Archive for Monday, July 30, 2012

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River City Jules: History of the Olympics

July 30, 2012

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The Games of the XXX Olympiad are well under way now with all eyes (or at least the two that belong to my husband) eagerly watching to see if a certain U.S. team repeats its phenomenon of 2008.

But before we dig into women’s beach volleyball, let’s take a look at the history of the games as they evolved throughout the millennia.

Most historians agree that the first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 BC. These games, held every four years, likely included foot races, boxing, wrestling and pankration, a martial art eventually deemed too violent for civil competition, though a similar version allowing biting and eye-gouging can still be seen on “The Bachelor.”

The tradition of these original games held strong until roughly 400 AD, when it is suspected that Missouri started petitioning Rome to take them into its kingdom in hopes of capitalizing on the rising dominance of the Roman dollar. This would not be the last time Missouri would bust up a long-standing tradition for money.

Though several attempts to renew the quadrennial competition were made over the following centuries, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that things really began to come together for the legacy of Hercules, starting in 1886 when John Pemberton reformulated his newly created French Wine Cocoa into the nonalcoholic beverage we now call Coca-Cola, paving the way for corporate sponsorship, an integral part of the modern Olympic tradition.

Nine years later, American William G. Morgan set the stage for what would become my husband’s favorite Olympic event when he hoisted a net in the middle of his gym, handed his players a white ball to be passed like a hot potato and insisted, above all, that participants cover their midriffs. Two of these three rules still stand.

In 1896, Greece heard the international calling to revive the games of their ancestors and, backed by corporate sponsors and with an array of new forms of competition from which to choose, hosted the first modern Olympic Games. And the country never had to worry about money again.

Several other factors came into play into over the next century-plus, including the first two-piece swimsuit (designed by Carl Jantzen in 1913), the invention of color television in 1953 and the introduction of a specialized system of hair removal in 1987 by seven Brazilian sisters in New York, bringing us to Beijing 2008, when a genius intern at NBC noticed the forecast called for rain that infamous night in August and, recalling the women’s beach volleyball uniforms resembled white bikinis, suggested the network highlight the competition with a prime-time slot.

He now runs strategic marketing for the company, receiving fan mail from straight, post-pubescent males nationwide still to this day.

While it takes a village to bring an athlete to your living room, it takes dedication beyond comprehension to bring home the hardware. So grab a Coke and a smile and, for one golden week, let go of the politics that divide and unite for the home team.

U-S-A!

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