2012 is significant in that it is a presidential election year, a leap year, and a summer Olympic year! The modern Olympics, of course, were inspired by the ancient Greek Olympics, a subject I’ve been researching for my work in progress. So in these months leading up to the 2012 London Games, I’ll be posting weekly tidbits about the original athletic festival that started it all.
Here’s this week’s fun fact:
Going to the Olympic Games could kill you.
If a modern-day Olympic athlete died in competition, there would be no end to the subsequent uproar. In contrast, casualties during the ancient games were commonplace. The equestrian events were especially dangerous, where collisions and pileups were inevitable, but athletes could also sustain life-threatening injuries from boxing, wrestling, and pankration (a blend of boxing and wrestling).
And it wasn’t only the athletes at risk. This was way before anyone cared about safety measures, and an errant javelin or discus could fly into the crowds and kill someone. Not to mention, the masses themselves posed a problem. In addition to the heatstroke mentioned in Fun Fact 9, Olympia was a shrine, not a settlement. Everyone camped in close quarters for the duration of the festival, and between the flies, mosquitoes, lack of sanitation, and goods sold by questionable vendors, disease and food poisoning probably claimed other victims (or at least made them very sick).
Going to Olympia was definitely not for wimps!
Tune in next week for more about the ancient Olympics!