Link #135: The First Olympic Games Had One Event Only!

Olympic Rings Texture


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Link #135: The First Olympic Games Had One Event Only!

Olympic Rings Texture
Olympic Rings Texture by Patrick Hoesly/CC BY 2.0

In our last article, we spoke about the Abebe Bikila, the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal. The best part about Bikila’s win was that he had run the whole marathon race barefoot while all his competitors were wearing shoes.

The marathon event was actually added in the modern Olympic Games. It wasn’t even the part of ancient Olympic Games. In fact, the ancient Olympic Games were distinctly different from their modern version. For example, did you know that the first Olympic Games had only one event?

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What Event Did The First Olympic Games Have?

Image credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The first Olympic Games which were ancient Olympic Games had an event called the stadion or stade. In fact, the first 13 Olympic Games consisted of this one event. This event was a sprint race that measured approximately 200 metres.

The ancient Olympic Games were held in honour of Zeus in a valley where he defeated Kronos according to ancient Greek myths. The purpose of the Olympic Games was to showcase physical skill and mental discipline as these qualities were associated with Zeus.

How Were The Ancient Olympic Games Conceived?

Heracles by Philippe-Laurent Roland, 1806. Image credit: Jastrow/CC BY 3.0

There is no scientific proof explaining how the ancient Olympic Games were conceived. However, there are myths and legends associated to them. These myths and legends suggest that the ancient Olympic Games were put in place by Heracles, son of the Greek god, Zeus.

Heracles, supposedly, set up the ancient Olympic Games after finishing his mythical 12 labours. In fact, the myths suggest that the term ‘Olympic’ was coined by Heracles and even that the Olympic stadium was built by Heracles.

After he completed the Olympic stadium, the myth says, Heracles walked 200 steps in a straight line and called it a stadion. The term stadion became the name for the only race in the ancient Olympic Games and a unit of measurement in ancient Greece.

While no one knows for sure how the ancient Olympic Games were established, there is consensus about the year when they were established. Most historians believe that the Olympic Games were established in 776 BC on the basis of inscriptions in Olympia.

What Were The First Events In The Ancient Olympic Games?

Hoplitodrome. Image credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/CC BY 2.5

As mentioned already, the first 13 ancient Olympic Games only had one event – the stadion. However, from the 14th ancient Olympic Games onwards, more events were added. One of the first and most popular events at the ancient Olympic Games was called the hoplitodrome. The event was another race but the difference was that the participants were required to run with armour on. Another event was the pentathlon which involved wrestling, discus, sprint, javelin, and jumping.

The most brutal event held at the ancient Olympic Games was called the pancration. Pancration was a combination of wrestling and boxing. The reason why pancration was brutal was that it didn’t have any rules. A match of pancration would only get over when a man would pass out or raise a hand in submission.

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