AO Magazine July August 2021

Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

AO Magazine July August 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will include five new sports - baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding, and surfing. This is one of the ways these Olympics are unique, but this event also differs from others in striking ways due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

For one thing, the Olympics were postponed for a year. Another difference from past events is that fans won’t be there to cheer on their favorite athletes. Tens of thousands of athletes, support staff, and journalists are expected to attend, but spectators have been banned from the venues. While debate continues on whether sports broadcasters will try to incorporate artificial crowd noise into the games, it makes me consider the role of spectators at the Olympic Games of the past.

The ancient Olympics also knew how to draw in crowds of men (women weren’t allowed). The stadium of Olympia could contain about 45,000 spectators and that in Nemea about 40,000. If they had the means, men would travel from far and wide to watch their favorite runners, boxers, wrestlers, horse racers, and javelin throwers. But the audiences didn’t just attend because they loved sports, they also knew that the Games were a good place to network.

In-between events, merchants, fortune-tellers, jugglers, and many others conducted business. Even philosophers and writers, like the historian Herodotus, sought out the large audiences with hopes of gaining fame. Politicians of course saw the occasion as a good opportunity for political propaganda.

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