The tradition of the Olympic Games faded over time until 1896, when they were brought back to life. The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, with over two hundred athletes from fourteen countries. Today, nearly three thousand years after the first Games, the Summer Olympics attract one hundred thousand top athletes from over two hundred countries. Billions of fans around the world cheer on their national teams to bring back the gold.
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What Are the Summer Olympics?
Every four years during the summer, athletes from every corner of the globe meet to compete in the Olympics—the greatest sports contest on earth.
For about two weeks, athletes test their skill, their strength, and their luck in more than three hundred events. Arenas for the Olympics become a world stage, with billions of fans following the Games on TV.
There have been generals, princes, and movie stars who have competed in the Olympics. But more often than not, athletes are ordinary young men and women. Except, of course, they are not ordinary. They are champions in running, jumping, swimming, rowing, cycling, gymnastics, tennis, and soccer. Name any warm-weather sport, and most likely it’s been played at the Summer Olympics.
Weeks before the athletes meet, the Olympics have actually already begun.
In Olympia, Greece, the site of the original, ancient Olympic Games. There, in a valley surrounded by gentle hills, a mirror is held up to the sun. The rays light the flame on a torch.
The Olympic torch will be carried to the city hosting the Games. The journey connects the Games of today to the Games of the ancient past. Long ago, fires burned in front of temples to honor Greek gods. Today the torch is passed from person to person moving by foot, car, train, boat, plane, through countries, across oceans, over mountains. On the way to Beijing, China, in 2008, the torch even reached the highest point in the world, Mount Everest.
But no matter its path, the relay ends at the Olympic stadium of the host city in time for the opening ceremony. The last torchbearer lights a cauldron, a giant bowl sitting atop the stadium. And the Games begin.