B is for Boxing

The art of boxing at the ancient Olympics was to avoid being hit.

Olympic Boxer

One fighter escaped blows for two days before his worn out opponent gave up.

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R is for Rings

The five interlocking rings of the Olympic flag symbolise the five major regions of the world ‘linked together in friendship’.

One of the five colours of the Olympic rings is present on every national flag in the world.

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V is for Pole Vaulting

Pole vaulting was used in eastern England and in low lying areas in the Netherlands as a way of crossing over marshy land, dykes and rivers.

The first pole vaulting competitions were to see who could travel furthest.  The first competition to see who could go highest took place in Cumbria (in the Lake District) in 1843 and it was introduced in this format into the first modern Olympics in 1896.  The winner of the event today can clear almost double the height of the first winner more than a century earlier due to better technique and stronger poles.

Distance competitions still take place in lowland areas.

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P is for Pentathlon

‘Pente’ is the Greek word for ‘five’ and ‘athlon’ is the word for ‘contest’.

1) In the ancient Olympics, naked athletes competed against each other in the long jump (from a standing position), javelin, throwing a discus, running and wrestling. This ancient competition was revived for the 1906 modern Olympics in Athens (although the competitors were allowed to wear clothes).

2)  The pentathlon was then modified for the 1912 games when the standing long jump and Greco-Roman wrestling was replaced by the modern long jump (with a run up) and the 1500m race.  This competition was discontinued after the 1924 games.

3) The modern pentathlon was introduced in 1912 (alongside the more classical pentathlon).  This event continues to this day and features fencing, swimming, show jumping and the combined running and shooting.

Modern pentathlete


4) The pentathlon for women was introduced in the 1964 games in Tokyo and included hurdling, shot put, high jump, long jump and 200 metre race.

5) The women’s event was changed in 1976 with the hurdles over 100m and the running over 800m.  The event was replaced by the women’s heptathlon in 1984.

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S is for Stadium

The word stadium is derived from the Greek word ‘stade’ which was the distance run in the first ever Olympic event in 776 BC.  A stade is 600 feet long and in Olympia (where they obviously had bigger feet than people have today) it was believed to measure approximately 192 metres.

Olympic Stadium in Stratford by Zack McLaughlin

The word stade also gave its name to the running race and it was the only event held at the first 13 Olympic games.  It was only after this, that a race over 2 stades (the diaulos) was introduced when runners raced to one end of the track before turning round a post and returning back.   It wasn’t then long before more events were introduced with races over longer distances and the pentathlon.

The Olympic Stadium for the London 2012 Olympics is in Stratford.

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