The Olympic Games-a brief history

On August 5th, 2016 the XXXI Summer Olympic Games kicked off in spectacular style in the colorful city of Rio de Janeiro. Marred by controversy, the opening ceremony was still a gorgeous celebration of tradition and sportsmanship.

Here is a ridiculously condensed summary of the games from the very beginning to today.

-776 BC: First documentation of the games appears with a cook having won the 190 meter race.

-The games grew in popularity and many different events were added over the centuries. Winners of their respective categories would win large jugs of olive oil as well as a symbolic olive wreath. In addition, the victor would have a statue commemorating him along the walls of the city. (Many ancient graves and urns of the popular and affluent were placed outside the city for two reasons. One being for sanitary purposes, the other so that their names would be remembered by anyone entering or leaving the city. According to ancient Greek and Roman beliefs of the afterlife, the only way a deceased person would temporarily escape the grey dreariness of the afterlife would be by having their name or reputation remembered by the living.)

-2nd century BC: Decline of the games begin as the Roman Empire conquers Greece.

-393 AD: Olympic Games abolished under Christian emperor Theodosius I as he considered it an event of Pagan worship.

-1892, France: Baron Pierre de Coubertin called for the re-establishment of the games after an inspiring visit to the ancient sites in Greece.

-1896, Athens: The first Olympic games since antiquity is held in its birthplace of Athens, Greece. 43 different events were included and 280 male athletes participated.

-1924, Paris: The grand spectacle of the Olympics as we know it today began at the VIII Olympic Games. Over 3000 participants of mixed genders competed. That same year, the first winter games was held.

-2004, Athens: The Olympic Games returned to the founding city of Athens after more than 100 years. In contrast with the games of antiquity, modern victors get Lifetime movies of their early years, portraits on Wheaties boxes, and a variety of endorsements as reward for their achievements. And maybe some olive oil.

The Olympics poster of 1976 shows a classically dressed maiden standing in front of Greek ruins, an artistic tribute to the ancient heritage of the games. Her white robe in the foreground against the dark cypress trees in the background provides a striking contrast. In addition, the dilapidated ruins set against the trees shows the artists skill in arranging a masterful composition while retaining a careful dedication to details.The designer of the poster is Marcia Marcus, a renowned American figure painter whose work has been featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artist used herself as a model for the ancient maiden depicted in this lithograph poster. She was dressed as Athena, a fearsome goddess who sprung out of her father zeus's head in the form of a really bad migraine. Her costume as Athena is appropriate for the Olympic games as legend says the games were originally held between the gods on Mount Olympus.

 Each Olympic Games has specific design theme, an aesthetic meant to set the tone for the games. The unveiling the theme has become somewhat of an event, giving many the opportunity to praise or critique the design.

Works cited

The Olympic Games,,, Accessed 8/06/2016., Accessed 8/06/2016.

Dr. Sadie Pickup, Lecture on Antiquity at Christie's Education, London, 2014.

Olympic, Art of the Print, Accessed via:, 8/06/2016.