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Facts about the History of the Olympics

• Legend has it, that after Hercules's success at cleaning the Augean stables (one of his 12 "labors") he wanted to celebrate with an athletics competition, and so the games began.

• Originally they were held at Olympia, in ancient Greece. Records indicate that they began in 776 BC.

• At first the games just took one day, but more and more events were added. Before long they included the pentathlon, chariot races, running, wrestling, and a type of fighting called pankration.

• Women were banned from competing in the games. They would find it very difficult to sneak in, disguised as men, because all competitors were naked.

• The original games included lots of praying and sacrificing to Zeus. This was the reason they were eventually banned in 393 AD.

•These days more than 10,000 competitors take part, from over 200 countries.

• There used to be a rule that only amateurs were allowed to compete, but since the 1970s this rule has gradually been phased out.

• The symbol of the Olympics is five rings, representing five continents. The colors of the rings - blue, yellow, black, green, and red - were chosen because every nation competing had at least one of those colors on its flag.

• The Olympic Torch is carried from Olympia to the host country in the months leading up to the games. It is supposed to commemorate Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods. The tradition of the Olympic flame began in 1936 at the Berlin games.

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A short history of olympic games