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Things you never knew about the Olympics

Thursday, August 11, 2016

You care about how far a person can throw a metal-core disc. You’re outraged that golf made it but squash didn’t. You think it’s time to update your life insurance policy because you get so angry when your friends confuse artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, you think you might burst a blood vessel. Yes, it’s that time again when we avidly watch sports we’re only interested in one month of every four years. It’s the Summer Olympic Games.

This year, the Olympic torch has made its way to Rio de Janeiro where over 200 member nations will compete in 42 sport disciplines to decide which countries can call their athletes the best in the world. While we’re right in the thick of this year’s ultimate sports competition, we thought we’d give you the rundown on the history of this monumental tournament.


Olympic origins


Perhaps the most intriguing part of the Olympic Games is that no one knows for sure why they started. History is jumbled with mythology which, we think, makes it even more fascinating. Ancient manuscripts indicate that the first games were held in 776 BCE in Olympia and even then, this special occasion was held only every four years.  

Myths on how it started vary, but the most popular one goes that the Olympics were staged by the hero Heracles to celebrate Zeus’s victory over Cronus for the throne of the gods. Whatever the reason for its origin, there have been almost 3000 years of outstanding athletes immortalising their names through feats of strength, stamina, determination and talent.


An armistice


Although the Olympics is about besting other countries in athletic competitions, the tournament has a strong sense of camaraderie and peace that began back in the 9th century BCE – the three kings of Elis, Pisa, and Sparta signed a treaty agreeing that there would be peace amongst the nations directly before, during and after the games so that athletes and pilgrims could travel freely without worrying about their safety to participate in and watch the event.


Sacred fire


The ancient Greeks believed that the Titan Prometheus gave humans fire and so they thought this element was sacred. Because of this, during the Olympics of antiquity, there would be a flame permanently burning during the tournament. However, the famous torch relay that has been proudly carried by hundreds of thousands of honoured guests only began in 1936 before the Summer Olympics held in Berlin. Many people mistakenly believe that the torch fire never goes out, but really it’s only lit a few months before each of the games. It’s at this time that it begins its relay journey, ending on an opening day in the host city where the tournament is held that year.

In the true heroic spirit of the games, the torch relay has travelled across the world in remarkable ways including by foot, plane, boat, camel, radio signal, horseback, canoe, and more.


Fame, glory and a statue


For the ancient Greeks, the tournament was all or nothing when it came to winning. There was only one individual who could be crowned the ‘Olympionic’. This winner received renowned fame and adulation and so did his father and home city. In fact, when the winner returned home, he could order a statue to be erected in his likeness to immortalise his feats of greatness. 


The end of an old tradition and the beginning of a new one


While the first Olympics were held almost 3000 years ago, the tradition has not continued uninterrupted. The Roman emperor Theodosius I stopped the games after they had been going for more than 1000 years. But this great tradition could not be kept down and the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Athens. Since then, the popular event has been held in cities all over the world including London, Paris, Barcelona, Antwerp, Seoul, and Los Angeles.


The Rio Olympics


Fast forward 3000 years and we’re in the middle of the 2016 Olympic Games. Here are some interesting facts on this year’s tournament:

  • This is the first time South America has hosted the Summer Olympics.
  • Two new sports were added – golf and rugby sevens.
  • There are about 10 500 athletes competing and about 5000 coaches/team officials.
  • 37 venues are being used.
  • There are two mascots, one for the Olympics and one for the Paralympics. The Olympic mascot is named Vinicius and the Paralympic’s is named Tom. Both are named after Brazilian musicians.


Now that you’re an Olympics buff, the next time one of your friends or family members gets their facts wrong, just send them the link for this page for all they need to know. And remember that Dialdirect makes it easy for you to sort out your insurance in a flash, so you have more time to spend watching the games. You can contact our call centre to update your life policy, or you can get insurance quotes and check on the status of your Cash Back Bonus online anywhere, any time.