First Modern Olympic Games

By: Harwood E Woodpecker

Olympic Schedules from 2020 to 2028
Five cities have been chosen by the IOC to host upcoming Olympic Games: 

  1. 2018 - Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang (South Korea)
  2. 2020 - Summer Olympics at Tokyo, Japan
  3. 2022 - Winter Olympics at Beijing, China
  4. 2024 - Summer Olympics at Paris, France 
  5. 2028 - Summer Olympics at Los Angeles, USA

Below we look at how the First Modern Olympic Games came about and a short history of the Olympics since 1960.

A) How First Modern Olympic Games Came About

On April 6, 1896, the first modern Olympic Games are held in Athens, Greece, with athletes from 14 countries participating. The International Olympic Committee met for the first time in Paris in June 1984 and chose Greece as the site of the inaugural modern Olympiad.

In 1896, the modern Olympic Games only represented 14 nations and 241 participants. In 2008, the Games have exponentially grown to include 204 countries and 10,500 athletes.

B) A History Of The Modern Olympics 1960 - 1988

Below is listed a potted history of the Olympic games from 1960 to date including a few interesting facts about each games.

1) Rome 1960
Rome had been chosen to stage the 1908 Games, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy had intervened. It was some 52 years later that the Games finally arrived in the Italian capital. The Rome games were broadcast by television to all European countries and were watched by millions. However, the competitions themselves were overshadowed by the rivalry between the US and the USSR. In the final medal table the USSR finished ahead of the US by 43 to 34 gold medals.

Olympic Highlights in Rome 1960

  • Running barefoot, Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila did not go unnoticed when he entered the marathon. He refused to be daunted by the condescending remarks and left all his opponents behind to cross the finishing line victorious, near Constantine's triumphal arch.
  • Aged 20, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold athletics medals in one Olympiad: in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. She achieved this extraordinary feat despite suffering from a string of childhood illnesses and recovering from a deformed leg caused by polio.
  • Cassius Marcellus Clay, later known as Muhammed Ali first came to international prominence by winning the light-heavyweight gold medal. He would later turn professional and embark on a phenomenal career.

2) Tokyo 1964
The first time the Olympic Games were hosted in Asia
Japan invested heavily in the most modern sports facilities as well as in improving the infrastructure of a city containing over 10 million people. The extraordinary architectural design of the swimming stadium led to it being described as a 'cathedral of sports'. Other outstanding new buildings included the judo hall, which was modelled on the architectural style of traditional Japanese temples.

The opening ceremony offered a glimpse into how record-breaking the competition would be, when teams from 93 nations (10 more than participated in Rome) paraded into the Meiji Stadium. However, the high standards set by athletes at the Tokyo Games led some critics to warn about exaggerated expectations for the future development of the Olympic disciplines.

Olympic Highlights in Tokyo 1960

  • Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser won her third successive gold medal in the 100m freestyle. She was the first woman swimmer to win eight medals (four gold and four silver) - over three Olympics. 
  • Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina added six more medals to her tally, becoming the first woman to win nine Olympic gold medals.
  • Deszo Gyarmati won gold with the Hungarian water polo team, thus achieving the (then) unique feat of winning medals at five successive Olympic Games

3) Mexico City 1968
Mexico City's high altitude - almost 2,240m (7,350ft) above sea level dominated much of the pre-Games discussion: the consensus being that athletes from lowland countries would be at a disadvantage. However several weeks of high-altitude training enhanced the performances of many of these athletes.

There were violent riots in the run-up to the Games, following complaints about the exorbitant amounts of money being invested in Olympic facilities in contrast to Mexico's own social problems.Controversy also arose over South Africa's participation at these Games and the IOC withdrew its invitation under pressure. Doping controls were introduced for the first time and a Swedish athlete was disqualified for having too much alcohol in his bloodstream.

Olympic Highlights in Mexico City 1968

  • American Bob Beamon was the favourite in the long jump but he exceeded all expectations. His jump of 8.90m beat the world record by 0.55m.
  • Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska won four gold and two silver medals. These victories were given extra significance by beating the Soviet gymnasts shortly after Soviet tanks had invaded her homeland.
  • American Debbie Meyer became the first woman swimmer to win three individual gold medals at one Olympic Games.

4) Munich 1972
The year terrorism entered into Olympics
The 1972 Munich Games were the largest yet, setting records in all categories, with 195 events and 7,134 athletes from 121 nations. The Games were supposed to celebrate peace, and for the first 10 days all went well.

On 5 September, eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic village, killed two members of the Israeli team, and took nine more hostage. In the ensuing battle, all nine Israeli hostages were killed, along with five of the terrorists, and one policeman. The Olympics were suspended and a memorial service was held in the main stadium. In defiance of the terrorists, the International Olympic Committee ordered the competitions to resume after a pause of 34 hours. All other details about the Munich Games paled in significance.

Olympic Highlights of Munich 1972
Finnish distance runner Lasse Viren fell halfway through the 10,000m final, but still set a new world record to win the first of his four career gold medals.

  • The media star of the Munich Games was the petite Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, whose three gold medals helped establish Soviet dominance in the female gymnastics events and captured the attention of fans worldwide.

5) Montreal 1976
The 1976 Montreal Games were marred by the boycott of 22 African nations protesting the fact that despite the New Zealand rugby team touring South Africa in defiance of international sporting sanctions, New Zealand was still allowed to compete. To compound the situation, the host nation suffered an unusually long winter, industrial disputes, and a lack of funds, which made it impossible to finish work on the Olympic facilities in time for the opening ceremony.

However, the performances of the athletes did not suffer from the political and national disputes. Despite the problems, the Games were well organized and, following the 1972 terrorist attack in Munich, security was tight.

Olympic Highlights of Montreal 1976

  • Nadia Comaneci was the star of the Games. She achieved her first perfect 10 on the uneven parallel bars, and the judges awarded her the maximum mark seven times.
  • With his victory in platform diving, Italian Klaus Dibiasi became the first Olympic diver to win three successive gold medals, and to win medals in four Olympic Games.
  • The US and East Germany dominated the swimming events. Only Great Britain's David Wilkie and the Soviet Union's Marina Koshevaya (both winning their 200m finals in record times) upset the monopoly.

6) Moscow 1980
The Year 3 major countries were absent!
As a result of the US-led boycott in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, only 80 countries were represented at the Moscow Games. Notable absentees included Japan, West Germany, and the US.

Western countries have frequently referred to the Moscow Games as being of a low standard, and have raised doubts about the sporting value of the results and medals. Nonetheless, although not of the highest calibre, the Moscow Games were hardly sub-standard: 36 world records, 39 European records, and 73 Olympic records bore testimony to the high level of talent and competition on display.

Olympic Highlights of Moscow 1980

  • Soviet swimmer Vladimir Salnikov won three gold medals: in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle, and 4x200m relay. He was also the first to swim 1,500m in a time of less than 15 minutes.
  • British middle-distance runners Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe faced each other in two memorable duels. In the 800m, Ovett won the gold medal just ahead of his compatriot. Six days later, a determined Coe redeemed himself in the 1,500m, taking gold while Ovett could only manage bronze.
  • By winning the decathlon, Great Britain's Daley Thompson became 'king of the athletes', beating home crowd favourite Yuri Kutsenko into second place.

7) Los Angeles 1984
Although a revenge boycott led by the Soviet Union depleted the field in certain sports, a record 140 nations took part in the first privately funded tournament in Olympic history. More than 30 sponsors together contributed more than $500 million, while other companies funded the building of new sports facilities, in a deal that allowed them to advertise on the admission tickets.

The ABC television network paid $225 million for the exclusive television rights, thereby ensuring that most events started in the evenings during prime television time in the US. With these vast amounts of money involved, many critics held the view that what had once been a festival of amateur sport was now a purely commercial spectacle.

Olympic Highlights of Los Angeles 1984

  • American diver Greg Louganis remained unbeaten from the 3m springboard as well as from the 10m platform.
  • Sebastian Coe became the first repeat winner of the men's 1,500m. 
  • In the women's 400m hurdles, Nawal El Moutawakel led from start to finish, becoming the first Moroccan athlete to win a gold medal. 
  • British decathlete gold medallist Daley Thompson finished just one point off the world record.

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