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The 2012 Olympic Games

 

Tonight marks the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. The best athletes from around the world have come together in a display of elite athletic abilities. The Olympic Games are considered to be the world’s foremost sports competition and more than 200 nations participate.The Games are currently held biennially, with Summer and Winter Olympic Games alternating, meaning they occur every four years within their respective seasonal games. Originally, the ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. The IOC has since become the governing body of the Olympic Movement, whose structure and actions are defined by the Olympic Charter.

The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in several changes to the Olympic Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Winter Games for ice and winter sports, and the Paralympic Games for athletes with a physical disability. The IOC has had to adapt to the varying economic, political, and technological realities of the 20th century. As a result, the Olympics shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allow participation of professional athletes. The growing importance of themass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialization of the Games. World Wars led to the cancellation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Games. Large boycotts during the Cold War limited participation in the 1980 and 1984 Games.

The Olympic Movement uses symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic symbol, better known as the Olympic Rings, consists of five intertwined rings and represents the unity of the five inhabited continents (America, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe). The colored version of the rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—over a white field forms the Olympic flag. These colors were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914 but flown for the first time only at the 1920 Summer Olympics. It has since been hoisted during each celebration of the Games.

The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. Coubertin’s ideals are further expressed in the Olympic creed:

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Months before each Games, the Olympic flame is lit in Olympia in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals. A female performer, acting as a priestess, ignites a torch by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun’s rays; she then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that will carry the flame to the host city’s Olympic stadium, where it plays an important role in the opening ceremony.Though the flame has been an Olympic symbol since 1928 the torch relay was introduced at the 1936 Games, as part of the German government’s attempt to promote its National socialist ideology.

The Olympic mascot, an animal or human figure representing the cultural heritage of the host country, was introduced in 1968. It has played an important part on the Games identity promotion since the 1980 Summer Games.

Do you have a favorite Olympic sport to watch? Whether it be badminton, trampoline, triathlons, gymnastics, swimming or diving, the US has many standout athletes. Swimmer Michael Phelps, decorated with 14 Gold medals-16 total medals- is looking to close out his swimming career by making history. Phelps will be facing off with rival Ryan Lochte, whom has surpassed him as the worlds best swimmer since the Beijing Games. Lochte even includes strongman training – tossing kegs and flipping tires – into his training. Olympic Beach Volleyball star Kari Walsh Jennings is seeking victory for a third straight Olympic Gold medal with Misty May-Treanor. Gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas look to lead the US team to a strong finish.

Day one of the Games starts off strong with 19 sports competing, including basketball, handball, and rowing. Check out the complete schedule to see when your favorites are competing. Media coverage is hosted by NBC and includes television showings as well as online streaming. With a Viewer’s Guide to help you figure out what to watch when, you won’t miss any action!

 

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