Seems as if not too much has changed, except for the nude part . . .
“As if raw athleticism weren’t enough, the ancient Olympics were the “total pagan entertainment package,” kicked off with an opening ceremony as memorable in its way as anything in 2012 London, says Tony Perrotet, author of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games.”
“The Olympic Games were held every four years from 776 B.C. to A.D. 394, making them the longest-running recurring event in antiquity. What was the secret of the games’ longevity?
It was the sheer spectacle of it. Sports [were] one part of a grand, all-consuming extravaganza. It was first and foremost a religious event, held on the most sacred spot in the ancient world. (More people go to sports arenas to pay homage to their favorite teams and athletes than attend church.)
“It was just as spectacular as it is today, the athletes filing into the temple, where they had to give their oath before a terrifying statue of Zeus wielding these thunderbolts. (Does Queen Elizabeth count?)
They had to swear over this bloody slice of boar’s
flesh that they would obey the rules of the game and use no unfair means to gain victory.” (IOC demands a pound of flesh if the urine test comes back positive)
“The judges were concerned that athletes would use performance-enhancing potions.”
“But even more popular was placing curses on your opponents. (My favorite, NO evidence, unless you use a voodoo doll) There are stories of athletes veering off course [or] not being able to make it out of the starting blocks.”
Why did the athletes compete in the nude?
“The truth is that no one knows. According to one story, it began when a runner lost his loincloth and tripped on it. Everyone took off his loincloth after that. But ancient historians have traced it back to initiation rites—young men walking around naked and sort of entering manhood.”
“We know how fundamental nudity was to Greek culture. It really appealed to the exhibitionism and the vanity of the Greeks. Only barbarians were afraid to show their bodies. The nude athletes would parade like peacocks up and down the stadium. Poets would write in a shaky hand these wonderful odes to the bodies of the young men, their skin the color of fired clay.”
“But other cultures, like the Persians and the Egyptians, looked at these Greek men oiling one another down and writhing in the mud, and found it very strange. They believed it promoted sexual degeneracy.”