Cranleigh Arts Centre
West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Original Olympic Games
In this Olympic year and on an unusually warm March evening, Dr Ann Birchall
entertained us with a fascinating talk on the origins of the Olympic Games.
Using photos of the Olympia site and artifacts in the British Museum, she told
us how the first Olympic Games were thought to be founded by Heracles, son of
Zeus. This predated 776 BC - the date from which we have written records.
Primarily a religious festival for the worship of Zeus, they were always held
every four years with representatives coming from all the city-states. At the
beginning there was only one race, running a track 192 metres (210 yards) long.
Men only and running in the nude, a second race there-and-back was not
introduced until 724 BC. The emphasis on running in the early years may have
reflected the perceived basic requirements for a fit soldier. After this the
additions of boxing, wrestling, the 'all power' race, combining all types of
physical attack and horse-and chariot racing were slowly added.
Members enjoy a discussion with Dr Ann Birchell