by Dr. Mark Golden
The 2004 Athens Olympics brought new reminders of the links
between our modern games and the ancient
Olympic festival and of the foundation of
the modern games by the French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, in 1896.
As it happens, however, many of these
links are imaginary or misleading. For example, the modern Olympic
motto is in an ancient language, but that language is Latin,
not Greek; the torch relay, moving as it is, is a modern invention;
Marathon was a famous ancient battle and a Greek won the first
marathon race which commemorated it, but a modern Greek, in 1896.
In fact, it is as easy to stress differences between the ancient and
modern Olympics as similarities. As for the modern games themselves:
They were first conceived and celebrated by Greeks before
Coubertin's birth and English (and other) revivals were
widespread from the middle of the nineteenth century on. The success
of Coubertin's games was due to two related factors: his appeal to
an international elite and his restriction of the glory of Olympic
victory to people like them.