Local Olympics expert explains how the games have changed over the years
By Tia Heidebrecht, Chief Photographer - bio | email
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
The Olympics are a time for the world's nations to come together in a competition and peace.
The modern Olympics started in 1896 and in many ways it's changed from the ancient Olympics.
But in some ways, it hasn't changed all that much.
It's a tradition that dates back to ancient Greece. The Olympics. It was a time for nations to come together peacefully.
"The key ethical concept of the Olympic games in ancient Greek terms is called arete. Which means virtue or excellence. It's about trying to be the best you can be as a human being," Heather Reid, the Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Morningside College said.
The earliest Olympics contest was dedicated to the top Greek god, Zeus.
"The first competition that began at Olympia was when they decided to have race to decide who would light the sacrificial flame for the religious ceremony there and this was a fair even way of deciding who would get this special honor that didn't just go back to existing social hierarchies. " Reid said.
Now the torch is still a centerpiece of the games but not in a religious way.
"The opening and closing ceremonies are a part of the ancient games too. It is a kind of a special time and place when that flame is lit, we are all supposed to think about our possibilities as human beings and what we can be as a world," Reid said.
The first Olympic contest had only the one race and eventually they added the pentathlon, five events from discus to wrestling and the pankration where two athletes combined wrestling and boxing and the loser had to concede or give up. Now, there are 26 sports. In ancient Greece, the prize was a crown made of olive leaves and a palm branch.
"So ironically one of the greatest symbols of Olympic spirit that we see at the games today are athletes like Serena Williams and Roger Federer and Kobe Bryant and athletes who are professional athletes who are not doing this for the money just for the glory of competing and for representing their country really shows the true spirit of athletics and it's not all about money," Reid said.
Another step forward is the addition of women as athletes. This Olympic Games, every participating country has female athletes. Although in ancient times, women competed in other important events, they weren't allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.
While Reid thinks some parts of the modern Olympic Games have gotten away from the ancient meaning, with medal counts and commercialization, she says the games are still very inspiring.
Reid presented a paper on "Olympic Sacrifice" earlier this year, in London.
She has also recently published a book called "The Olympics and Philosophy".
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