Despite it being one of the biggest sporting events on the planet, there is more to the Olympics than meets the spectator’s eye
By Graham Griffiths
The first ancient Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC. They were dedicated to the Olympian gods and were staged on the ancient plains of Olympia, located in the western part of the Peloponnese, Greece.
According to myth, Hercules supposedly built the Olympic stadium as a tribute to Zeus after completing his twelve labours, and thus founded the games. Since that, or some other possible inception, the Games have travelled to 22 host cities, and been played regularly for almost three millennia.
The Olympic symbol consists of five intertwined rings and represents the unity of the five inhabited continents (America, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe). The colours of the rings were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag. The Olympic flag was flown for the first time at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.
Months before the Games, the Olympic flame is lit in Olympia in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals. A female performer, acting as a priestess, ignites a torch by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun’s rays. She then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that carries the flame to the host city.
How much does it cost to fund the Olympics? The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is the private sector company responsible for preparing and staging the 2012 Games. It has a £2bn budget. The National Lottery Fund is also helping with an amount of £2.2bn to build the facilities to host the Games. The Greater London Authority (GLA) is contributing £925 million to the Olympic Delivery Authority. This money will be spent on the regeneration of infrastructure and facilities that will continue to benefit Londoners for generations to come.
The Olympics commence from 27 July to 12 August, while the Paralympics begin on 29 August till the 9 September. The next Olympics will be held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in 2016.
The London 2012 Olympic Games will feature 26 sports, which break down into 39 disciplines, across 34 venues (including Wimbledon, Old Trafford, and The Millennium Stadium). There are 8.8 million tickets available, to see 10 500 athletes, representing 205 National Olympic Committees (countries) compete in 302 medal events. The Games last 17 days (19 days with football), and are broadcast thanks to 21,000 media and broadcasting personnel.
In the Paralympic Games, there are 4,200 athletes competing in 20 sports, one of which is disabled rugby, representing 170 National Paralympic Committees in 503 medal events. The event runs over 11 competition days and over 19 venues, most of which are the same venues as the Olympics.
Eight thousand different torch bearers from across the UK will carry the Olympic Flame during the Torch Relay. Their personal stories will have the power to inspire millions of people watching around the world.
The main aim of the Games, as it was in antiquity, is to show the physical qualities and evolution of the performances. The games also encourage good relations between the countries of the world. The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.