The Olympic Games are held every four years in different cities around the world. The games were originally called “the games” but they later changed their name to avoid confusion with other similar sporting events such as football or baseball.
In ancient Greece, there was a competition called the Olympia Games which consisted of various athletic contests. These competitions were not just for athletes; they included entertainers and even poets and musicians who performed at these events.
These early Olympic Games were very popular and lasted from 776 BC until 431 BC. During this time, the Greeks won three out of every four medals awarded. (Source)
The first modern Olympics took place in Athens, Greece in 1896. The event became known as the Summer Olympiad after the Greek city where it was held. The Summer Olympics have been held annually since then except for two years during World War II when they were cancelled due to war conditions.
The Summer Olympics began as a way to raise money for the war effort. However, over the years, they have become one of the most prestigious sports events in the world. They attract athletes from all over the globe and many famous personalities participate in them including Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Jesse Owens and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Summer Olympics are divided into five disciplines: swimming, track & field events, basketball and volleyball. The swimming competitions are the most popular events at the Olympics. They attract large television audiences and are the best opportunity for up-and-coming swimmers to gain exposure and notoriety.
A Brief History of Swimming
The history of swimming is fascinating even though its exact origins are somewhat murky. It seems that humans have always been fascinated by water and many people lived near oceans, rivers or lakes making swimming an important survival skill.
Prehistoric cave drawings depict people swimming and scenes of hunting as well as fishing. Swimming was also used for recreation during ancient times. The earliest known pools were built by the ancient Babylonians around 2800 BC and the ancient Greeks had an extensive system of pools for exercise and sporting purposes by 700 BC.
For most of history, people swam naked which eventually gave way to men wearing loincloths and women wearing outfits that preserved their modesty. At the 1900 Paris Olympics, female swimmers wore full-body costumes for the first time. The most common suit was a woolen knitted garment that covered the entire body and had long sleeves and legs.
Countdown to the Swimming Competition
The swimming events at the Olympic Games are one of the most popular events aside from track and field. There are 10 swimming events in all with participants from all over the world. The following is a brief description of each swimming event.
The 100m butterfly is one of the most grueling swimming races at the Olympics. It begins with the swimmer diving into the pool and swimming as fast as they can for the next 50.5 yards (or 100 meters).
Because this is such a long distance to cover underwater, many swimmers struggle to equalize the pressure in their ears during the race.
The winner of the race is generally the person who manages to swim the fastest without suffering from a “cramp,” or the sudden inability to move one’s arms or legs. This is an incredibly grueling event that requires endurance as well as powerful strokes to propel the swimmer through the water.
The 100m freestyle is another popular swimming event at the Olympics. It involves swimming as fast as you can for the next one hundred meters. Many swimmers struggle with the starting block because they aren’t used to the “racing flat-footed” position.
In this race, swimmers are not allowed to put their legs in the water (no kicking) and they cannot touch the side of the pool at any time during the race.
This is a thrilling event to watch as swimmers dive in and try to find an advantage over their competitors. Swimmers who are exceptionally flexible sometimes use the starting block to their advantage by stretching their legs out as far as they can to create more drag in the water.
The 400m individual medley is easily one of the most grueling swimming races at the Olympic Games. It involves four different swimming strokes (or parts of strokes) over the course of four lengths of the pool. The “individual medley” part of the name comes from the fact that each swimmer completes the race individually.
The first part of the race involves swimming as fast as you can underwater for the first one hundred meters. After surfacing, swimmers then take a breath and swim the next two lengths of the pool (two more lengths underwater, then one length at the surface). After this, swimmers must tread water for thirty seconds before diving underwater again and swimming as fast as they can for the last fifty meters.
It is not uncommon for competitors in this race to suffer from “cramping” during the underwater portions of the race because it is very difficult to have enough oxygen to last the entire length of the race. After the race is complete, most swimmers gasp for air and struggle to catch their breath.
The 100m backstroke is not as popular as the freestyle or medley races, but it has its fans just the same. In this race, swimmers are required to keep at least one arm touching the side of the pool at all times. This means that swimmers often end up fully turning their bodies around in a complete circle in order to touch the wall in front of them.
For most people, this is not a problem and they can swim this way naturally. For others, they have to turn their bodies around slowly in order to not fall over. The backstroke is the opposite of the freestyle race and most people find it easiest to swim this way after breathing in and holding their breath.
One of the most important things about swimming is the act of breathing. In general, most Olympic swimmers will take one breath (going underwater) between each of their strokes. After breathing in, swimmers will turn their heads to the side (in an “Emergency Position”) and take a breath.
There are a few ways of holding your breath underwater, but it is generally not recommended for long periods of time. Sometimes swimmers will “gulp” air and this can cause damage to the lungs resulting in injury or illness. It is very important to learn how to swim while holding your breath in the least amount of time possible.
Sources & references used in this article:
Olympic media: Inside the biggest show on television by AC Billings – 2008 – books.google.com
Swimming studies by L Shapton – 2012 – books.google.com
Sport as public diplomacy and public disquiet: Australia’s ambivalent embrace of the Beijing Olympics by P Horton – The International Journal of the History of Sport, 2008 – Taylor & Francis