IV. SYMBOLS OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES
The Olympic rings are the official symbol of the Olympic Movement. There are five interlacing rings of the colors blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The rings are set upon a white background.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin designed the Olympic emblem in 1913. In his words, "These five rings represent the five parts of the world won over to Olympism. . . This is a real international emblem." The Olympic rings represent the union of the areas - the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe and the meeting of athletes throughout the world at the Olympic Games. Contrary to a popular misconception, the colors themselves do not represent any single continent. The colors were chosen because at least one of these colors is found in the flag of every nation.
The original Olympic flag was made at the "Bon Marché" store in Paris. The flag is three meters long and two meters wide. It first flew over an Olympic stadium at the 1920 Antwerp Games. The original flag also carried the Olympic motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius," Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger."
The most revered and visible symbol of the Olympic Games competition is the Olympic Flame.
During the ancient Games, in Olympia, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess, Hera.
In the modern era, the Olympic Flame first appeared at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. The idea for the flame first had been suggested by Theodore Lewald, a member of the International Olympic Committee, who later became one of the chief organizers of the 1936 Berlin Games.
The tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay, which culminates in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of each Games, dates to the 1936 Berlin Games. Carl Diem, the noted Olympic historian and head of the organizing committee, created the first torch relay to symbolize the link between the ancient and modern Olympic Games. The flame was lit in a ceremony at Olympia, Greece. From there, 3,000 runners carried the torch through seven countries to Berlin. The relay was timed so that the flame arrived at the stadium at the precise moment required. Ever since, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron has become the most hallowed moment of the Olympic Games.
The first torch relay of the Olympic Winter Games was organized for the 1952 Oslo Games. The flame was kindled at the home where legendary Norwegian skier Sondre Nordheim was born. Ninety-four skiers carried the flame to the Opening Ceremony in Oslo's Bislett Stadium. At the 1994 Lillehammer Games, ski-jumper Stein Gruben literally leaped into the Olympic arena with the flame.
The youngest person ever to light the Olympic flame was Robin Perry, age 12, who lit the flame at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games the honor of lighting the Olympic Flame was given to a group, rather than an individual or pair, for the first time. The entire 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team, led by Captain Mike Eruzione, lit the flame.
Greek windsurfer Nikos Kaklamanakis, a four-time Olympian, was the final torch-bearer at the Opening ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games.
Olympic medals are awarded to those individuals or teams placing first, second, and third in each event. The first place winner is bestowed a gold-plated medal of silver, which is commonly referred to as the "gold medal." Second and third places receive medals of silver and bronze. The silver used in the first and second place medals must be at least 92.5% pure. The "gold" medals must be gilded with at least six grams of pure gold. Medals also carry the name of the sport contested. Competitors who finish in the 1st through 8th places in an Olympic event receive an award diploma. The IOC awards commemorative pins to each athlete who participates in the Olympic Games.
The front sides of the medals awarded at the Games of the Olympiads feature an image of a Hellenic goddess holding a laurel wreath with the Athens Colosseum in the background. Since 1972, local Olympic organizing committees have been allowed to create a design for the back sides of the medals.
The medals given at the Olympic Winter Games, by tradition, differ from the traditional medals given at the Summer Games. Each Organizing Committee designs its own medals that must be approved by the IOC. The 2002 Salt Lake City Games medals, for example, were designed to look like natural river rock from Utah's rivers. The medals were the heaviest ever weighing 1.25 pounds apiece. The Games motto "Light the Fire Within" was engraved on the front of each medal.
The Olympic mascots are characters that stand as a symbol of the Olympic Games for children of all ages.
The official mascots of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games were Powder, a hare, Copper, a coyote, and Coal, a bear. These animals were chosen based on legends told by Native Americans which praise the hare for traveling swifter, the coyote for climbing higher and the bear for being stronger than all the other animals. The words "swifter, higher, stronger", are the widely-accepted English translation of the Olympic Motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius." Charms based on Native American petroglyphs hang around the neck of each mascot to remind each of its heritage.
Maybe you'd like to meet a few other Olympic Mascots.
V. ATHLETES AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES
The Olympic Charter
"The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind . . .."
These words from the Olympic Charter state the Olympic Movement's belief that athletic talent, and not race, gender, religious belief or politics, should determine whether athletes may participate in the Olympic Games. The charter stipulates only that athletes must be citizens of the nations they represent.
Other eligibility criteria are the responsibility of the international and national sport federations and National Olympic Committees. Each sport federation determines age limits and the eligibility of professional athletes. Some sports admit professionals; others do not. For example, professional baseball and basketball players now are allowed to play in the Olympic Games.
All athletes in the Olympic Games participate as representatives of their countries. Some athletes who hold dual nationality compete for the country other than the one in which they live. Most United States Olympic team members are selected through national Olympic qualification competitions. In the sport of track and field, for example, the top three finishers in each event at the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials are selected to the Olympic team. In some other sports, national federations choose based on current fitness, past performance, and future potential. Typically, each sport determines how its athletes will be selected for the Olympic Games.
Making an Olympic team has been a dream for generations of athletes worldwide. Making an Olympic team is very difficult and usually requires years of hard work, persistence and good fortune. It is very rare for a novice athlete to be selected to an Olympic team. Most Olympic team members have been training in their sports for nearly a decade or more before gaining the honor of participating in the Olympic Games.
The Olympic Movement aims to promote sport in the spirit of fair play. Cheating, such as using performance-enhancing drugs, and violence are punishable by expulsion from the Olympic Games and the loss of any medals or diplomas. For the 2000 Olympic games a phrase promising not to use drugs was added to the oath.
At the Opening Ceremony of each Olympic Games the flag bearers of all the delegations form a semi-circle around the rostrum. A competitor of the host country mounts the rostrum. Holding a corner of the Olympic flag in the left hand, and raising the right hand, the athlete takes the following oath:
"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."
An official also takes an oath declaring that all referees, umpires and judges at the games promise to judge fairly.
VI. ISSUES OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES
When Baron de Coubertin founded the modern Olympic Games, he envisioned contests in which young men competed only for the love of sport without the promise of financial reward. This vision was the basis for the concept of amateurism that governed Olympic eligibility for nearly 100 years.
While Coubertin's belief in amateurism derived from his devotion to the ideals of Olympism, it was a view rooted in the social milieu of the late 19th century, a time when only men of wealth could endure the expenses that accompanied a life of sport. In fact, early definitions of amateurism were based on distinctions of social class. Persons from lower economic classes were defined as non-amateurs.
But as sports became increasingly popular, people from a wider range of social classes participated and opportunities for profit appeared. These changes challenged the International Olympic Committee's strict definition of amateur status as the basis for Olympic eligibility. The most notable case of an athlete losing Olympic eligibility for violating the amateur code is that of 1912 gold medallist, Jim Thorpe, of the United States. Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic medals because he had earned a small amount of money playing semi-professional baseball two years before the 1912 Stockholm Games. Thorpe's medals were returned to his family by the IOC in 1982.
Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952-1972, was a fervent defender of amateurism. Brundage maintained that the high ideals of Olympism would be destroyed if athletes were allowed to profit from sport. He believed that commercialism would destroy higher motivations of fair play and moral development. One consequence of Brundage's policy, however, was that dishonesty and secret payments plagued the Olympic Games during his tenure.
After Brundage retired as IOC president, the IOC re-evaluated its position on amateurism. Realizing that its rules discriminated against athletes without wealth and that, in some countries, state-supported training made athletes de facto professionals, the IOC gradually eliminated "amateur" status as a condition for Olympic eligibility. The word amateur was finally removed from the Olympic Charter during the 1970s. The international federations governing individual Olympic sports were given responsibility for determining Olympic eligibility following the 1981 IOC Congress and Session at Baden-Baden, Germany. Since that time, an increasing number of federations have modified their rules to allow professionals to compete in the Games.
The first century of the modern Olympic Games paralleled the development of mass communications technology. Television has enabled the Olympic Games to become a true global event. The 1996 Atlanta Games were broadcast to a world-wide audience of 2.3 billion people. The 2002 Sydney Olympic Games drew an audience of 3.7 billion people and 36.1 billion viewing hours.
The 1936 Berlin Games were the first sports competitions televised live. More than two dozen viewing halls were built throughout Berlin for people to watch the Games. Although the picture quality of these early broadcasts was poor, television became a vital part of the Olympic Games.
The first international broadcasts of Olympic competition came at the 1956 Cortina Winter Games. Viewers in eight European countries watched the Games.
As television grew in importance during the 1950s, the International Olympic Committee realized that the sale of broadcast rights could provide income to subsidize the expenses of the Games and the activities of the IOC. After much negotiation, rights to the 1960 Squaw Valley Games were sold to several companies. The European Broadcasting Union paid $660,000 (U.S.) for broadcast rights. Since then, television rights fees and coverage have escalated astronomically. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC), an American network, paid $456,000,000 for the rights to broadcast the 1996 Atlanta Games and a staggering $3.5 billion for the rights to broadcast the five Games from 2000 through 2008.
Doping is the "administration or use of drugs or banned methods" for the purpose of artificially improving athletic performance. It is a major problem facing sport and the Olympic Games. Simply, doping is cheating.
Doping has existed in one form or another since the ancient Olympic Games. Emollients and special diets were among the earliest types of doping. In the modern era, doping primarily has taken the form of drug use. The most notorious case of doping occurred during the 1988 Seoul Games when Canada's 100-meter gold medallist Ben Johnson was found to have taken anabolic steroids. Johnson was stripped of his medal, and American Carl Lewis became the Olympic champion.
Anabolic steroids, synthetic male hormones and erythropoietin (EPO) are probably the most widely abused drugs in elite sport. Anabolic steroids increase strength, but also can lead to severe physical problems. EPO and similar drugs stimulate the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the muscles. EPO, like steroids, poses health risks.
In some instances, entire national teams have been tainted by doping. After the disintegration of the East German (GDR) government in 1989 it was discovered that a state-sponsored plan, Plan 14.25, had ordered the systematic doping of East German athletes during the 1970s and 1980s. Such widespread doping has cast a pall over the Olympic medals won by East German athletes during this period and still remains a controversial issue within German sport.
The International Olympic Committee has worked to eliminate the use of illegal methods through the activities of the IOC Medical Commission and the IOC Athletes' Commission. In February 1999 the IOC convened the World Conference on Doping In Sport. One outcome of the conference was the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which receives almost all of its funding from the IOC.
At each Olympic Games, hundreds of athletes undergo drug testing for performance-enhancing substances. Usually, the top four placers in each event plus a number of other randomly-selected athletes are required to provide post-competition urine samples for testing. In some sports, blood samples also are tested. Athletes found guilty of doping in a post-event test forfeit any Olympic medals or diplomas they have won in that event.
Women have fought for just representation in the Olympic Games since the beginning of the modern Olympic Movement. Women were not allowed to compete in the first Olympic Games at Athens in 1896. And although a number of women did compete in the 1900 Paris, 1904 St. Louis and 1908 London Games, the International Olympic Committee did not formally admit women to the Games until 1912 at Stockholm.
The history of women in the Olympic Games has been that of a struggle for full participation and of changing popular perceptions of female athletes. To this day, women still account for only one-third of all Olympic competitors. It was only in 1981 that Pirjo Haggman of Finland and Flor Isava-Fonseca of Venezuela were elected as the first women members of the IOC. Anita DeFrantz, of Los Angeles, was the first U.S. woman to serve on the IOC, elected in 1986. In September 1997 she became the first woman elected as an IOC vice-president. Sandra Baldwin, in 2002, became the second American woman elected to the IOC.
Women's issues continue to confront the Olympic Movement. Most notable is the dearth of women holding leadership positions in Olympic sports organizations. Attempting to combat the problem, the IOC passed a resolution in 1996 requiring that women make up 10% of "the decision-making structures" of all NOCs by the year 2000, and 20% by the year 2005.
Although the goal of the Olympic Games is to bring together the athletes of the world in peaceful competition, the Games often have been affected by political tensions.
The most controversial Games in modern Olympic history were the 1936 Berlin Games. German Chancellor Adolph Hitler used the Games as propaganda for Nazi ideology. Prior to the Games, several nations called for a boycott in protest of the anti-Semitic policies enacted by Hitler's National Socialist Government. The tragedy of World War II still shrouds the memory of the Berlin Games.
Politics continued to cloud the Games in later years. The 1950s witnessed the emergence of Cold War tensions. At the 1956 Melbourne Games, nearly 40 % of the Hungarian Olympic contingent defected rather than return home to a country that had been recently invaded by armed forces from the Soviet Union. During the 1960s, human rights issues confronted the Olympic Movement. In an unprecedented move, the International Olympic Committee voted to expel the Republic of South Africa from the Games, in 1964, for its racist apartheid policies. At the 1968 Mexico City Games, African-American athletes visibly protested the discrimination against blacks in the United States. The image of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos standing on the victory stand with clenched fists in black gloves remains etched in Olympic memory.
International political tensions led to the Olympic Games greatest tragedy. Twelve Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games.
Although individual countries have declined participation in the Games as a means of political protest throughout the history of the modern Games, the 1976 Montreal Games introduced what some have called the "age of the Olympic boycott." Seventeen African and Arab nations boycotted the Montreal Games protesting New Zealand's violation of the international sports ban of South Africa. Four years later, a number of nations, led by the United States, boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Citing concern for the security of its athletes, the U.S.S.R. organized an Eastern Bloc boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
During the 1990s, the Olympic Movement has concerned itself with gender issues. The IOC has called for the greater involvement of women in the governing structures of sport.
The IOC's most assertive political voice, however, has sounded in the name of international peace. Former President, now Honorary Life President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, of Spain, has championed the ancient tradition of the Olympic Truce. The truce calls upon the cessation of all hostilities and warfare during the period of the Olympic Games. Perhaps the most compelling moment of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games came at the Opening Ceremony when Samaranch asked attendees and viewers worldwide to observe a moment of remembrance for the Olympic city of Sarajevo and pleaded for a cessation of fighting in the war-torn former Yugoslavia.
One hundred years ago, Pierre de Coubertin envisioned the Olympic Games as an international gathering of amateur athletes who would compete for the love of sport. While many athletes still do compete for the love of sport, the Olympic Games have evolved far beyond what Coubertin imagined. Today, the world of Olympic sport involves tremendous amounts of money and intimate association with commercial enterprise.
For most of the first century of the modern Games, the International Olympic Committee was a small operation of dedicated staff and volunteer members. Most National Olympic Committees also had modest budgets. In the United States, the USOC often resorted to grassroots fundraising in order to field teams.
As the Olympic Games and mass media grew side by side, the Games began to attract commercial interest. The sale of television rights and corporate sponsorships helped offset the operational expenses of the IOC and local organizers. The nature of commercial sponsorship changed radically with the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The innovative and aggressive marketing of the Games, and the existence of suitable facilities that precluded the need for expensive construction, helped produce a surplus of $225 million (U.S.), a staggering sum by all previous standards. The Los Angeles organizers demonstrated that corporations were willing to spend huge sums of money to associate themselves with the Olympic Games.
In 1985, the IOC established TOP (The Olympic Program). Under this program, corporations pay tens of millions of dollars for status as official Olympic sponsors over a four-year period. Likewise, local organizing committees have attracted large corporate sponsorships and conducted aggressive marketing and merchandising campaigns of their own. Television revenues have continued to soar. In 1995, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) agreed to pay an estimated $1.2 billion for the United States rights to broadcast the 2000 Sydney and 2002 Salt Lake City Games and added another $2.3 billion for the rights for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Games. These developments have produced tremendous revenue for the Olympic Movement.
Such close association of the Olympic Games with commercial entities has brought criticism of the IOC. Some believe that the Olympic Movement has seriously compromised its principles and left itself far too susceptible to the wishes of commercial enterprises.
The increased wealth of the IOC, however, has allowed the Olympic Movement to expand both the nature and reach of its activities. Foremost among these activities is Olympic Solidarity, a program intended to spread the Olympic Movement throughout the world. Olympic Solidarity offers scholarships, sports education programs, and direct financial aid to National Olympic Committees, especially those of developing countries.
Copyright: LA84 Foundation of Los Angeles, January, 1996; November, 1997; February, 1999; April 2001; March 2002.
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