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What You Didn't Know About the Ancient Olympics (page 2)

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Updated on Dec 22, 2010

The Games The festivities and events in Olympia were quite different from those that take place today. At first there was only a foot race, but over the years new events were added, often accompanied by music from flutes or drums. The first day’s contest included heralding and trumpeting, along with boys’ races. Public and private prayers were offered at ceremonies at the altars and statues of Zeus, and speeches, poetry, and music were presented. The morning of the second day began with the dramatic and exciting horse-drawn chariot races, and in the afternoon, the ancient pentathlon (javelin, discus, wrestling, running and jumping) contests were held, followed by much feasting and revelry. The next days’ events included running races, boxing, and wrestling, and ended with a race-in-armor. Finally, the victors were crowned with wreaths of wild olive leaves at the Temple of Zeus and the celebrations continued long into the night. Afterwards, the participants traveled back to their home city-states within the safety of the continuing time of truce.

After 1,000 years, a string of natural disasters struck Olympia, and the ancient Games came to an end. Nearby rivers flooded the site, and a series of earthquakes destroyed the sanctuary. The rubble completely obliterated the remains, which were only discovered late in the 18th century and excavated 100 years later. Today, visitors to Olympia can tour the ancient site and even go through the tunnel to the ancient stadium just as the ancient athletes did so many years ago.

Today, the Olympic Games begin with a huge spectacle of music, movement, lights and fireworks. The Olympic Games take place every two years, alternating between winter and summer athletic events.

While our modern games are very different from those of ancient times, some things haven’t changed. The world still suffers from regional conflicts. The Olympic Truce is still alive today, in concept. For this year’s Olympics, the United Nations has unanimously asked the world to once again acknowledge the Olympic truce, guaranteeing safety and protection to the athletes and observers of the Olympic Games.

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