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The Olympic Games, an international sports competition, are held once every four
years at a different site, where athletes from different nations compete against
each other in a wide variety of sports. There are two classifications of
Olympics, the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. Through 1992 they were
held in the same year, but beginning in 1994 they were rescheduled so that they
are held in alternate even-numbered years. For example, the Winter Olympics were
held in 1994 and the Summer Olympics in 1996. The Winter Olympics were next held
in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, while the Summer Olympics will next occur in 2000 in
Sydney, Australia. The Olympic Games are administered by the International
Olympic Committee (IOC), which is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. The
IOC was created in Paris in 1894 as an independent committee selecting its own
members but “to begin the process, however, Coubertin himself chose the
first 15 members”(White 60). IOC members are officially considered to be
“representatives from the IOC to their own nations, not delegates from
their own countries to the IOC”(White 65). Most members are elected to the
IOC after serving on the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of their own
countries. The first IOC members were all from either Europe or the Americas,
with the exception of one representative from New Zealand. Currently, members
from European and North American countries still account for a majority of the
IOC membership. IOC members must retire at the end of the year in which they
reach the age of 80, unless they were elected before 1966, in which case they
can serve for life. The IOC oversees such functions as determining the site of
the Olympic Games, the establishment of worldwide Olympic policies, and the
negotiation of Olympic television broadcast rights. The IOC works closely with
the NOCs and with the International Amateur Athletic Federation (the
international governing body for track and field), and other international
sports federations (ISFs) to organize the Olympics. The ISFs are responsible for
the “international rules and regulations of the sports they
govern”(Gary 22). The IOC president, who is chosen by IOC members, is
assisted by an executive board, several vice presidents, and a number of IOC
commissions. The IOC’s first president, Demetrius Vik?las of Greece (served
1894-1896), was succeeded by Coubertin himself (1896-1925). The other IOC
presidents have been Count Henri de Baillet-Latour of Belgium (1925-1942), J.

Sigfrid Edstr?m of Sweden (1946-1952), Avery Brundage of the United States
(1952-1972), Michael Morris, Lord Killanin, of Ireland (1972-1980), and Juan
Antonio Samaranch of Spain (1980-) . In order to host the Olympics, a city must
submit a proposal to the IOC, and after all proposals have been submitted, the
IOC will vote. If no city is successful in gaining a majority in the first vote,
the city with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voting continues with
successive rounds, until a majority winner is determined. Typically the Games
are awarded several years in advance in the hopes of allowing the winning city
adequate time to prepare for the Games. In selecting the site of the Olympic
Games, the IOC considers a number of factors, mainly among them is which city
has, or promises to build, the best facilities, and which organizing committee
seems most likely to stage the Games effectively as well as efficiently. The IOC
also considers which parts of the world have not yet hosted the Games. For
instance, Tokyo, the host of the 1964 Summer Games, and Mexico City, the host of
the 1968 Summer Games, “were chosen in part to popularize the Olympic
movement in Asia and in Latin America”(Gorman 69). Because of the growing
importance of television worldwide, the IOC in recent years has also taken into
account the host city’s time zone. Whenever the Games take place in the United
States or Canada, American television networks are willing to pay significantly
higher amounts for television rights because they can broadcast popular events
live, in prime viewing hours. Once the Games have been awarded, it is the
responsibility of the local organizing committee-not the IOC or the NOC of the
host city’s country-to finance them. This is often done with a portion of the
Olympic television revenues and with corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, and
other smaller revenue sources, such as commemorative postage stamps or proceeds
from a national lottery. In many cases there is also some direct government
support. Although many cities have achieved a financial profit by hosting the
Games, the Olympics can be financially risky. Montreal, Canada, for example,
spent a great deal of money preparing for the 1976 Summer Games which were due
to “extensive design and construction costs for new facilities. When the
proceeds from the Games were less than expected, the city was left with large
debts”(White 28). Although the Olympic Charter, the official constitution
of the Olympic movement, proclaims that the Olympics are contests among
individuals and not among nations, the IOC assigns to the various NOCs the task
of selecting national Olympic teams. In most cases the NOCs do this by holding
Olympic trials or by choosing athletes on the basis of their previous
performances. From the start of the modern Olympic Games, “male amateur
athletes of every race, religion, and nationality have been eligible to
participate”(White 36). Although Coubertin “opposed the participation
of women in the Olympics and no women competed in 1896″, a few female
golfers and tennis players were allowed to participate in the 1900 Games (Gary
39). Female swimmers and divers were admitted to the 1912 Games, and female
gymnasts and track-and-field athletes first competed at the 1928 Games. Women’s
Olympic sports have grown significantly since then, and currently women account
for approximately half of the members of teams, except in teams from Islamic
nations, where the level of female participation is generally lower. Coubertin
and the IOC intended from the start for the Olympics to be open only to
amateurs. Amateurism was determined by adherence to the amateur rule, which was
originally devised in the 19th century to “prevent working-class athletes
from participating in sports such as rowing and tennis”(Gary 21). The
amateur rule prevented athletes from earning any pay from activities in any way
related to sports, and working-class athletes could not afford both to make a
living and train for competition. Olympic rules about amateurism, however, have
caused many controversies over the years. Such questions as whether an amateur
could be “reimbursed for travel expenses, be compensated for time lost at
work, be paid for product endorsements, or be employed to teach sports”
have been raised, but they have not always been satisfactorily resolved by the
IOC, leading to confusion about the definition of professionalism in different
sports (White 79). By 1983 a majority of IOC members acknowledged that most
Olympic athletes compete professionally in the sense that sports are their main
activity. The IOC then asked each ISF to determine eligibility in its own sport,
and over the next decade nearly all the ISFs abolished the distinction between
amateurs and professionals, accepting so-called open Games. One of the most
visible examples of the policy change came in 1992, when professional players
from the National Basketball Association of the United States were permitted to
play in the Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. The Olympic Games have always
included a number of ceremonies, many of which emphasize the themes of
international friendship and peaceful co-operation. The opening ceremony has
always included the parade of nations, in which the teams from each nation enter
the main stadium as part of a procession. The Greek team always enters first, to
“commemorate the ancient origins of the modern Games”, and the team of
the host nation always enters last(Gary 25). The opening ceremony has evolved
over the years into a complex extravaganza, with music, speeches, and pageantry.

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The torch relay, in which the Olympic Flame symbolizes the “transmission of
Olympic ideals from ancient Greece to the modern world and was introduced as
part of the opening ceremony at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin”(Gary 26).

In the relay the torch is lit in Olympia, Greece, and is carried over several
weeks or months to the Host City by a series of runners. After the last runner
has lit the Olympic Cauldron in the main Olympic stadium, the host country’s
head of state declares the Games officially open, and doves are released to
symbolize the hope of world peace. Two other important ceremonial innovations
had appeared earlier at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium. The Olympic Flag,
with its five interlocking rings of different colors against a white background,
was flown for the first time. The five rings represent “unity among the
nations of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe”(Gary 27).

Another innovation occurring in 1920 was the first reciting of the Olympic Oath,
taken in the name of all the athletes by a member of the host’s team. The oath
asserts “the athletes’ commitment to the ideals of sportsmanship in
competition”(Gorman 22). Medal ceremonies are also an important part of the
Modern Games. After each individual event during the Games, medals are awarded
in a ceremony to the first-, second-, and third-place finishers. The ceremony
occurs after each event, when these competitors mount a podium to receive gold
(actually gold-plated), silver (silver-plated), and bronze medals. While the
national flags of all three competitors are hoisted, the national anthem of the
winner’s country is played. Some critics have suggested that because the medal
ceremony seems to contradict the IOC’s vow to internationalism, these national
symbols should be replaced by the hoisting of the Olympic Flag and the playing
of the official Olympic Hymn. Originally there was another parade of nations
during the closing ceremonies of the Games. At the end of the 1956 Summer Games
in Melbourne, Australia, the athletes “broke ranks and mingled together to
celebrate the occasion, and this custom is continued throughout subsequent
games”(Gorman 24). After the athletes join in the main Olympic stadium in
celebration, the president of the IOC invites the athletes and spectators to
meet again at the site of the next Games. The IOC president then declares the
Games officially over, and the Olympic Flame is extinguished. While the exact
origin is unknown, there have been many popular myths surrounding the beginning
of the Ancient Olympic Games. Two of the more popular myths surround the
legendary Hercules and a young hero named Pelops . The most common myth of the
beginning of the Ancient Olympics is the story of the hero Pelops and was
displayed prominently on the east pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus.

Pelops was a prince from Lydia in Asia Minor who sought the hand of Hippodamia,
the daughter of King Oinomaos of Pisa. Oinomaos challenged his daughter’s
suitors to a chariot race under the guarantee that any young man who won the
chariot race could have Hippodamia as a wife. Any young man who lost the race
would be beheaded, and the heads would be used as decoration for the palace of
Oinomaos. With the help of his charioteer Myrtilos, Pelops devised a plan to
beat Oinomaos in the chariot race. Pelops and Myrtilos secretly replaced the
bronze linchpins of the King’s chariot with linchpins made of wax. When Oinomaos
was about to pass Pelops in the chariot race, the wax melted and Oinomaos was
thrown to his death. Pelops married Hippodamia and instituted the Olympic games
to celebrate his victory. A different version of the myth refers to the Olympic
games as funeral games in the memory of Oinomaos. Another myth about the origin
of the Olympic Games comes from the Tenth Olympian Ode of the poet Pindar. He
tells the story of how Hercules, on his fifth labor, had to clean the stables of
King Augeas of Elis. Hercules approached Augeas and promised to clean the
stables for the price of one-tenth of the king’s cattle. Augeas agreed, and
Hercules re-routed the Kladeos and Alpheos rivers to flow through the stables.

Augeas did not fulfill his promise, however, and after Hercules had finished his
labors he returned to Elis and waged war on Augeas. Hercules sacked the city of
Elis and instituted the Olympic Games in honor of his father, Zeus. It is said
that Hercules taught men how to wrestle and measured out the stade, or the
length of the footrace. Although the exact origin is unknown the Ancient Olympic
Games were held in a sacred valley at Olympia in Elis near the western coast of
Greece and the earliest recorded Olympic competition was in 776 B.C. So
important were these contests that time was measured by the four-year interval
between the Games with the term “Olympiad” describing this period. It
is a well established fact that religious festivals in honor of Olympian Zeus
had been observed in the sacred valley for several centuries previous to that
remote date. The Greek Games were celebrated in the belief that “the
spirits of the dead were gratified by such spectacles as delighted them during
their earthly life”(Gorman 79). During the Homeric age, these festivals
were “simply sacrifices followed by games at the tomb or before the funeral
pyre”(White 49). Gradually they grew into religious festivals observed by
an entire community and celebrated near the shrine of the god in whose honor
they were instituted. The idea then developed that the gods themselves were
present but invisible and delighted in the services and the contests. Later
these festivals lost their local character and became Pan-Hellenic. Four of
these festivals, Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian, had attracted world
wide attention but the one held at Olympia was by far the most important
consecrated to the Olympian Zeus. The Olympic Games became the greatest festival
of a mighty nation. Once every four years “trading was suspended, the
continuously warring states and the fighting tribes laid down their arms, and
all of the people went forth in peace to pay tribute to the manhood of its
nation”(Gorman 82). The immediate site of the Games, the Stadium of
Olympia, lay towards the northeast of the Altis beyond Mount Kromion. It was an
oblong area that was “about 643 feet in length and about 97 feet wide. It
consisted of four sloping heights, two at the sides and two at the ends. The one
at the north had been cut into a hill, while the other had been artificially
formed by earth that had been taken from the arena. The spectators sat on the
grassy slopes which accommodated more than 40,000″(White 50). For the first
13 Olympiads, the competition consisted of “a single race of 200 yards,
approximately the length of the stadium”(Gorman 84) The race was called the
“Stade” from which our word “stadium” was derived. The first
recorded victor in 776 B.C. was “Coroebus of Elis, a cook”(Gorman 84).

The athletes of Elis maintained an unbroken string of victories until the 14th
Olympiad at which time a second race of two lengths of the stadium was added. In
the 15th Olympiad, an endurance event was added in which the athletes “went
12 times around the stadium, about 4 1/2 kilometers”(Gorman 85). The
athletes competed in groups of four, which were determined by “drawing lots
with the winners meeting the other winners until a final race was
run”(Gorman 86). In 708 B.C., the Pentathlon and Wrestling events were
introduced. In 688 B.C., Boxing; in 680 the Four Horse Chariot Race; in 648 the
Pancration (a fierce combination of boxing and wrestling), and in 580 the Armed
Race where the men traversed the stadium twice while heavily armed. In the
pentathlon, those who jumped a certain distance qualified for the spear
throwing; the four best then sprinted the length of the stadium, the three best
then threw the discus, and the two best then engaged in a wrestling match to the
finish. The early rewards were “simple crowns of wild olive, but, by the
61st Olympiad, it was permitted in Olympia to erect statues in honor of the
victors”(Gary 72). However, the athletes had to win three times before the
statues could be made in their likeness. Later, it was often the practice to
make “a breach in the walls of the city through which the victorious
athletes returned”(Gary 73). In the fifth century before the Common Era,
the Games reached their climax; and they were already showing their first sign
of decay. Trying for records and specialization claimed the interest of the
crowd. The invasion of the Macedonians put an end to the Greek city-states and,
relieved of the political controversies, they devoted themselves entirely to the
Olympic Games. Instead of training their growing youth like the Greeks, they
merely hired athletes and nationalized them. During the middle of the second
century before the Common Era, Greece came under the domination of the Romans,
who permitted the Games to continue but they had little interest in them.

Centuries passed and the Games still continued but the high Olympic ideals were
entirely discarded and profit alone provided the incentive. In “393 A.D.,
the Emperor Theodosius forbade the Games altogether”(Gorman 102) but they
had survived a period of “nearly 300 Olympiads or approximately 1200
years”(Gary 78). Full credit for the revival of the Olympic Games in the
modern era must go to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who was “born in Paris,
Jan. 1, 1863 and who died at Geneva, Sept. 2, 1937″(Gary 89). Very early in
life he showed a taste for the study of “literature, history, and the
problems of education and sociology”(Gary 90). At the age of 17 he began to
scrutinise the weaknesses of his people who were trying to recover hope and
self-respect following the Franco-Prussian War. He concluded that “three
monarchies, two empires, and three republics during a single century are not
indicative of stability in the French character”(Gary 92). The solution, he
believed rested in the development of the individual. Coubertin had sufficient
means to travel, he therefore visited England and America where he studied
organised athletics conducted by students. He observed that “competing for
a place on an athletic team developed qualities of character whereas the
attitude in French schools was that games destroyed study”(Gorman 118). He
was convinced that he should devote his entire time and energy to securing a
reform in his own country. He decided to start at the bottom because, as he
expressed it, “the foundation of real human morality lies in mutual
respect-and to respect one another it is necessary to know one
another”(Gary 92) Coubertin was not an athlete but he chose athletics as
his field. The first major sport with which he associated himself was rowing,
but when he attempted to bring the British oarsmen to France or send the French
oarsmen to compete at Henley, he found that the “British and French
conceptions of amateurism were not the same”(Gorman 120). This gave him the
idea of bringing together educators, diplomats, and sports leader for the
purpose of developing a universal understanding of amateurism so that the
athletes of all nations might meet on an equal basis. Coubertin realized that to
capture the attention of disinterested persons he would have to originate
something spectacular. He began to dream of a revival of the Olympic Games. At a
meeting of the Athletic Sports Union at Sorbonne in Paris, Nov. 25, 1892, be
first publicly announced the Olympic Games idea. Speaking at the conference,
Coubertin said, “Let us export oarsmen, runners, fencers; there is the free
trade of the future-and on the day when it shall take place among the customs of
Europe the cause of peace will have received a new and powerful
support”(Gorman 125). However, his proposal to revive the Olympic Games
went for naught as his auditors failed to grasp the significance of the idea.

His next opportunity came in the spring of 1894 at an international congress
which he had assembled for the purpose of studying the questions of amateurism.

At this meeting, official delegates from France, England, the United States,
Greece, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, were in attendance. Hungary,
Germany, Bohemia, Holland and Australia sent proxies or letters. Seven questions
concerning the problem of amateurism were on the agenda and Coubertin took the
liberty of adding an eighth, “Regarding the possibility of the revival of
the Olympic Games”(Gorman 125). Coubertin imparted his enthusiasm so well
that it was “unanimously agreed on June 23, 1894 to revive the Games and an
International Committee was formed to look after their development and well-being”(Gorman
130). Two years later in 1896 Greece celebrated in the rebuilt stadium of Athens
the first Olympic Games of the present cycle and from this beginning, the
world’s greatest athletic spectacle was established. Only the ceaseless labor,
the tenacity and the perseverance of Baron de Coubertin accomplished and
perfected this great work. Its main organization benefited from his methodical
and precise mind and from his wide understanding of the aspirations and needs of
youth. In fact, Coubertin was “the sole director of the Games in regards to
their form and character; the Olympic Charter and Protocol and the athlete’s
oath were his creation, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the
Games”(Gary 95). In addition, until 1925, he personally presided over the
IOC, assuming single-handed all the administrative and financial duties. The
work of Coubertin was, above all, a work of peace but there is one basic fact,
almost universally misunderstood which is that peace is not the major aim of the
Olympic Games. “Peace,” Coubertin hoped and believed, “would be
furthered by the Olympic Games . . . but peace could be the product only of a
better world; a better world could be brought about only by better individuals;
and better individuals could be developed only by the give and take, the
buffeting and battering, the stress and strain of fierce competition.”
Although they were founded as part of a vision of world peace, once the modern
Olympic Games became a truly important international event they also became a
stage for political disputes. The most controversial Olympics were the Berlin
Games of 1936. The IOC had voted in 1931 to hold these Games in Berlin, before
IOC members could have known that the Nazi movement would soon control the
country. When it became known in the early 1930s that under the rule of the
Nazis, German Jewish athletes were being barred from the 1936 German team which
was in violation of the Olympic Charter, many Americans demanded a boycott of
the 1936 Games. The boycott movement failed because Avery Brundage, head of the
United States Olympic Committee (USOC) at the time, was convinced by German
officials that “Jewish athletes would be permitted to try out for the
German team”(Gary122). In fact, only two Jewish athletes were named to the
1936 German Olympic team, and both were of mixed religious backgrounds. There
have been several boycotts of the Olympics by various countries. In 1956 the
Egyptian, Lebanese, and Iraqi teams boycotted the Melbourne Games to protest the
invasion of Egypt by the United Kingdom, France, and Israel that had occurred
earlier that year. Major boycotts of the Olympics occurred in 1976, 1980, and
1984. In 1976 many African nations demanded that New Zealand be excluded from
the Montreal Games because its rugby team had played against South Africa, then
under the rule of supporters of apartheid, the official policy of racial
segregation followed in that country from 1948 to the early 1990s. When the IOC
resisted the demands of the African countries with the argument that rugby was
not an Olympic sport, athletes from 28 African nations were called home by their
governments. The issue in the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Games was the invasion
of Afghanistan in 1979 by the USSR. Although American President Jimmy Carter
forced the USOC to “refuse the invitation to attend the Moscow Games, many
other NOCs defied their governments’ requests that they boycott the
Games”(Gary 124). Once Carter acted to spoil the Moscow Games and after
“62 nations did boycott the Games” it became clear that the USSR and
its allies would retaliate with another boycott at the 1984 Games in Los
Angeles. Although Romania did send a team to Los Angeles, 16 of the USSR’s other
allies boycotted the Los Angeles Games. From the 1940s to the 1980s, the IOC
also had to deal with the political problems caused by divided nations. One
example was the dilemma concerning the Chinese Olympic team, which developed in
1949 after the political division of China into the People’s Republic of China
on the mainland and the Republic of China on the island of Taiwan. The issue was
whether the Chinese people would be represented by a team from the mainland or
by a team from Taiwan. In 1952 the IOC decided to invite both Chinas, but this
decision led to decades of boycott by the government of mainland China, which
did not send a team to the Olympics until the Lake Placid Games in 1980. Another
political issue arose in 1949, because of the formal political division of
Germany that year into East Germany and West Germany. This division created the
question of whether there was to be one German team or two. The IOC tried to
solve this problem by insisting on a combined German team. Negotiations lasted
several years, and this solution was first tested at the Melbourne Games in
1956; it lasted until the Munich Games in 1972, for which two teams were formed.

There continued to be two German teams until 1992, by which time the countries
had reunited. The IOC also had to cope with racial segregation in South Africa.

The IOC voted in 1968 to exclude the South African team from Olympic competition
in order to bring pressure on the government to give up its policy of apartheid.

The South Africans were not readmitted until the Barcelona Games in 1992-by
which time apartheid had been discontinued. Violence has also occurred at the
Olympic Games. In the midst of the 1972 Munich Games, the Olympic movement
experienced its most tragic hour. A band of Palestinian terrorists made their
way into the Olympic village, murdered two members of the Israeli team, and took
nine hostages. When the IOC, meeting in emergency session, learned that a
gunfight had broken out and that all nine hostages were dead, along with five of
the terrorists, the Games were suspended for a day. The IOC’s controversial
decision to resume the Games that year was endorsed by the Israeli government.

Having survived a century of warfare and political turmoil, the Olympic Games
have become very successful in recent years, gaining more popularity and
generating more money than ever before. A great deal of this popularity and
wealth is due to the development of satellite communications and global
telecasts. Not only can more and more people see the Games, but the opportunity
developed to sell television rights to the Games for hundreds of millions of
dollars. With their share of this income, organizing committees can now stage
spectacular Games without fear of the huge indebtedness incurred by Montreal’s
organizing committee in 1976. With more money, the IOC can also subsidize the
development of sports in less affluent nations. In return for their money,
however, television networks have gained a strong influence on when, where, and
how the Olympics will take place. The Olympic movement has also become dependent
on multinational corporations, who pay millions of dollars to become official
sponsors of the game and to use Olympic symbols in their advertisements which
has led to the mass commercialization of the Olympic movement. However Pierre de
Coubertin’s dream has lasted over 25 Olympiads and will no doubt continue remain
in the hearts of the world with the Olympic ideals carrying on well into the
future. The Games of the Olympiads and The Cities of the Olympic Games Summer
Winter I 1896 Athens, Greece II 1900 Paris, France III 1904 St. Louis, USA IV
1908 London, England V 1912 Stockholm, Sweden VI 1916 Cancelled due to W.W.I VII
1920 Antwerp, Belgium VIII 1924 Paris, France 1924 I Chamonix, France IX 1928
Amsterdam, The Netherlands 1928 II St. Moritz, Switzerland X 1932 Los Angeles,
USA 1932 III Lake Placid, USA XI 1936 Berlin, Germany 1936 IV
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany XII 1940 Cancelled due to W.W.II 1940 Cancelled
due to W.W.II XIII 1944 Cancelled due to W.W.II 1944 Cancelled due to W.W.II XIV
1948 London, England 1948 V St. Moritz, Switerland XV 1952 Helsinki, Finland
1952 VI Oslo, Norway XVI 1956 Melbourne, Australia 1956 VII Cortina D’Ampezzo,
Italy XVII 1960 Rome, Italy 1960 VIII Squaw Valley, U.S.A. XVIII 1964 Tokyo,
Japan 1964 IX Innsbruck, Austria XIX 1968 Mexico City, Mexico 1968 X Grenoble,
France XX 1972 Munich, Germany 1972 XI Sapporo, Japan XXI 1976 Montreal, Canada
1976 XII Innsbruck, Austria XXII 1980 Moscow U.S.S.R 1980 XIII Lake Placid,
U.S.A. XXIII 1984 Los Angeles, USA 1984 XIV Sarajevo, Yugoslavia XXIV 1988
Seoul, South Korea 1988 XV Calgary, Canada XXV 1992 Barcelona, Spain 1992 XVI
Albertville, France XXVI 1996 Atlanta U.S.A 1994 XVII Lillehammer, Norway XXVII
2000 Sydney, Australia 1998 XVIII Nagano, Japan
Gary, Austin. (1986). Development of the Olympic Games. New York:
Houghton-Mifflin. Gorman, David. (1998) A Detailed Account of the Olympic Games.

New York: Basic Books. Miller, Andrew. (1994). Olympic Stories. London: Sage
Publishers. White, Matt.


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