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The Olympic Movement
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This page is supportive of Deloitte’s proud sponsorship of Team USA. Today and every day, we hoist our sponsorship high because we understand the preparation needed to achieve excellence. The competitive spirit that runs through every U.S. Olympian and Paralympian is familiar to us at Deloitte, because, we too, live for the challenge. We, too, strive for excellence. And, we too, pride ourselves on striving to achieve our personal best, making an impact that matters.
Learn more about the Olympic Movement
The Olympic Movement elevates the Games beyond mere competition to a worldwide movement. While the primary purpose of many other sports franchises is to produce a champion, the broader aim of the Olympic Movement is to place sport everywhere in the service of humanity. This objective is exemplified in the values codified by the International Olympic Committee (IOC): excellence, friendship, and respect. These values represent the noblest aspirations of humanity. As such, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are more than sporting events; they are part of an effort to create a better world.
The Olympic Movement is one of the most enduring symbols of peace and friendship in the world. Though the modern Olympic Movement was formally founded in 1894, the history of the Olympics reaches back three millennia to ancient Greece, when sport was an opportunity to engage with otherwise hostile neighbors in a peaceful way. In carrying through this tradition of international sport competition waged in the spirit of peace, the Olympic Movement is also an idealistic one, providing hope to each rising generation. Young athletes dream of the possibility of putting on the uniform to represent their country on the international stage.
Since its modern founding, the Olympic Movement has proven resilient, surviving two world wars, the Great Depression, boycotts, terrorism, financial difficulties, scandals, and threats of all sorts. It has adapted to become the single most popular sporting event in the world, a moment when the world can come together to celebrate what we have in common.
The Olympic Movement gained considerable strength when the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games demonstrated the commercial potential of the event. Those Games proved that corporations could play a vital role in the spread of the values of the Olympic Movement as well as the development of sport programs around the world. Furthermore, companies play a vital role in the development and empowerment of individual athletes around the world. Thanks to sponsorship, today's elite athletes can pursue their craft as a career rather than a hobby, helping to increase the competitiveness of athletes around the world. Learn more about Deloitte’s proud sponsorship of Team USA.
Governance of the Olympic Movement
The IOC was founded to guide the movement worldwide. Every nation that participates has its own National Olympic Committee, which manages the development of the nations' athletes. Each sport has an International Sport Federation that governs how the sport operates around the world. These three entities—the IOC, National Olympic Committees, and International Sport Federations—work together to innovate, adapt to new technologies, adjust the program of Olympic sports to reflect modern athletics, and ensure the Olympic Movement continues to serve as the world's largest shared experience.
"We shall not have peace until the prejudices which now separate the different [nations] shall have been outlived. To attain this end, what better means than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility."
– Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Movement and president of the International Olympic Committee, 1896–1925
Origin story: The ancient Olympic Games
The Olympic Games served as a grand centerpiece of the classical age. In Greek mythology, the first Olympic Games were held when Hercules staged a footrace to entertain the gods of Mt. Olympus—the highest mountain in mainland Greece and home to the greatest of the Greek gods and goddesses. The prize for the race was a wreath of wild olive branches.
In practice, the Olympic Games of ancient Greece were a sacred festival honoring Zeus, the father of all Greek gods and goddesses. Begun in 776 BC, the Olympic Games were held in Olympia, a rural sanctuary named after Mt. Olympus. According to existing historic manuscripts, the Olympic Stadium could hold thousands of spectators, and additional buildings were constructed in the area for training and accommodation. Intended to demonstrate physical feats and engender good relations between Greek cities, the Games took place every four years, a period that became known as an Olympiad.
Peace was a founding tenet of the ancient Olympic Games. In the ninth century BC, three kings signed a treaty called the "Ekecheiria." The truce required nations to provide a peaceful passage to and from Olympia for all competitors and spectators. All fighting had to halt before, during, and after the Games. This tradition is continued through the emphasis on peace in today's modern Olympic Movement.
According to some scholars, the first and only event at the first 13 Olympic festivals was the stadion, a 600-foot race. Today's marathon was not an event in the ancient Games, though it is based on the experience of an ancient "day-runner" named Pheidippides. A Greek soldier, Pheidippides supposedly carried news of the Persian landing in 490 BC at Marathon to Sparta, covering a distance of many miles.
No team sports were included in the ancient Olympic Games. The individual sports contested in the ancient Games included boxing, equestrian (chariot or horse races), pankration (a form of martial art), pentathlon (a series of five events spanning running, jumping, and discus), running, and wrestling. The Games were originally held in one day, but an expansion in the number of events eventually pushed the duration to five days.
To participate in the original ancient Games, athletes had to be male, of Greek origin, and freeborn. After the conquest of Greece by Rome in 146 BC, Romans joined the Games as well. Each city could choose its best athletes and train them for several months before the Games. The athletes would then travel to Olympia and try out through qualifying rounds.
Ancient Olympic champions were awarded olive leaf wreaths and poems, called Epinicians, written by the most famous poets of the day. The poems and the names of the athletes lived on in memory long after the day of victory. When he returned to his hometown, the Olympic victor was welcomed as a hero and had the right to have a statue of himself erected.
The Games endured until AD 393, when Rome's Christian emperor, Theodosius I, decreed that they were a pagan ritual. During the nearly 1,200 years of competition, the Games created legendary heroes from every facet of Greek society, from Onomastos of Smyrna, the first boxing victor, to Cynisca of Sparta, the first woman known to win an event (chariot racing).
The modern Olympic Games: Friendship and peace through sport
The Olympic and Paralympic Games were founded more than 100 years ago by a single man who sought to establish a campaign to build a better world through sport.
After the abolishment of the ancient Olympic Games in 393 AD, the site gave way to earthquakes, floods, and vandalism. It was rediscovered in 1766, and in 1875 Germany began excavating ancient Olympia. The world was reintroduced to statues, monuments, bronzes, coins, and inscriptions of ancient Olympic victors. Fascination with the ancient Games swept over Europe and attracted the attention of an 11-year-old boy named Pierre de Coubertin.
As an adult, Coubertin worked to reform education in France. He traveled to England and discovered something that was lacking in the French education system: recess. He saw the virtues of mixing sport with education, as well as with the peace movement, and he returned to France determined to create a new model for modern times.
To make his dream a reality, Baron Coubertin called together the leaders of sport from around the world to a meeting in Paris. An audience of 2,000 filled the Grand Hall of Sorbonne for the inaugural Olympic Congress and applauded in affirmation for de Coubertin's proposal to resurrect the Olympic Games, which had been lost to humanity for nearly 1,500 years. And so, on June 23, 1894, the modern Olympic Movement was launched as a global platform to unite the world in friendship and peace through sport.
In 1896, the first edition of the modern Olympic Games drew 241 competitors from 14 countries to Athens, Greece, the ancient birthplace of the Games. There were 43 events and 122 medals awarded.
Winter sports made their Olympic debut at the London 1908 Games, when figure skating competitions were organized for men, women, and pairs. At the Antwerp 1920 Games, figure skating and ice hockey were included in the program. Shortly thereafter, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to stage "International Sports Week" in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The event went so well that it was retroactively dubbed the first Olympic Winter Games. Thus the tradition of hosting an Olympic Winter Games in the same year as the Olympic Games was born. It wasn't until the Lillehammer 1994 Games that the IOC began alternating the winter and summer celebrations every two years.
Today, the universal truth embodied by the Olympic Movement is demonstrated by the continued popularity and relevance of the Games. The London 2012 Olympic Games drew 10,568 competitors from 204 countries, 2 million spectators, and a worldwide television audience of nearly 4 billion people. More than 300 events were contested and 962 medals awarded. The digital universe fully embraced this celebration of humanity, breaking all records with 150 million Tweets over the 16 days of the Games.
The inherent values of sport—discipline, perseverance, teamwork—find their highest expression in the Olympic Movement. Around the world, the Games are recognized as the pinnacle of sport because of the very values they embody.
"I lift my glass to the Olympic idea, which has traversed the mists of the ages like an all-powerful ray of sunlight and returned to illuminate the threshold of the 20th century with a dream of joyous hope."
– Baron Pierre de Coubertin