Olympics: The Almost 697th Games

Ancient Greek Olympic Runners 
If you want to really get into it, click here to download NBC Olympic music.

The 2012 Summer London Olympics kick off tonight. While the following three weeks of 18 television-hours a day focused on athletes may seem excessive, we love the display of youthful vigor:

Olympian bards who sung
Divine ideas below,
And always keep us so.
However, it's the discipline and unparalleled pursuit of excellence that become the driving melody of our Siren song. In London this summer, the rubber of dreams meets the road of reality, and the resulting evidence of Olympic persistence and preparation truly inspires.

From Meyers' readable Ancient History:
[One] of the most characteristic of the religious institutions of the Greeks which they inherited from prehistoric times was the sacred games celebrated at Olympia in Elis, in honor of the Olympian Zeus.
The origin of this festival is lost in the obscurity of tradition; but by the opening of the eighth century BC, it had assumed national importance.
In 776 B.C. a contestant named Corœbus* was victor in the foot race at Olympia, and as from that time the names of the victors were carefully registered, that year came to be used by the Greeks as the starting point in their chronology.
The games were held every fourth year, and the interval between two successive festivals was known as an Olympiad. The date of an occurrence was given by saying that it happened in the first, second, third, or fourth year of such an Olympiad...
Counting back, if the Olympic games had been held without interruption every four years since the victory of Corœbus (they haven't been), we would now be witnessing the world's 697th Olympic games, give or take one or two Olympiads to compensate for ancient calendars and poor math.

We can also see where we get the idea that an athlete should be a positive role model:
The contests consisted of foot races, boxing, wrestling, and other athletic games. Later, chariot racing was introduced, and became the most popular of all the contests. The competitors must be of Hellenic race; must have undergone special training in the gymnasium; and must, moreover, be unblemished by any crime against the state or sin against the gods.
And finally, we see where we get the the idea that these winners are not quite real and therefore are deserving of our adulation:
The victor was crowned with a garland of sacred olive; heralds proclaimed his name abroad; his native city received him as a conqueror, sometimes through a breach made in the city walls; his statues, executed by eminent artists, were erected at Olympia and in his own city; sometimes even divine honor and worship were accorded to him; and poets and orators vied with the artist in perpetuating his name and triumphs as the name and triumphs of one who had reflected immortal honor upon his native state.
"Croesus" is not "Coroebus", but we can guess that his name is pronounced ko-ree'-bus. Maybe.

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