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Paganism and the Olympics
Publish date: Nov 4, 2009
Summary: The Olympic games carry a infamous legacy of more than global unity and sport.
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Revived from ancient origins, modern Olympics are haunted by the ideals of that primitive and violent time. The original Olympics began in Olympia in 776 B.C. They celebrated the many gods by staging violent athletic competitions (deaths were common).
Opportunities abounded for trade and commerce, while onlookers watched naked athletes' physiques. Greek city-states “united” under these festivals to the gods Zeus and Poseidon. Lasting over a millennium, the games were finally abolished by Emperor Theodosius (393 AD) because they were too pagan.i
For example, the carrying of the torch in the Olympic games is a symbol of the sun. Sport from ancient times was associated with sun worship and the symbolism employed at the modern games reenacts the victories of the solar deities.
The sun, moon, and planets floating overhead at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games reminded us that the sun’s association with sports predates the deities Hercules and Apollo, as is evident from the epic tale of the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh:
The Sumerian Gilgamesh story inscribed in cuneiform tablets narrates how the sporting equipment–a stick and a ring or ball–which Gilgamesh had carved out of an uprooted tree, had fallen into the netherworld as he began oppressing his people by repeated athletic competitions, and how eventually it was the sun god who opened a hole in the ground in order to recover them. The Olympic torch, which the runner carries to mark the sun’s cyclic movement throughout the “Olympiad”, the four-year period until the next games, is also related to the sun’s cyclic rhythm. First celebrated in Greece, the games were ceremonial contests in honor of Zeus.ii
Here are some other examples of how the Olympics still carry their pagan history:
Ancient Olympic violence echoes in modern games. Historian Maryann Abbs reports the following:
• 1936 Olympics promoted the Nazi regime, while concentration camps operated not far away.
• Olympic Brigade, a special forces unit, massacred hundreds in Mexico City (1968).
• Olympics introduce oppressive security measures. Sydney Olympics had four policemen for each athlete, “...35,000 police and security guards, 4000 troops and elite commando units, and BlackHawk helicopters.”
• Mass “inspections” of Islamic communities during Athens Olympics (2004) prompted Amnesty International’s warning: “security...is used...as a pretext to systematically break international treaties on the rights of refugees.”iii
Ancient Olympics promoted trade and commerce; modern Olympics follow. Not just a showcase for "amateur" athletes, Olympics are profit-motivated enterprises. China Today reported on November 5, 2004 that Los Angeles made $250 million, Seoul Olympics $300 million, and Sydney Olympics generated $1.756 billion. During the Beijing Olympics "...NBC alone had raked in profits of $1.7 billion dollars for its television advertising, and China’s main TV network...$400 million."
Obsession with athletic physical “perfection”
Richard Rodriquez, essayist for PBS’s “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” observes, “In a society that cares little about the notion of a pure inner life, a clean body must do. And there’s no higher ideal in America right now than the athletic body, muscled, toned, hard. The Olympics are...a pagan celebration of the body, as close to the original Greek nude version as possible.”iv
Worship of Many Gods
In Atlanta’s opening ceremonies (a $15 million musical spectacular) NBC commentator Dick Enberg described “...Olympic spirits that...call the tribes of the world to Atlanta.” These occult spirits are “Stewards of Heaven” governing “196 Olympic Provinces into which the universe is divided…”v This resembles Nebuchadnezzar causing all to worship his golden image when all kinds of music played.
Back to Paganism and Catholicism
i. Madanjeet Singh, The sun in myth and art (UNESCO, 1993): 87-88.
ii. General history of the Olympics can be found at the following locations online: Ancient History: Olympics and Christianity Today: Revisting the Pagan Olympic Games, and from Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics (Yale University Press, 2004).
iii. Maryann Abbs, Massacres and Profits: A brief history of the Olympics.
iv. Richard Rodriguez, "The Olympics: Pushing Paganism to the Extreme" (July 18, 1996).
v. All quotes are taken from Clete Hux, "Pagan Invasion in Atlanta: Summoning the Olympic Spirits."
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