The entrance to the ancient Olympic stadium at Olympia in Greece. ©iStock images.

The entrance to the ancient Olympic stadium at Olympia in Greece. ©iStock images.

The first Olympic Games we're held in Olympia in Greece in 776 BC. The Games were part of a religious festival, held in Olympia to honour the leader of the Greek gods, Zeus. There was only one event, a foot race over about 200 metres called a 'stadion'.

Our word stadium comes from the Greek word 'stadion'. At the very first Games, winners received only red ribbons to tie on their heads and hands. 

Later, the prize also included a weath of olive leaves cut from the trees in Zeus' sacred grove in Olympia, Statues were carved of famous athletes. 

The Ancient Olympic Games were held every four years

Image of olympians in ancient greece. Yes, the male athletes were naked at the games!

Image of olympians in ancient greece. Yes, the male athletes were naked at the games!

The Olympics were held every four years. All wars would stop for a month so that young athletes and spectators could travel to Olympia. After the first fifteen Olympics, new events were added including the pentathlon, a one day event consisting of five events, a foot race, discus, javelin, a long jump and wrestling. The athlete who won three or more events in the pentathlon was the winner. By now, new prizes were awarded including a wreath made of the leaves from a laurel tree, as well a jars of olive oil and sometimes money.

Women and the Olympic Games

Women were NOT allowed to compete and in the first few Olympics, they were not even allowed to watch! Much later, when horse racing and chariot racing we're added they could compete if they owned the horses. There was also a separate women's festival called Heraia (named in honour of Zeus' wife Hera)which included some races for female athletes.

Ruins of a temple at Olympia the site of the ancient Olympic Games ©iStock images

Ruins of a temple at Olympia the site of the ancient Olympic Games ©iStock images

The Ancient Games continued until 393 AD when the Roman Emperor Theodosius banned them. He didn't like it that at the Olympics, the Greeks prayed in the temple of their god Zeus and in the temple of Zeus' wife Hera. The Emperor was a Christian and didn't like anyone praying to any god other than the Christian one. So he banned the Olympic Games!

Baron Pierre De Coubertin

The Olympic Games we're forgotten until 1894 when Baron Pierre de Coubertin presented the idea of a modern Olympics to a meeting in Paris of people from 34 countries. They agreed, and the first modern Olympics were held in the Greek capital, Athens, in 1896.

Read the kidcyber page about Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Read more about the Ancient Olympics

https://www.olympic.org/ancient-olympic-games

Look at a video or read and look at a virtual tour of the site of the Ancient Olympics (needs Quicktime)

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/site.html