What the Olympics are about
London welcomes the world by hosting this summer’s Olympics. The Olympic Games are considered to be the world’s foremost sport competition and more than 200 nations participate.
Initially they were a series of athletic competitions held for representatives of various city-states of Ancient Greece, held in honour of Zeus. The Games began in 776 BCE in Olympia in Greece, making the Games the oldest sporting event of all time.
Over the years the Games evolved to include almost every major sporting event in the world but one thing that has always been a remarkable feature of the Olympics has been the fact that victorious athletes are honoured and idolised. Their deeds are heralded and chronicled so that future generations can appreciate their accomplishments. That is why a gold medal at the Olympics is won for life and a winner does not have to put it on the line come the next event.
It is an international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. In fact this 2012 version in London will welcome 12 850 athletes. Germany alone is sending 390 athletes to compete in 2012.
These athletes will compete in 33 different sports and nearly 400 events. The first, second and third place finishers in each event receive Olympic medals: gold, silver, and bronze.
The Games have now grown in scale to the point that nearly every nation is represented. In this edition history is being set with Saudi Arabia sending in its first female athletes to compete. Prior to this, only men participated for Saudi Arabia. The two female athletes are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800m runner Sarah Attar.
The Olympics is a major opportunity for the host city and country to showcase themself to the world. Financially it is worth billions and this explains why countries practically fight to host it and the host city is never the same afterwards. A typical example is the total metamorphosis that the winter Olympics brought to the city of Torino in Italy.
The Olympics have a unique symbol – five intertwined rings, better known as the Olympic rings. These rings represent the unity of the five inhabited continents (Europe, Africa, America, Australia and Asia). The colours of the rings were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag.
The Olympic creed is: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
On a sad note, the Olympics has in the past been used as a means for political retaliation, terrorist attacks and highlighting of economic grievances by nations and people. The United States of America, for example, boycotted the Soviet Union’s 1980 Olympics, just as the Soviets did the same for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 in America. The Munich Olympics were marred by terrorist attacks on the Israeli athletes and, closer to home; Nigeria withdrew its athletes from the 1976 Olympics to show solidarity with our South African brothers fighting apartheid at the time.
During the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, United States, a bomb set by Eric Robert Rudolph, an American domestic terrorist, was detonated at the Centennial Olympic Park, which killed two and injured 111 others.
Security at the Olympic Games has been an increasing concern and focus for Olympic planners since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the recent London and Madrid bombings.
Africa has particularly excelled at the Olympics in relation to the little they have to prepare in regards to resources. The Kenyans have been dominant; South Africa has shown promise; Nigeria have set the world ablaze with the record breaking win of the elusive soccer Olympics gold medal of 1996 in Atlanta, an example followed in 2000 by Cameroon.
This Olympics in London promises to be a memorable one for Africans in particular and the world in general.