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During the Olympic games, people from all over the world come together in peace and friendship. Some of these people compete for medals. Several million people attend the games, and millions of other people watch them on television.

Why do we have the Olympic games? How did they begin? The first Olympic Games that we have records of were in Greece in 776 B.C. The games lasted one day. The only event in the first thirteen Olympic Games was a race. Men ran the length of the stadium (about 192 meters). Then, longer running races were added. Through the years, a few other kinds of events, like the long jump, were also added. During this time, the games were for men only, and women could not even watch them. In the year 393, a Roman emperor ended the Olympic Games because the quality of the games became very low. The Olympics did not take place again for 1500 years!

In 1894, Pierre de Courbertin of France helped form the International Olympic Committee, and the modern Olympic Games began. In 1896 the games were held again in Athens, Greece. The Greeks built a new stadium for the competition. Three hundred and eleven athletes from thirteen countries competed in many events. The winners became national heroes.

After 1896, the games were held every four years during the summer in different cities around the world. In 1900, the Olympics were in Paris, France, and women competed for the first time. In 1908, in London, England, the first gold medals were given to winning athletes. Before that time, the winners received only silver and bronze medals.

The Olympic flag was first introduced in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium. The flag has five rings on it. The rings represent the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. Each ring is a different color: blue, yellow, black, green, or red - because the flag of each of the countries that compete in the games has at least one of these colors in it.

The Olympic Winter Games began in 1924 in Chamois, France. Athletes competed in winter events such as skiing, ice skating, and ice hockey. Today, the Winter Games take place every four years. The Summer Games also take place every four years, but not in the same year as the winter events. Both the Summer Games and the Winter Games must have at least fifteen events, and they cannot last more than sixteen days.

Until recently, Olympic competitors could not be professional athletes. All of the athletes in the Olympic Games were amateurs. Today, however, many of the Olympic athletes are professionals who play their sports for money during the year. Some people disagree with this idea. They believe that the Olympic Games are for amateur athletes, not paid professionals. Other people think that anyone can play in the Olympic Games. No matter who the athletes are, millions of people throughout the world enjoy watching the greatest athletic competitions, the Summer games and the Winter Games of the Olympics.

 

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