The original Olympic Games were first recorded in 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece, and were celebrated until A.D. 393. The ancient stadium in Olympia could accommodate more than 40,000 spectators, while in the surrounding area there were auxiliary buildings that developed gradually up until the 4th century B.C. and were used as training sites for the athletes or to house the judges of the Games. The ancient Olympic Games included running, jumping, the discus throw, wrestling, boxing and equestrian events.
Interest in reviving the Olympic Games was first shown by the Greek poet and newspaper editor Panagiotis Soutsos in his poem “Dialogue of the Dead” in 1833. Evangelos Zappas sponsored the first modern international Olympic Games in 1859. The International Olympic Committee was founded in 1894 on the initiative of French nobleman Pierre Fredy, Baron de Coubertin. The first of the IOC’s Olympic Games were the 1896 Summer Olympics held in Athens. From 241 athletes from 14 nations in 1896, the games grew to nearly 11,100 competitors from 202 countries at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
The program for the Beijing 2008 Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, is quite similar to that of the Athens Games held in 2004. From Aug. 8-24, the 2008 Olympics sees the return of 28 sports, and will hold 302 events (165 men’s events, 127 women’s events and 10 mixed events). Sports to be contested include fencing, judo, softball, volleyball, canoeing, archery, table tennis and weight-lifting.