The Olympic Games, Past and Present

Poster from 1948 London Summer Olympics:discuss thrower and Houses of Parliament
Photo caption

Poster from the 1948 London Summer Olympics

Credit: The National Archives UK
(July 30, 2012)

"Holding the Olympic Games means evoking history."
—Baron Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympics

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England are an opportunity to examine the historical and philosophical significance of the Games in Ancient Greece.

This EDSITEment feature transports us back to Classical civilization and the flourishing of small city-states in order to examine the values and cultural assumptions about human excellence and competition that dominated this distant but familiar culture. Poetry has always played a central role in the Olympic Games, from Pindar's victory odes to the 2012 Olympic tribute poem "Eton Manor" composed by Britain's Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Return to the present to see how, in 2012, the chosen host city for the Summer Olympics, London, is shining a special light on this connection. Also learn about London’s distinguished relationship with the Olympics.

Learn about Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics, the role poetry has played in Olympic ceremonies, and London’s historic connection to the Olympic games at EDSITEment, NEH’s educational website for students, teachers and lifelong learners:

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