Zeus – Supreme god and ruler – Mount Olympus
Zeus was all-powerful, magnificent, awe-inspiring and knowledgeable – the sovereign god and ruler of the gods on Mt Olympus in Thessaly. His image was a common sight on Greek coins and he was known by many titles: Lord of the Sky, the Cloud- gatherer, the Rain-god and Zeus the Thunderer, These titles expressed very clearly how high in esteem and power Zeus was held the Ancient Greeks;
Rain, a rarity in a climate as hot and dry as that of Greece was considered to be the most important force of nature in the Ancient World. A life-giving force. This in sharp contrast to the more usual all-powerful sun-gods of other mythologies.
Zeus did however, as regarded his love life, i.e. his affairs, display a surprising lack of common sense and ability to stay out of trouble and proved this whilst indulging in his unfaithfulness to his wife.
Zeus was also the ‘guardian of political order and peace.’ His breastplate, bearing the head of a Gorgon – so glorious and at the same time awful to behold that no human could see Zeus in all his magnificence and survive. His weapon, the thunderbolt which had been designed by three Cyclopes, he could hurl with deadly intent and accuracy. The Eagle was his bird and his oracle, Dodona. The Oak was his tree and his priests were made aware of his will by the rustling of its leaves.
Once every four years the Olympians held a festival including games to honour their god. Today nations still meet for the Olympic Games but not to honour Zeus. The ability of the athletes themselves are considered and rewarded.
Olympics – Ancient Greece to London 2012
The Olympics, held every four years during the midsummer full moon- an intentional choice of timing allowing the games to continue through the night, began as a festival to honour Zeus in Ancient Greece. They were designed to encourage "the development of body, mind, and spirit."
Now, more than 2,700 years after the original Ancient Olympics, London, which did not even exist at that time, and now the capital city of around 8 million people, is in the ultimate point of preparing to host the 2012 Olympic Games. On 27 July, in the traditional opening ceremony athletes from around the world will march into the newly built London Olympic Stadium and the lighting of the Olympic flame will occur, to burn for the duration of the Games.
The Olympic Flame was first introduced at the 1928 Olympic Games, the torch relay at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
Today the most iconic of the Olympic symbols – the Olympic Flame, which is lit from a flame from the sun during a ceremony in Athens, is then carried in a torch relay to the host city in time for the main opening ceremony. On arriving at the main stadium arena the Olympic torch is then used to light the flame. Athletes parade behind their national flags, the releasing of doves symbolise peace.
The Olympic Oath
The first official ceremony of the Ancient Olympic Games was the taking of the oaths at the opening of the Games. It was conducted in front of a statue of Zeus of the Oaths (Zeus Horkios) and accompanied by a sacrifice. The athletes and trainers had to swear that they had studiously trained for 10 months and that they were willing to obey the Games rules.
At today’s Olympic opening ceremony one Olympic athlete from the host country, holds one corner of the Olympic flag, taking, on behalf of every athlete competing, the Olympic oath:
"In the name of all the competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."
The original oath was taken for the first time in Belgium at the Antwerp Games in 1920. The reference to drugs was an additional inclusion in 2000.
The Olympic Creed
Judges and officials in Ancient Greek Olympics – The Hellanodikes, also took an oath to judge fairly and in a fashion that was not biased. Today a host country judge formally repeats the Olympic creed, from the scoreboard display during the Opening Ceremony. First used for the Olympic Athletes at a 1908 London Games service, this creed was introduced at Munich’s Olympic Games in 1972:
"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."