of the Summer & Winter
Harvey Abrams, BS, MAT, Ph.d/abd.
Created on Sunday, August 27, 2000
Updated August 20, 2014
These pages are dedicated to K & A.
Read more details about the bidding process at the IOC web site: Host City Election News
With only one exception, the ancient Olympic Games were always in the same place -- OLYMPIA -- a sacred precinct in the western part of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. OLYMPIA itself was not a town, but a religious site. Today the ancient site is still its own tiny entity and nearby - within walking distance - there is a small town of "Olympia" with a population of under 1,200 people, with hotels, a museum, restaurants, etc. The nearby town of ELIS is within the region known as ELIS. A bit confusing, but think of it this way - this region would be similar to a "county" in any one of the states in the USA, with the town having the same name. The town of Elis is in the region of Elis. (So compare it to the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is also the COUNTY of Philadelphia, one of 67 counties in the state of Pennsylvania. Whereas Pittsburgh is only one part of ALLEGHENY COUNTY in western Pennsylvania).
The map above shows all of Greece with the Peloponnese in the lower part in yellow. The orange island at the bottom is Crete. The pink islands on the right are all part of Greece and this is where so many tourists travel today when taking cruises to the Greek Islands. The gray area at right is Turkey. In the ancient era this gray region was part of Greece and under their influence and control. Troy was there. Then the Romans conquered the Greeks and it was all part of the Roman Empire. When Rome collapsed this region was called the Byzantine Empire, and they controlled most of Greece. In 1453 this region was conquered by the Muslim Ottomans and became known as the Ottoman Empire who controlled Greece for over 450 years. The Ottoman Empire ended in 1922, following World War I, and this gray area at right became the nation of Turkey. To this day there remains tension between the Greeks at left and the Turks at right.
The Olympic Games in the ancient era took place in the Peloponnese (yellow) and attracted Greeks from the entire Greek world - and they all walked to Olympia. The modern Olympic Games took place in Athens (red area) in 1896, 1906 and 2004. Istanbul, Turkey was one of the three finalist cities bidding to host the Olympic Games of 2020 butt Tokyo (Japan) was selected to be the host city.
In this map you can see where OLYMPIA is located
The Olympic Games were a religious event, a FESTIVAL that honored the Greek God ZEUS. The ancient Olympic Games were hosted by the ELIANS who were the guardians of the religious sanctuary to Zeus. They tried -- and succeeded for a few hundred years -- to be neutral, that is, not allied to other Greek city-states, similar to modern day Switzerland. But in the fifth century BCE (480 BCE) they allied themselves with Sparta and warred against their neighbors. The Elians lost control of the sanctuary to the Spartans, then to other Greek city-states, then finally to the conquering Romans. In 80 BCE the Roman general Sulla moved the Olympic Games to Rome and only a single race for boys was held at Olympia, the stade race. But then Sulla died and the next Olympic Games returned to Olympia in 76 BCE. The Games stayed in Olympia until they were banished along with all other "pagan" festivals by Roman Emperor Theodosius I in 393 CE.
Our modern calender is based upon revisions to the ancient Roman Julian calender that were made and instituted by the Catholic Church in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. This revised calender is known as the Gregorian Calender. Using this revised calender from 1582 becomes an issue when trying to date the ancient Greek Olympiads from 776 BCE, which was year "one" of the 1st Olympiad.
To make it very simple to understand -- your birthdate this year would not have been the same date in ancient Greek times.
Just as in ancient Greece, the modern Olympic Games are held every four years at the beginning of the Olympiad. The 1st modern Olympiad began in 1896 when Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games and they were held in Athens. Therefore, these Games are referred to as The Games of the First Modern Olympiad. More specifically, the Games were held in "year one" of the "first modern Olympiad."
During the early years of the Modern Olympic Movement there was a disagreement over who should host the Olympic Games. The Greek Government wanted the Games in Athens permanently while Pierre de Coubertin, the French "founder" of the Modern Olympic Games, wanted the Games to rotate around the world to major sporting cities. So the Olympic Games of the second Olympiad were held in Paris, France and the Olympic Games of the third Olympiad were in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The Greeks went ahead and scheduled their own Olympic Games in 1906, a tenth anniversary celebration of the 1896 Games. At that time these Games were considered "official," in spite of the calender - not being a QUADRENNIAL event. From an historical perspective - the 1906 Olympic Games must always be included in Olympic record keeping. They happened -- they cannot be ignored. However, they are not called the Games of the fourth Olympiad -- because the Games of the Fourth Olympiad were held in 1908 in London, England. Is this confusing you? Don't worry -- it was confusing to everyone back then too. The Greek government did not hold any future Olympic celebrations because it was to expensive. The modern Games have continued to be hosted in cities around the world. The Greeks tried to get the 1996 Games because it was the centennial (100th birthday) of the Olympic Games, but the Games were hosted in Atlanta (USA). However the next Olympic Games -- in 2004 -- were held in Athens, Greece.
There must have been something happening at Olympia. It must have remained a religious site to the Greek god Zeus. We know this because in the 1990's a bronze plaque was found that records the victors of boy's events in the Olympic Games of 381 CE and 385 CE. Then in 391 CE the Roman emperor Theodosius I, accepted the new religion known as Christianity to be the official state religion of Rome, and he outlawed all pagan religious festivals throughout the Roman Empire. Allow me to repeat that: Theodosius, a Roman Emperor, outlawed both the ancient Greek Gods and his own Roman Gods because he accepted the new religion of Christianity for his empire.
It is frequently written that the last Games held at Olympia were in 393 CE, but there is no evidence to support this. It is known that in 393 CE the Roman army was sent to Olympia to destroy the religious site in order to prevent the Greeks from having their pagan festivals. By 395 CE it is known that the great statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, had been removed to a Roman palace in Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Empire, where is was destroyed in a fire in 462 CE. But evidence has been found that there might have been later Olympic Games until 425 CE. In 426 CE Theodosius II, grandson of Theodosius I, issued an edict to destroy all pagan temples. Such edicts by Roman emperors indicates that the Greeks may have continued some festivals through the years, but there is no historical evidence about the Olympic Games...no written records or victor lists, no descriptions in ancient Roman written books, no reliefs or carvings on stones or bronze markers.
The temple of Zeus at Olympia was burned to the ground. Rome itself had already been sacked by Allaric and the Visigoths in 410 CE. The "Dark Ages" had begun. Keep in mind that all these dates have been calculated by historians who have tried to use mathematics to "date" events. To study this problem of dating ancient events you would need to read more about the history of calenders.
Almost 1500 years had passed when Pierre de Coubertin, of France, organized a revival of the ancient Olympic Games and the first celebration was held in Athens, Greece in 1896. In the first 50 years of the Modern Games they have been cancelled three times. In 1916 the Games were scheduled to be in Berlin (Germany) but were cancelled due to World War I. In both 1940 and 1944 the Olympic Games were cancelled due to World War II. They were supposed to be hosted by Tokyo (Japan) and when the Japanese cancelled the Games an alternate city was chosen - Helsinki (Finland). But in 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Finland and for the second time the Olympic Games were cancelled.
In 1980 the United States led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics and in 1984 the Soviets retaliated and led a boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics.
Wars, politics, corruption -- these are forces that affect the modern Olympic Games as much as they affected the ancient Olympic Games. It affects the Host of the Games and it affects the calender. Although an Olympiad cannot be cancelled because it is a period of time, the Games of an Olympiad can be cancelled. Below is a list of the host cities of the Ancient and Modern Olympic Games with Arabic numbers being used as well as Roman numerals (21st Olympiad as well as XXI Olympiad).
The proper way to refer to any Olympic Games celebration is to use the Roman numeral system such as:
The Olympic Games of the IV Olympiad and to say it as "The Olympic Games of the fourth Olympiad." The Olympiad only refers to the summer Olympic Games as the winter Games were an afterthought and are not numbered, only dated.
1896 - 1st Olympiad - I Olympiad - Athens, Greece
1900 - 2nd Olympiad - II Olympiad - Paris, France
1904 - 3rd Olympiad - III Olympiad - St. Louis, Missouri, USA
1906 - 3rd Olympiad, year 3 - III.3 Olympiad - Athens, Greece (sometimes called the "interim Games")
1908 - 4th Olympiad - IV Olympiad - London, England (Great Britain)
1912 - 5th Olympiad - V Olympiad - Stockholm, Sweden
1916 - 6th Olympiad - VI Olympiad - Cancelled - World War I (Scheduled for Berlin, Germany)
1920 - 7th Olympiad - VII Olympiad - Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - 8th Olympiad - VIII Olympiad - Paris, France
1928 - 9th Olympiad - IX Olympiad - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1932 - 10th Olympiad - X Olympiad - Los Angeles, California, USA
1936 - 11th Olympiad - XI Olympiad - Berlin, Germany
1940 - 12th Olympiad - XII Olympiad - Cancelled, World War II (Scheduled for Tokyo, Japan. Then re-scheduled for Helsinki, Finland & cancelled a 2nd time)
1944 - 13th Olympiad - XIII Olympiad - Cancelled, World War II (London considered, but war continued)
1948 - 14th Olympiad - XIV Olympiad - London, England (Great Britain)
1952 - 15th Olympiad - XV Olympiad - Helsinki, Finland
1956 - 16th Olympiad - XVI Olympiad - Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (Horses were not permitted to be imported into Australia so the Equestrian events were in Stockholm)
1960 - 17th Olympiad - XVII Olympiad - Rome, Italy
1964 - 18th Olympiad - XVIII Olympiad - Tokyo, Japan
1968 - 19th Olympiad - XIX Olympiad - Mexico City, Mexico
1972 - 20th Olympiad - XX Olympiad - Munich, Germany
1976 - 21st Olympiad - XXI Olympiad - Montreal, Canada
1980 - 22nd Olympiad - XXII Olympiad - Moscow, Soviet Union (USSR)
1984 - 23rd Olympiad - XXIII Olympiad - Los Angeles, California, USA
1988 - 24th Olympiad - XXIV Olympiad - Seoul, South Korea
1992 - 25th Olympiad - XXV Olympiad - Barcelona, Spain
1996 - 26th Olympiad - XXVI Olympiad - Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2000 - 27th Olympiad - XXVII Olympiad - Sydney, Australia
2004 - 28th Olympiad - XXVIII Olympiad - Athens, Greece
2008 - 29th Olympiad - XXIX Olympiad - Beijing (also known as Peking), China
2012 - 30th Olympiad - XXX Olympiad - London, (England/Great Britain/United Kingdom)
2016 - 31st Olympiad - XXXI Olympiad - Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
2020 - 32nd Olympiad - XXXII Olympiad - Tokyo (Japan)
Do you have questions? If so, contact me via email.Olympicbks@aol.com
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Created on Sunday, August 27, 2000
Updated October 15, 2007
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