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Olympics still uniting nations through sport

Published 04/08/2016

The opening ceremony of the summer Olympic Games takes place in Rio de Janeiro tomorrow.

The creation of the modern Olympics was inspired by the ancient Games, held in Olympia, Greece, from 776BC to 393AD as a part of a pagan festival to honour Zeus, the father of the Greek gods.

The Greeks who competed at Olympia were all male citizens of the city states from every corner of the Greek world. Theodosius the Great, Roman Emperor from 379AD to 395AD, decreed Nicene Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 393AD he banned the pagan rituals of the Olympics. It took 1,503 years for the Olympics to return.

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896. The man responsible for its rebirth was Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894. The Olympic motto 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' ('Faster, Higher, Stronger') was proposed by him upon its establishment.

The ancient Olympics were based on a high standard of sportsmanship, known as the 'Corinthian spirit'. Baron de Coubertin's vision of the modern Olympics was a festival of sport, where the world's best amateur sportsmen could compete for the glory of their respective nations, for their personal glory and to demonstrate sportsmanship at the highest level.

Even though the Olympics have shifted away from pure amateurism and are dogged by political, commercial and doping controversies, they will always show the power of sport to unite all the nations of the world.

WILLIAM RYLE

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