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The Olympics: Historical and Economic Impacts Throughout the Years

All over the world, sports aficionados get together to support their country in the Olympic Games. It has become a tradition and something that most people look forward to every four years. This time, the 2024 Games will be hosted in France and promise to gather thousands of people in the country and move millions around the globe, generating extraordinary revenue. 


In total, for the years of 2017-2020, the income brought by broadcasting and marketing deals in both the Winter and Summer Games was approximately 7.6 billion dollars. For 2024, this number only promises to grow as the budget is already starting at 4.397 billion euros (approximately 4.7 dollars).


The Games, though, were once very different from what we know. Even more, the Olympic Games marked history several times, accompanying various historical landmarks and global events until they became a common source of entertainment and, in many ways, a business.


In the summer of 1896, the first international Olympic Games as we know them were held in Greece. However, the first records of the Games date back to 776 B.C., when the Olympiads became a measurement of time between each edition. Initially, sports were accompanied by artistic talents, such as music, poetry, and theater, in honor of the Greek god Zeus. These activities were a way to connect culture to sport, both usually linked to Greek traditions.


There are also well-known myths revolving around the first Games at Olympia, and legend has it that it was founded by Herakles, who won wrestling and combat. Other stories tell that Zeus fought his father Kronos, and Apollo beat Hermes at running and Ares at boxing.


In the time of the Ancient Games, there were no medals to be given to the winners, but victory was marked with something else. Depending on the host city, the awards were of monetary value or even valuable objects that somehow demonstrated the virtue of those who had their victories. In fact, the word “athletics” comes from the word “athlon,” which means "prize.”


Despite their vital fame in modern times, the games were famously banned in 393 A.D. when the then Roman Emperor—Theodosius I—in order to promote Christianity condemned the games for encouraging Paganism. The Games would not be restored thousands of years later, when society entered the modern era.


In the heart of 1894 Paris, a meeting at Sorbonne University was arranged by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French historian, to debate and hopefully re-establish the Games. With approximately two thousand people in attendance and delegates from several countries such as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States, the Olympic Games were reborn in eight days, and an International Olympic Committee was founded.


The first game of the modern era happened in Athens, with France hosting the second edition in 1900. But with France, a new addition to the game’s history was added: women were now able to compete.


Women were at first a minority among all players—22 out of 997 male athletes, or 2% of the total of athletes—and were only able to compete in five categories total, such as tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrian events, and golf. Yet, in the same edition, the world saw the first female Olympic winner: Charlotte Cooper, a tennis player from Britain.


In the most recent edition of the Games, in Tokyo 2020, the audience saw the most gender-balanced edition in history, with approximately 48% of women playing and being able to compete in female-only categories. The Olympic Committee issued a statement saying that they plan to reach full gender equality with the 2024 Paris edition.  


The new edition will also have an increase in mixed-gender teams and will present new sports disciplines. After presenting skateboarding and surfing in the last edition, this year’s Games will also add breaking (also known as breakdancing) and extreme slalom, leaving baseball and karate out of this edition. 


In addition to the search for gender equality, the 2024 Olympics will also focus on the climate. This will be the first edition aligned with the 2015 climate agreement, with the Committee promising to reduce carbon emissions by 55% and construction impact, as 75% of the places that will be hosting the competitions already exist and 20% will be temporary.


The organization promises a 55% reduction in carbon emissions, in addition to reducing the impacts of new construction; 75% of the facilities already exist, and 20% will be temporary. That is, including the Olympic Village and Aquatic Center, only 5% of facilities will need to be built.


 


Overall, the Olympics as an event has always been at the end of controversial talks. However, over the years, it is possible to see progress being made in all spheres, searching for equality and, due to popular demand, taking actions to improve climate change. The 2024 Olympic Games are promising and should pave the way for even better editions in the future.


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