COLORADO SPRINGS — As Olympic City USA, we have a deep appreciation for the Olympics and Paralympics here in Colorado Springs and these games have a rich history. The first Olympic games date back to the year 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece.
The games were a religious festival to honor the God Zeus. The events were considered sacred and filled with blood, sweat, and passion. All men who lived in ancient Greece were allowed to take part in the Olympics, from the farmers to the wealthy. But it was usually soldiers who took decided to compete. The museum up here reflects the stories of these ancient people. You can see in the displays some old artifacts from this time. I spoke with one history tour guide at the museum who shared some insight.
“All the competitors at that time were men. Women were not allowed to compete. The games started in Olympia, Greece. And at first, it was just one event, it was a 192-meter race called the Stade, and eventually, they started adding field events like the shot put, and the discus, and they would also add the long jump. Eventually, they started adding combat sports,” said Gary Heaston, a history tour guide at U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum.
Since the ancient games were created to worship the God, Zeus, they eventually ended. This was because the Roman empire converted to Christianity. Still, there was something special about the Olympics that later brought them back.
Still, there was something special about these games that brought the Olympics back to Athens Greece in the year 1896 when the games restarted. This was what began today’s modern games. The inaugural games hosted about 280 athletes from 12 different countries, and they competed in 43 events including swimming, fencing, wrestling, and shooting. But there was only one American who was able to compete in these games, and it wasn’t easy for him to make the trip. I spoke with one history tour guide at the museum who shared some insight.
“The first American to win a medal was a man by the name of James Connolly and James was from Boston, Massachusetts, he went to Harvard. He was a student at Harvard, when it came time for the games, he actually asked permission to go. Harvard said no, so he did what any self-respecting athlete would do, he dropped out of Harvard to go to the games,” said Heaston.
James was able to leave with a gold medal in the “hop, step, and jump,” today what we call the “triple jump.” This made him the first Olympic champion in the sport in over 1,500 years. You can see how the Olympics has grown and how we have grown to include the Paralympics.
The stories of these athletes and the artifacts are right here for the eye to see in the museum.