What was the origin of the Olympic Games?

The original Olympic Games were an ancient Greek festival, held at the end of every fourth year at Olympia, in Southern Greece. (See picture below.) They had a semi-religious character, and were open to members of all branches of the Greek race. During the festival no fighting was allowed anywhere in Greece. The winner of the Games received only a wreath of wild olive, but the prize was valued above anything else that a Greek could obtain. The winning of it conferred permanent glory on the country as well as the family of the victor. The first Games of which there is a record were held in 776 BC, from which year Greek dates were reckoned, each Games year being called an Olympiad. Thus, 772 BC was the second Olympiad, 768 BC the third Olympiad, and so on.
Ancient Greek Olympics
The fact that the Olympiads were made the basis of Greek chronology shows the great importance attached to these contests. The Games continued to be observed for over 1,100 years, and were not finally abolished till AD 394. The modern Olympic Games date from 1896, when an athletic meeting open to the whole world was held at Athens. Except in 1916, they have been celebrated every fourth year since, in different countries. The Games of 2012 will take place at London, UK.

More reading:
Olympic Games (Wikipedia)
Ancient Olympic Games (Wikipedia)

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