The Ancient Olympics

Beginnings in Greece

Over 2,500 years ago the ancient Greeks began to stage a sporting contest every four years in the town of Olympia. The competition, which became known as The Olympic Games, attracted athletes from all over Greece to compete in events such as running, long jump, javelin and discus throwing, wrestling, boxing and chariot racing. The competition was for men only, and women were not even allowed to go and watch. Each competitor covered his body with olive oil to highlight his physique, and then competed in the nude. The event was not only a celebration of sporting ability, but also a celebration of the beauty of the human body. The Games were held until 389 A.D., after which they were outlawed by the Roman Emperor Theodore I the Great. Some historians believe he saw the event as a pagan religious festival, and therefore as a threat to Christianity and Christian morality.

word example sentence meaning
ability She has the ability to be a world champion, but she needs a world-class coach. skill in doing something, resulting from talent and training
ancient Sports were popular in ancient Greece, where the Olympic Games were born. relating to a period of history a very long time ago; very old
athlete The world's best athletes compete in the Olympic Games. a person who trains and competes in a sport
boxing Boxing matches are staged in weight-based divisions, such as lightweight and heavyweight. a hand-to-hand combat sport in which punches are thrown to score points
celebration The ancient Olympics were a celebration of both sporting ability and the human body. an act or event that praises or expresses joy in something
chariot Do you think chariot racing should be an event in the modern Olympics? a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient times for wars and for racing
compete Athletes train hard to prepare themselves to compete against their opponents. to take part in a contest or a competition
competition Our team won this year's football competition, so we had a party to celebrate. an organized event in which people compete to win
contest The winners of our national swimming contest will compete in the Olympic Games. a game or event in which people compete to win
discus Discus throwing is one of the oldest events in athletics. an event in which the discus, a disc-shaped object, is thrown
event (1) The Millennium Stadium is used for both cultural and sporting events. a planned and organized occasion
event (2) Joe competes in several athletics events, including the 100 metres hurdles and the long jump. a particular contest in a sporting programme
festival Christmas is a religious festival, while Chinese New Year is a seasonal festival. celebration of a religious or cultural occasion
hold (hold, held, held) The next Winter Olympics will be held in Canada in 2010. to organize and carry out an event, such as a meeting or a contest
javelin Javelin throwing was one of the events in the original Olympic Games. an event in which the javelin, a spear-like object, is thrown
nude In the ancient Olympics, athletes competed in the nude. without clothes; naked
outlaw Taking drugs to improve athletic performance has been outlawed for many years. to make something illegal; to ban something
pagan The Olympics Games were banned because they were seen as being a pagan festival. relating to a religion other than Christianity, Judaism or Islam
physique Weightlifters have more muscular physiques, and distance runners have lean physiques. the form or shape of a person's body
stage The World Cup football competition is staged every four years. to organize and carry out an event or a performance
threat Why did the Roman Emperor think the Olympic Games were a threat to Christianity? a person or thing that is regarded as dangerous and likely to cause harm
wrestling The Olympic Games feature two wrestling styles; Greco-Roman and Freestyle. a hand-to-hand combat sport in which holds, throws and locks are used to gain control of an opponent
Contributor: Matt Errey. Matt is the author of several books including 1000 Phrasal Verbs in Context and Common English Idioms for learners, and Matt's ESL Games and Quizzes for teachers. He is also creator of WORD UP, the world's #1 EFL board game.