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Every City Tells A Story


The history of the Olympic games has always been closely related to the city that holds it. This is because it’s the city, and not the country, that makes the bid to hold the Olympic games. Understandably, the competition to hold the Olympics is fierce as it can bring great prestige and prosperity to the city.


From its rebirth in Athens in 1896 to the present day, the modern Olympic Games have gone through many changes. Women were not officially admitted to the Olympics until the Stockholm games of 1912, though they had participated in some events before then. In the ancient games in Greece, women were not even allowed to watch the games, let alone take part.


The Olympic emblem is also a relatively new addition to the games. The first emblem was designed in 1913, although the five rings weren’t included until the Antwerp games of 1920. The five rings represent the union of the five continents of the world and the colours were chosen because at least one of the five colours exists in every flag of the world’s nations.


The Olympic torch, which had been part of the ancient games, was reinstated as part of the opening ceremony in the 1928 games in Amsterdam. The idea of the torch relay (carrying a lit torch from Greece to the next Olympic venue) was introduced in the Berlin games of 1936. The relay included some 3,000 runners who carried the torch from Greece to Germany, crossing a total of seven countries. The relay to Sydney was far more complex and involved keeping the flame alight 30,000 feet above the earth on a specially chartered transcontinental flight as well as a short swim underwater.


The Berlin games also saw the first live television transmission of the event and during the next 30 years of the Olympics there was an enormous growth in its popularity with a steady increase in both the number of sports included and the number of countries participating.


The 1990s saw the massive commercialisation of the Olympics. In 1992, during the opening ceremony of the Barcelona games, Freddie Mercury and Monserrat Caballe sang an Olympic anthem which topped the charts in many countries. The Atlanta games in 1996 had an estimated TV audience of 2.3 billion people a day, and in 1995 NBC paid 1.2 billion dollars to televise the games in Sydney. Many claim that the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney were the most successful ever. Attendances reached record levels, with the number of spectators at some athletic events often exceeding 100,000.


The process of choosing the location for the Olympic Games has become increasingly competitive over the past three decades as the rewards for staging such an event bring lucrative contracts and investment to the areas concerned as well as bringing a new lease of life to the host city. However, it is also becoming much more difficult to host the event as the number and variety of sports grows along with the number of contestants and spectators. It has been suggested that it might be worth establishing an Olympic city, purpose built to hold the games and paid for with contributions from all the participating nations. The big problem of course would be to decide where this city should be built. So at present it looks like the games will continue to travel the world, hosted by some of the world’s greatest cities and bringing in their wake both glory and disruption.