Olympics 2012 has commenced. Everyone has their eyes glued to the TV, office lunch rooms are abuzz with how many gold Australia has won and will win, family and friend gatherings are fuelled by debates as to who is surpassing our expectations and who is delivering shocking performances. We all know about Olympics and we all love to engage in overt and covert discussion about Olympics. But have you wondered about the various myths the Olympic is steeped in? Have you ever turned your mind to the various legends shrouding the history of Olympics? If not, this is the time to find out.
Myth No. 1 – The Olympics was originally held at the Greek city of Olympia which also lends it name to the Olympic Games. Pelops was the local hero of Olympia and according to Greek mythology is the founder of Olympics. King Oinomaos of Pisa had a beautiful daughter named Hippodamia. King Oinomaos had declared that anyone who wanted his daughter's hand in marriage would have to compete with him in a chariot race. While winning the race will win the suitor the right to wed his daughter, losing the race will bring down the dreadful punishment of beheading. Phelops took up the King's challenge. However, on the auspicious day of the race Pelops secretly substituted the bronze linchpins of the King's chariot with wax linchpins. When the race commenced, the wax melted and the King was thrown from his chariot leading to his death. Pelops was declared the winner and then married Hippodamia. Legend has it that Pelops celebrated his victory with the Olympic Games.
Myth No. 2 – In ancient times, all festivals in Greece were dedicated to various Gods and Goddesses. The ancient Greeks worshipped Zeus as the Father of Gods and men. Legend has it that the Olympic festival was started to honour Zeus. It is said that Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Olympia marking it as a sacred site. Many say that the great altar of Zeus located at Olympia is the exact spot where the thunderbolt hit the ground. During the Games many ceremonies were held to pay tribute to the great Zeus but nothing overshadowed or outshined the most ostentatious and the most extravagant ceremony of "hecatombe", held on the morning of the middle day of the Olympics. The "hecatombe was a sacrifice of hundred oxen to the Zeus!
Myth No. 3 – The Ideean Herakles, one of the five Daktyloi who were the designated guards for Zeus since his birth, is also credited with the founding of the Olympic games. One of his descendents was the semi-divine infamous Hercules who is also said to have taken part in the Olympic Games.
But myths aside, history tells us that the first Olympics can be dated back to the 776 BC. Starting off as a one-day event, the Olympic Games were extended to three days which subsequently became a five day long event in the 5th century B.C.
The Olympic victor was originally awarded with a palm branch immediately after winning a competition. Red ribbons were tied to his head and hands as the emblem of victory. On the last day of the Games, the official award ceremony was held at the temple of Zeus. In a booming voice, before a sea of cheering and joyous crowd the herald would proclaim the name of the Olympic winner, his father's name and his homeland. Following the announcement, the Hellanodikis (a Greek judge) placed the sacred olive tree wreath, or kotinos, on the head of the winner. And then the great Olympics would come to an end!