July 23: The Olympics have arrived. Every four years, people across the world, turn towards the host country as they pomp up the show for the year’s Olympics. This year, the Summer Olympics 2020 is held in Tokyo, Japan. As the Olympics get underway from today onwards, the year-long anticipation of the world in the grasp of the pandemic glimmers with hope, too, like the glowing Olympic torch.
Olympics in history
The profound Olympics Games of today also had a profound beginning, about 3,000 years ago in Ancient Greece. The people of Greece started the Olympics as an ode to the Olympian Gods. The first games were held in Mount Olympus, the abode of Gods, every four years.
Although the ancient Games were staged in Olympia, Greece, from 776 BC through 393 AD, it took 1503 years for the Olympics to return. The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. However, these new-age games are different from old Olympian Games.
When a cook ran a stadion (foot race of 600 ft), the Games started and until 724 BC, running was the only game. Archaeological and literary sources are incoherent regarding the start of the Games, however, the fire of the game, Olympic Torch still lives on.
Even though not much of the ancient essence remains, the modern Olympics still uphold the virtue of strength and integration in the new age games.
How did the modern Olympics start?
Through the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France, who was inspired by the idea of creating a modern Olympic Games after visiting the ancient Olympic site, the new Games revived. In November 1892, at a meeting of the Union des Sports Athlétiques in Paris, Coubertin proposed the idea of reviving the Olympics as an international athletic competition held every four years. Two years later, he got the approval needed to establish the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which would become the governing body of the modern Olympic Games.
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. In the opening ceremony, King Georgios I of Greece and a crowd of 60,000 spectators welcomed 280 participants from 12 nations (all male), who would compete in 43 events, including track and field, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, cycling, tennis, weightlifting, shooting and fencing.
The official symbol of the modern Games is five interlocking coloured rings, representing the continents of North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia. The Olympic flag, featuring this symbol on a white background, flew for the first time at the Antwerp Games in 1920. Beginning in 1924, a Winter Olympics was included to be held at a separate cold-weather sports site in the same year as the Summer Games. It was first held at Chamonix, France. However, the Winter Games were shifted to a different schedule after 1992 due to increasing participation.
In 1900, when India sent a lone athlete Norman Pritchard to Paris where he won two medals in Men’s 200-metres and Men’s 200-metre hurdles. That was the official entry of India as a Commonwealth in the Olympics. India has participated in every Summer Games since then, sending their first Olympic team in 1920 comprising four athletes and two wrestlers.
The pre-Independence Indian hockey team dominated the Olympics from 1928 to 1936 winning an unprecedented three titles. From 1948, an independent India began sending delegations of more than 50 athletes, selected by various sports federations.
The Indian field hockey team won a gold medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics by defeating Great Britain in the final. It was the first gold medal for India as an independent nation. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav created history, becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal (bronze) in an individual sport at the Helsinki Olympics.
The London Olympics in 2012 has been India’s best performance so far with a total of six medals, doubling the country’s record of the last Games.
Popular Indian players who brought medals for country
- First-ever Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, Karnam Malleswari brought won a bronze medal in the weightlifting 69kg women’s category of Sydney Olympics.
- Abhinav Bindra became the first and only ever, individual sports player in India to win the gold medal. He is the former World Champion and also the Olympics Champion in the 10-meter air rifle event. He won this prestigious award in the Summer Olympics of Beijing, 2008.
- Dhyanchand is considered the greatest hockey player to have ever lived. He was the captain of the Indian team and led it to win gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He has aided in bringing three gold medals to India in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
- Colonel Rajvardhan Singh Rathore won the first individual silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and over 25 International Medals at several championships in the Double Trap event. He is not only well known for his achievements in sports but also for his various achievements in Defence Services.
- Olympic medalist Saina Nehwal has been the World No. 1 formerly and has won over 23 international titles. She won the Bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012. In 2015, she became the first-ever Indian female to become World No.1 and 2 overall, after Prakash Padukone.
- Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte, popularly known as MC Mary Kom, is a professional boxer who gained popularity after becoming the first female Indian boxer at an international level. She has won the Bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics. She has also won over 6 World Championships.
- Leander Paes is considered to be one of the best doubles and mixed doubles tennis players ever. He has accomplished many achievements in tennis which includes winning eight doubles and ten mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. At the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Paes won a bronze medal at the Men’s Singles ending a barren run of 16 years without a medal at the Olympics and also the first individual medal since 1952.
- Wrestler Sushil Kumar Solanki became the first Indian with multiple individual Olympic medals (bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver at the 2012 Summer Olympics) since Norman Pritchard in 1900.
- Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal with her bronze medal finish in Rio 2016 games, in the Women’s freestyle 58 kg category. She is the first female to have achieved this accomplishment.
- Shuttler P V Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in the Olympics and also the youngest Indian Olympic medalist. She also won gold at the 2019 World Championships, thus becoming the first Indian to become the World Champion in Badminton.