The Modern Olympic Games are perhaps the most modern spectacle on the planet. Their pageantry, ritual, and tradition are beamed to billions via satellite, and every facet of their competition is not merely tinged with but ruled by modern technology. Yet the Olympics have their roots in a festival more ancient than the rites of Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism. Indeed if, as has often been suggested, the coliseums and stadiums our society has constructed in the twentieth century will ultimately be viewed as the cathedrals of our time, then the Olympic Games are our most sacred rite and Olympic champions our high priests. But the Olympics began in a time before satellites and television, a time before electronic timers, photo finishes, and computer rankings, a time when the greatest of gods was not sport, but Zeus.
The origin of the ancient Olympic Games is shrouded in legend, but it may have begun as a commemoration of Zeus' defeating Kronos in a wrestling match--the prize being possession of the earth. The exact date of the first Olympic Games is also lost. Some sources say 1253 B.C., others 884 B.C., One thing is certain, however, every four years from 776 B.C. until 394 A.D., the strongest and swiftest men in-Greece assembled to compete in the Olympic Games.
The Games were held in Olympia, a great complex that included a 60,000-seat stadium, a vast hippodrome for equestrian events, and a gymnasium for wrestlers, boxers, gymnasts, and others. Religious buildings