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Modern Summer Olympic Games.

September 15, 2000.

Today I hope to bring you an interesting read on the Olympics and its history. In addition I also want to provide you with information on how Canada has performed over the years. We are departing from the usual Friday Feature format for this special occasion, and Mike has ceded his space here for me. Therefore you will notice that I am following the usual Sunday newsletter outline. Incidentally, the Games open today, Friday, September 15th, 2000. Actually, by the time you read the opening ceremonies will be over, since the Aussies are so far ahead of the rest of us. This is the 25th time that athletes have gathered for the Modern Summer Olympics but is only the 24th time being recognised officially by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). So, get ready... get set... go!



First a quick note to announce the winner of our subscription confirmation contest. Gary from North Vancouver, British Columbia, was the first person to send in his entry with all five questions answered correctly. Congratulations on your gold medal Gary!



This is a trick question, but here goes anyway; who was the first Canadian to win a gold medal while performing for Canada? A rather detailed answer can be found near the end.



There are a number of symbols, protocols and mottoes associated with the Games. Here are a few facts for you to ponder.

The Olympic Flag

The flag has a plain white background and has no border. In its centre are five rings. These rings form two rows with three of the rings on top of the two below with equal spacing given to each. The rings of the upper row are, from left to right, blue, black and red. The rings of the lower row are yellow and green.

The rings are thought to symbolise the five continents; Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and America. It is widely believed that the colours of the rings were chosen because at least one of these colours can be found in the flag of every nation. This though, has never been confirmed as being the intention of the designer.

The flag was presented by Games founder Baron de Coubertin at the 1914 Olympic Congress, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the IOC. It was first flown in Alexandria, Greece, but only made its Olympic debut at the 1920 Antwerp Games. This well-worn flag was finally retired after the 1984 Games and a new one flown at the 1988 Seoul Games.

At the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, the mayor of the host city (Sydney, Australia, this year) presents the flag to the mayor of the next host city (that being Athens, Greece, in this case). The flag is then kept in the town hall of the appointed host city until the next Olympic Games.

The Olympic Flame

The flame is a symbol carried over from the ancient Olympics. The flame, deemed as being sacred to the Greek god Zeus, burned at an altar dedicated to him throughout competition. It was finally reintroduced at the 1924 Amsterdam Games, and again burned in 1932.

Carl Diem, chairman of the organising committee for the 1936 Berlin Games, proposed that the flame be lit in Greece and transported to Berlin via a torch relay. The idea was adopted, and has continued for every Olympiad since 1952.

The flame is lit at the ancient site of Olympia by the natural rays of the sun as reflected from a curved mirror. It is lit at a ceremony by women dressed in robes resembling those worn in ancient times. They then pass it to the first relay runner.

The Olympic Motto

"Citius, altius, fortius" is a Latin phrase meaning "swifter, higher, stronger". Baron de Coubertin borrowed this motto from one Father Henri Martin Dideon of Paris. Dideon was headmaster of Arcueil College and used the phrase to describe the athletic achievements of the students at his school. He himself had taken the saying from the Albert Le Grand school that he had attended as a student. There, the Latin words had been carved in the stone that stood above the main entrance.

The Olympic Oath

"In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."

Written by Baron de Coubertin, the oath is taken by an athlete from the host nation while holding a corner of the Olympic flag. The athletes' oath was first taken by Belgian fencer Victor Boin at the 1920 Antwerp Games. A judge from the host country also speaks the oath, but with a slightly different wording.

The Olympic Creed

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

Though there have been many permutations of this basic message throughout the history of the Games, this is the version of the creed that appears on the scoreboard during the opening ceremony. Baron de Coubertin adopted and later quoted this creed after hearing the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, speak it at a service for Olympic athletes during the 1908 London Games.



"The five girls ahead of me are from communist countries, so at least I'm the best in the west -- and I don't mean Saskatoon." --As quoted by the Toronto Star of Diane Jones, athlete from Saskatchewan who placed sixth in the 1976 Pentathlon at Montreal.



While at the Summer Olympics in Montreal, I went up to this man with a long pole on his shoulder and asked, "Are you a pole vaulter?"

Replying in a German accent the man said, "No, I am not from Poland, I'm German, but how did you know my name was Valter?"



By Rob Gloster, AP Sports Writer.

KATOOMBA, Australia (AP) The Olympics are opening Down Under. So the mascots must be a hoppy kangaroo and a cuddly koala bear, right?


The trio of mascots for the Sydney Games are not exactly the animals the world would have expected at an Australian Olympics. In fact, there's not a marsupial among them.

Instead, visitors to Sydney are being welcomed by Syd the platypus, Millie the echidna, or spiny anteater, and Olly the kookaburra. When graphic designer Matthew Hatton got the commission for the mascots in 1996, Olympic officials made one thing clear. They said specifically they didn't want to do a kangaroo and a koala, and that was great because neither did Matthew. "Everybody in the world knows them already" he said, sitting in a home studio filled with comic books and toys.

Hatton considered many indigenous Australian animals before settling on three that are familiar to most local school children but hardly known outside the continent. "I never considered an emu for a second. Not only are they nasty things, but graphically they have long necks. You can't stick them on a T-shirt or a business card. I needed compact animals", he said. "We Australians all know these animals, but the rest of the world doesn't know them. This was their chance to get known."

The platypus is a mammal with the beak of a duck, the body of an otter and the tail of a beaver. It lives in tunnels or burrows along riverbanks, and eats frogs, worms and insect larvae. The platypus and the echidna are monotremes (zoologically speaking, one of the lowest orders of mammals) and the only egg-laying mammals known to man. The echidna is highly intelligent and uses a tongue up to seven inches long to catch ants and termites. The kookaburra, a bird whose call resembles a human laugh, is the largest of all kingfishers. It dines on small mammals, snakes and large insects. Syd was named for Sydney, Millie for the millennium and Olly for the Olympics.

As of mid-August, more than 600 000 plush toys of Syd, Millie and Olly had been sold. Most of the sales have been in Australia, but the mascots also have been popular in Asian nations, where customers are buying the toys for up to $17.65 each on one Web site.

Madelaine Cohen, marketing manager for consumer products for the Sydney Games, said "As many as a million of the plush toys may be sold by the end of the Olympics." Cohen said the mascots, which will adorn T-shirts, bed linen, coffee mugs, pens, backpacks and a range of other Olympic souvenirs, are part of a merchandising program that already has taken in more than $200 million.

According to Hatton, who was paid $14 500 to design Syd, Millie and Olly, each of the mascots has a unique character.

Syd the platypus is "shy but strong," Hatton said. "He is a little self-conscious. But he has strength and is sure of himself." Millie the echidna "is methodical but smart" and Olly the kookaburra "is ostentatious and the showboat of the trio."



The Ancient Olympic Games

The Olympic Games were first held in 776 BC at Olympia in Ancient Greece as part of a religious festival. These Games were one of the four major game festivals held at that time, the others being; the Isthmians, the Nemeans and the Pythians. The Olympic Games were so important to the Ancient Greeks that wars were stopped while they were being staged.

Ancient Olympic champions were highly revered. They received crowns made from olive leaves, were entitled to have statues of themselves placed at Olympia, and their victories were believed to bring their hometowns into favour with their gods. It was also common for champions to have all their meals paid for at public expense and to have front-row seats at theatres made available for their exclusive use.

Athletes at the Ancient Games could compete in boxing, chariot races, running, wrestling or the pentathlon, an event that then included the discus and javelin throws, as well as jumping, wrestling and running.

Women did not participate in the Ancient Olympic Games and married women were not even allowed to watch the Games. However, a separate festival in honour of the goddess Hera, wife to Zeus, included running races for unmarried girls. Also barred from participating in the Games were athletes not born in Greece.

The Ancient Olympic Games were held until the Roman Emperor, Theodosius, abolished them in 394 AD because he felt they were a pagan festival. His declaration ended their more than 1000 year reign.

The Modern Olympic Games

The vision of a Modern Olympic Games came from the Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. Coubertin wanted the Games to promote friendship between countries, unify humankind through sport, and to create world peace.

At first, Coubertin's proposal for a Modern Games was not taken seriously, but he finally convinced a group of representatives from 13 different countries to support his plan. Coubertin and the representatives formed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. The IOC continues to govern the Games to this day. The committee agreed on a few fundamental codes. These would be; every four years a different city would host the Games, modern events would replace the ancient ones, and a strict code of amateurism would be maintained.

Coubertin led the IOC until 1925. His passion for the Games was so great that when he died his heart was placed in a column in front of the eternal Olympic flame burning in Olympia.

A brief history of the Modern Games shows that Coubertin's dream of promoting world peace through sport has not yet been realised. However, the Games have served as a festival that brings world class athletes and their fans together for a few weeks every four years.

Beginning in 1896, the Modern Olympic Games have continued at the pace of one every four years, with a few exceptions as noted.

Between the 1904 and the 1908 Games there was an intercalated (added into the calendar) Game in 1906 in Athens, Greece. These Games are the ones which are no longer recognised by the IOC. Also, there were no Games held during the war years of 1916, 1940, and 1944. These are known as the 6th, 12th and 13th Games. Therefore, as I pointed out in my opening statement at the top of this newsletter, this year's Games are, numerically, only the 24th official Modern Summer Olympics. By Olympic standards however, the 2000 Games are known as the 27th Modern Olympic Games.

1896 -- I -- Athens, Greece.
1900 -- II -- Paris, France.
1904 -- III -- St. Louis, United States.
1906 -- Unrecognised Games at Athens, Greece.
1908 -- IV -- London, England.
1912 -- V -- Stockholm, Sweden.
1916 -- VI -- No Games. Interrupted by World War I.
1920 -- VII -- Antwerp, Belgium.
1924 -- VIII -- Paris, France.
1928 -- IX -- Amsterdam, Netherlands.
1932 -- X -- Los Angeles, United States.
1936 -- XI -- Berlin, Germany.
1940 -- XII -- No Games. Interrupted by World War II.
1944 -- XIII -- No Games. Interrupted by World War II.
1948 -- XIV -- London, England.
1952 -- XV -- Helsinki, Finland.
1956 -- XVI -- Melbourne, Australia.
1960 -- XVII -- Rome, Italy.
1964 -- XVIII -- Tokyo, Japan.
1968 -- XIX -- Mexico City, Mexico.
1972 -- XX -- Munich, West Germany.
1976 -- XXI -- Montreal, Canada.
1980 -- XXII -- Moscow, USSR. (See note 1 below.)
1984 -- XXIII -- Los Angeles, United States. (See note 2 below.)
1988 -- XXIV -- Seoul, South Korea.
1992 -- XXV -- Barcelona, Spain.
1996 -- XXVI -- Atlanta, United States.
2000 -- XXVII -- Sydney, Australia.

Note 1 -- 61 countries, including Canada, did not attend the 1980 Games. This was prompted by the boycott called for by American President Jimmy Carter as a result of the Soviet Union having invaded Afghanistan.

Note 2 -- 14 countries, including the Soviet Union, did not attend the 1984 Games. This reverse boycott (of sorts) stemmed from the Soviet Union's decision not to attend the Los Angeles Games to retaliate for the 1980 boycott and because they said their athletes would be in danger because of anti-Soviet sentiments in the United States. Initially joining the Soviet Union were Bulgaria, East Germany, Vietnam, Mongolia, Czechoslovakia, Laos and Afghanistan. Later Cuba, Ethiopia, North Korea, Hungary, Poland and South Yemen backed out.

Some other notes; East and West Germany competed separately from 1968-1988. The 1992 Unified Team (UT) consisted of twelve former Soviet republics. The 1992 Independent Olympics Partners (IOP) was comprised of athletes from Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.



How has Canada fared at the Summer Olympics over the years? I will give you some results below, then some comments, and you can judge for yourself.

I found various results for medal totals for the earlier Games. Some sources were so different from others that I could not comprehend where such discrepancies may have occurred. Usually I try to use a minimum of two sources and sometimes as many as six to report a particular article for you in this newsletter. This time, however, I have decided to use the results I found in what, I believe, is the best source on the subject. This is from David Wallechinsky's "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics."

Canada did not compete in the first Modern Summer Olympics in 1896 because of difficulties in raising funds for the endeavour. These Games were attended by only 13 nations and 311 athletes. In 1900, Strathroy, Ontario, native, George Orton, won a Gold medal and a Bronze medal, but is only referred to as Canada's first "Olympic champion", and not as our first medal winner. By 1904 there where more than twice as many athletes competing with their numbers reaching 625. In contrast, the Atlanta Games of 1996, hosted 10 800 athletes. These athletes performed for 197 countries.

Canada's medal counts:

1896 -- Did not attend.
1900 -- 1 Gold, 0 Silver, 1 Bronze. Both medals went to George Orton, the only Canadian at the Games.
1904 -- 4 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze.
1906 -- 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 0 Bronze. Unrecognised by the IOC, but included here.
1908 -- 3 Gold, 3 Silver, 10 Bronze.
1912 -- 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze.
1916 -- No Games.
1920 -- 3 Gold, 3 Silver, 3 Bronze.
1924 -- 0 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze.
1928 -- 4 Gold, 4 Silver, 7 Bronze.
1932 -- 2 Gold, 5 Silver, 8 Bronze.
1936 -- 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 5 Bronze.
1940 -- No Games.
1944 -- No Games.
1948 -- 0 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze.
1952 -- 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 0 Bronze.
1956 -- 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze.
1960 -- 0 Gold, 1 Silver, 0 Bronze.
1964 -- 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze.
1968 -- 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze.
1972 -- 0 Gold, 2 Silver, 3 Bronze.
1976 -- 0 Gold, 5 Silver, 6 Bronze.
1980 -- Did not participate.
1984 -- 10 Gold, 18 Silver, 16 Bronze.
1988 -- 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 5 Bronze.
1992 -- 6 Gold, 5 Silver, 7 Bronze.
1996 -- 3 Gold, 11 Silver, 8 Bronze.

Grand totals for Canada are; 49 Gold, 78 Silver, and 90 Bronze medals won. This amounts to a total of 217. This total allows Canada to hold 16th spot in the all time medal winning standings.

Now, without taking weeks to research populations of different countries at different times during the last 104 years, I would like to make some comparisons of Canada's results when comparing them to other nations.

For instance, the United States leads the way in total medal winnings (by a long shot) with their accumulation of medals reaching 2019. The former Soviet Union and now Russia holds down the second spot with 1010 -- more if you add in the totals for the Unified Team and other bloc members mentioned in the last paragraph on "Olympic History". Great Britain ranks third with 610, France fourth with 560, and Sweden rounds out the top five with 457 total medals.

There is also the anomaly of the German Federation. Germany competed as one country from 1896 until 1964, then again from 1992 until the present day. This allowed them to hold down ninth spot with 379 total medals. Between 1968 and 1988 East and West Germany competed on their own, with East Germany accumulating the amazing total of 445 medals (tied for sixth with Italy) and West Germany not far behind with 301 (tenth place). These large totals are mostly due to the boycott of the 1980 Games by a majority of the so-called "Western" countries. This allowed the two Germanys and the Soviet Union to win over 78 percent of the total medals that year. The 1984 Games made up for that to some degree as Canada had its best medal winning year ever without the Eastern Bloc countries and their sympathisers to compete against. Should one combine the German totals to reach 1125 and move those teams into second place thereby passing the USSR? I have no answer. I guess it is up to each person to interpret statistics on their own and come to a conclusion.

The statistic I would like to point out, which I alluded to when mentioning the populations of different countries at different times, is this; given that the United States has a current population of 275 644 693, and that Canada's population of 30 491 300 is 9.04 times smaller than that of our southern neighbour, it is interesting to note that by multiplying Canada's 217 total medals by 9.04, the resulting medal haul would be 1962. Only 57 medals behind the United States!

Obviously this way of thinking is not to everyone's taste. I do, however, believe that this statistical method of analysis is valid and is an ideal way to look at things from other angles. Obviously we could not use the same theory if we were to use it to extrapolate meaningful figures using, for instance, the Bahamas. Their population is only 288 000 and is too small to find within it the data base needed to compare it with countries such as the United States. If this model was applied to the Bahamas, which has won four Olympic medals, their take would reach the astounding total of 3828 medals! This represents almost twice that won by the United States! Through simple reasoning the Bahamas, and countries of their stature, cannot be quantified using this application. Italy, however, with its medal counts and population base, does fit within the parameters to make this a meaningful debate or rationalization. If applied to them this formula would yield a result of 2160 medals. As I think you can see, by giving all the larger medal winning countries the same playing field (that is those of a similar population base of which to draw athletes), it brings most of the nations quite close together and can provide a more realistic view than that found by merely cruising the bottom line to see who won how many.



Now lets see, it seems I posed the question so long ago in this newsletter that even I need a little refreshing. So, once again, here is the Question of the Week; who was the first Canadian to win a gold medal while performing for Canada?

I had also said this is a trick question. As I said above, Strathroy, Ontario, native, George Orton, won a Gold medal and a Bronze medal in the 1900 Olympics, but is only referred to as Canada's first "Olympic champion", and not our first medal winner. This is because in 1896 Canada did not send a team to the Olympic Games. Orton and three other Canadians competed for the United States, with Orton wearing the colours of the University of Pennsylvania. His totals are included above in Wallechinsky's tallies as being medals won by a citizen of Canada. This is the way he has tabulated his results. Other all-time medal standings lists show Canada as not competing at all (which was true) and show no medals awarded.

The true first Canadian to win a gold medal while performing for Canada was tienne Desmarteau of Boucherville, Quebec. He won one of the four gold medals awarded to Canada at the 1904 Games for the now defunct 56 pound throw event. In 1904 and again in 1920, 56 pound weight throwing contests for distance were included as an event in the Olympic Games. tienne won the 1904 competition with a throw of 10.46 m (34 feet 4 inches).


Well, that's about all for now. I hope you enjoyed it. I wanted to cover many aspects of the Olympic Games, while still trying to maintain a reasonable length. I selected items that were interesting to me and I hope you found them both informative and fun to read.



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