The Original Olympic Games

The Olympic idea was born in ancient Greece nearly 3,000 years ago. Sporting contests took place during the great festivals that the Greeks held in honor of their gods. The most important of these contests was the Olympic Games, dedicated to Zeus, the Father of the Gods. Every four years, free men from all over the Greek world gathered at the Games to demonstrate their sporting spirit in the sacred their sporting spirit in the sacred surroundings of Olympia, situated in the state of Elis.

The first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BC. There was just one event, a race over a distance called a stade. A stade was about 180 meters, nearly the length of the stadium at Olympia. The race was won by a young cook, Coroebus, from Elis.

Over the centuries, new events were introduced, such as wrestling, the long jump, the discus throw and chariot racing. the period of competition expanded to five days, and the festivals lasted a month.

During this time, a truce was declared throughout the Greek world and all wars had to stop. No one was allowed to carry weapons into Olympia.

No women were allowed to compete in or even watch the Olympic Games, under penalty of death. They had their own festival, in honor of the goddess Hera. it was held every five years, and the chief event was a race for young girls over about 30 meters.

The Ancient Olympics lasted for more than a thousand years, but they started to lose their importance as the Romans began to take over Greece in the second century BC. Although the Romans kept up the Games, they destroyed the Games’ spirit and the sacred traditions that had grown up around them. In AD 394, Emperor Theodosius of Rome officially abolished the Games. He was a Christian, and wanted to put an end to pagan festivals.

Ancient Milestones

776 BC | First recorded Olympic Games, with just one race, the stade.

720 BC | From the 15th Olympics on, the athletes run naked.

708 BC | The five-event pentathlon (long jump, discus, sprint, javelin, wrestling) is introduced into the Games.

688 BC | Boxing first included in the Olympics

680 BC | Chariot racing makes first appearance in the Games

648 BC | The 33rd Games see the introduction of horse-racing and vicious no-holds-barred combat sport called Pankration

632 BC | The first contests for boys

394 AD | The Olympic Games are abolished


The first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. at Mount Olympia. They consisted of a single race of 200 meters. As the games evolved foot races were also held at distances of 400 meters and 8000 meters. In 708 B.C. the pentathlon and wrestling were added to the Olympic lineup.