time there have only been 3 occasions when the Olympics were canceled. In 1916, 1940, and 1944 the Games were canceled due to World Wars, and in 1980 and 1984 the Games were limited due to the Cold War.
Some of the most recognizable Olympia pictures feature the Temple of Zeus, which is considered to be the most important structure at the site of Olympia. It’s one of the largest temples in Greece and construction began in 470 BC and was finished in 456 BC.
Even more interesting are photos of the Palaestra, an enclosed arena, built during the 3rd Century BC. The Palaestra was used by the athletes as a place to practice boxing and wrestling.
The Olympia photos that draw the most parallels between the past and the present are those of the Krypte. The Krypte is a covered entrance leading into the stadium, much like the tunneled entrances our football players use when they come pounding out onto the field. When you look at ancient Olympia pictures you can almost see those athletes rushing out into the roaring crowd, just as proudly as our athletes do today.