Once every Olympiad (that is four years for those who are counting in the ten-digit Latin-based number system), we all come together to have contests of strength, speed, and elevation. It is said that Heracles (son of Zeus) first called the games “Olympic.” After Heracles completed his twelve labors, he built the Olympic stadium. Then, following its completion, he walked in a straight line for 200 steps and called this distance a “stadion.” And finally, to make other nations feel more welcome, he asked his good friend Ronald McDonald to come and sell Chicken McNuggets™ and French Fries at the refreshment stands. Thus, the official languages of the games became English and French. Things went very well from 776 BC until old fuddy-duddy emperor Theodosius I declared that all pagan cults and practices should be eliminated in 393 AD. Little known history reveals that this was just a ruse; he was actually mad because the teenager at the refreshment stand messed up his order and gave him “Sweet and Sour” dipping sauce instead of BBQ.
In the late 1700’s the French tried to get L’Olympiade de la République going. Unfortunately, only the French knew what those words on the billboards meant, and so nobody else came. Things sputtered along until the International Olympic Committee was organized, and in 1890 they announced that they would begin accepting bribes. The modern Olympic games were held again in 1896, and the movement was now unstoppable!
That is, up until the next Olympiad came around in 1900. The games were held in Paris, France. Again, no one could understand the language. This time, a few tourists accidentally happened upon the games when they were trying to find the World’s Fair. They found that the French were using the metric system and quickly left.
The games sputtered along for a few decades until the organizing committee found that it could raise additional bribe money from television and corporate advertising – then things really picked up. At lunch one day, a committee member doodled those five circles on the back of a napkin (roughly circling points in the curvature of the letter “M” insignia on the paper), and decided they could print up some t-shirts with the design. With money now flooding in, the games could really afford to succeed.
So as you cozy up to the big screen and enjoy the closing ceremonies, today, appreciate where we’ve come from in the world!