HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
The first ever modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece from April 6 to 15 in 1896. Athletes from 14 nations participated in the historic event. From the original 14, the Games have expanded to include 204 competitor nations. The Olympics represent a truly global celebration of athletics and competition, committed to excellence in sport and the spirit of sportsmanship. Over the years, the games have evolved and reflected changes in modern society.
Women were first allowed to participate in the 1900 games held in Paris — that too limited to the lawn tennis and golf categories. In 2012, Women’s boxing was included, ensuring the participation of women in every Olympic sport category.
In 1921, Pierre de Coubertin, touted as the ‘father of the modern Olympic Games’, coined the Olympic motto — Citius, Altius, Fortius (the Latin phrase means ‘Swifter, Higher, Stronger’). Certainly, the bar has been raised higher and higher every year. In 2008, Jamaican Usain Bolt broke the world record for the 100 metre men’s sprint. His time was 9.58 seconds — a whopping 1.02 seconds less than American Don Lippincott, who set the world record at the Stolkhom Olympics in 1912.
Ones to watch
Usain Bolt is known in the world over as the fastest man alive. Bolt won an unprecedented three Olympic gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, setting world records of 9.69 and 19.30 seconds in
the 100 and 200 metre events respectively. He also played a crucial role in
breaking the 4x100 world record with the Jamaican team, which won his third gold medal. The following year at the 2009 world championships, Bolt achieved even greater heights when he broke his own 100 and 200 meter records, recording 9.58 and 19.19 seconds in the two events.
But has Bolt still got what it takes to be the world’s best, to write his name large over this year’s Olympics? The 25-year old must be asking himself if he can really do it all over again after two narrow losses to Jamaican compatriot Yohan Blake in the 100 and 200 metre Jamaican Olympic trials. The 19-year-old emerging star may be peaking at the right time, registering a lightning quick 9.75 second in the 100 metre (the third fastest in Jamaica’s history, after Bolt and Powell) just weeks before the games begin. After an injury marred 2008 Olympics, Bolt’s close rival Tyson Gay is also hungry for Olympic gold. By no means can Bolt afford to rest on his laurels, because the competition will be fierce.
2008 was Bolt’s breakout year, but Beijing was also the stage where Michael Phelps (nicknamed The Fish) stunned the world and made history by winning an unbelievable eight Olympic gold medals. Beijing was and will surely remain the peak of his career; after the games Phelps focused less on swimming fast and more on partying hard. Though this time around he qualified for eight events, Phelps has decided to participate in seven, perhaps to remove any possible pressure to recreate the accomplishments of the previous Olympics. Committing to fewer events may also be a strategic move — by conserving his energy for fewer races, Phelps will stand a greater chance of success. Although these will be his last games, and he cannot hope to reproduce the magic of Beijing, Phelps still has a strong incentive to give his all in London. Expect something more than a pleasant farewell from the great swimmer, as he will be competing with his great rival Ryan Lochte — six times Olympic medallist, but so far, always in Phelps’ shadow. One year Phelps’ senior, Lochte will be eager to come out in front when the two face off in the pool, and though he may be past his peak, Phelps will surely rise to the challenge. Whatever happens, the contest will be a fascinating spectacle.
London: Triumphant city
On July 6, 2005, London was announced as the host city of the 2012 Olympic Games. It beat Paris in the final round of voting by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its meeting in Singapore. London also faced stiff competition from Madrid, Moscow and New York City. After coming out triumphant in the election, the city set about preparations for the mega-event with considerable zeal. In preparing to play host to an astonishing 10,500 Olympic athletes and 4,200 Paralympic Athletes, the city spent three years constructing the Olympic stadium — which required 10,000 tones of steel.
One would imagine that hosting the summer Games in the shadow of the flashy and awe-inspiring Olympics hosted by Beijing in 2008 might intimidate organisers in London. But the city comes out shining; highlighting its traditional sporting venues such as Lords Cricket Ground for archery and Wembley stadium for football, as well as embracing a sustainable approach by providing public transport for all nine million spectators of the games, and committing to an event that sends zero waste to landfills. In an unprecedented move, the London Assembly has voted to potentially ban McDonalds and Coca Cola as sponsors for the games. Although the two fast food giants have long been associated with the Olympics, their high-calorie unhealthy food products are contradictory to the athletic, active spirit of the Olympic Games. If the ban goes through, this year’s games could go on to be the healthiest, most environmentally friendly Olympics to date. On every occasion that London has hosted the games, it has been
enterprising and innovative. In the summer of 1948, after a gap of 12 years due to World War II, London played host and brought back the spirit of the Olympics to the world.
It was the first time the games were televised to audiences at home.
London is the only city to host the Olympic Games three times — and 2012 promises to amaze and inspire in its own right. — Compiled by Deboleena and Ronojoy Mazumdar