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Olympics: the story of five rings

 הThe well-known Olympic icon is the flag of the five rings intertwined in the many colors of the rainbow, five in number. It turns out that they originate from only one archaeological find out of the thousands of finds from over a thousand years of games in antiquity

The Olympic flag during the Vancouver Winter Games, 2010. From Wikipedia
The Olympic flag during the Vancouver Winter Games, 2010. From Wikipedia

In two weeks, the most important and prestigious global sporting event will open - the events of the Olympic Games. The well-known Olympic icon is the flag of the five rings intertwined in the many colors of the rainbow, five in number. It is clear to all of us, and on the basis of this "clear" - why five rings - quite a few interpretations have developed and matured. Some of them are close to the worldview of the creator of the modern Olympic Games - the French Count Pierre de Coubertin towards the end of the 19th century - and some are far. In this list, I would like to shed light on the matter in question and offer my research premise in this regard. truth or fiction? We will see later.

More than once it happens that a certain archaeological find simply "refuses" to reveal its secrets. And then a wide and long sheet of interpretations opens up, whose number is sometimes as many as the number of researchers and their instruction as the inclination of his heart, his thought, his worldview, or the ulterior motives of this or that researcher in the sense of "shooting an arrow at the target and then surrounding it with circles of success".

This was the fate of an archaeological find, somewhat abandoned, which was uncovered among the remains of ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese (southwest Greece). This finding, as if hidden in the dishes, and as if he pulled with his wing the cloak of a legendary, romantic figure, at the end of the 19th century, as if to say to her: Bring me out of Greece from the Mezola, my time has come to be revealed and whatever your interpretation may be...!

It is about an undoubtedly dramatic find of a slab made of heavy stone, which was lying among the antiquities-fragments of ancient Olympia, and on which are engraved none other than five interlocked rings - three above and two below, and they were a source of inspiration for the revival of the modern Olympic games, Count The Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, who made them the symbol of the Olympic Games from then until the present day.

Let's put aside for a moment the weave of hints and images above and present, on the tip of the fork, some facts about the ancient Olympic games, and first we will clarify that idealization on the one hand and reality on the other - the ancient games were marked by pure intentions and wishes, but the reality was grim and cruel. However, we find it difficult to separate the ideal from reality, perhaps because of an almost natural and clear romanticization, and certainly because of the passage of so much time between then and now, and in general between the innocence of the past and the cynicism of today.

The ancient Olympic Games were marked by a tangled and complex web of ritual sanctity, the perpetuation of the value of peace, the evils between humans (for the Hellenes only), the integration of body and soul, the removal of the element of wealth from the sporting field, the importance of participation over victory, the exclusion of politics from the games, the deepening of the affinity between the participant and the special social being that prevailed in the polis cities of Greece and more of this kind. It will be emphasized for the sake of historical accuracy that there was no political-geographical concept called Greece at all, or that there was no centralized government either, but a very decentralized one. The games were pan-Hellenic, shared by Hellenic inhabitants from the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean and western Turkey of today and later also from the south of the Italian boot, all speaking the same language, albeit in different dialects.

And another important note which we will open later in order to connect, perhaps, the five rings to the modern Olympic games.

The ancient classical games began to be conducted officially and in an orderly manner from 776 BC and were celebrated/held with holy fear once every four years in honor of Zeus, the father of the Olympic gods, when even dramatic events such as giant wars (Persia-Greece for example) led to the postponement of one or another competition, ceremonies were held within it The opening and closing, and were counted in the Olympic order as if they existed in reality. This phenomenon, by the way, served as a basis for remembering historical dates among ancient historians, and for example we will quote Josephus, who named, for example, the year of the foundation of Caesarea and the renewed Jerusalem in relation to the regulated number of the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games were carefully held until the year 393/4 CE and were finally closed by order of the Roman Christian Emperor Theodosius I (or II) due to their pagan (anti-Christian) nature, as consideration for the bitter fate of Christians who were thrown into the gladiator arena (although unrelated to the Olympic Games) and personal political motives of the emperor.

It should be noted that despite the beginning of the Olympic orderly number (since 776 BC), the games' embryo was rooted hundreds of years earlier, such as in the 15th century BC in Phoenicia (Tyre-Sidon), and how interesting it is to discover that the hero of the Hellenization process in Judea in general And in Jerusalem in particular, the High Priest Yeshua/Jason took the trouble to send Jewish participants, young nobles from Jerusalem, in order to take an active part in the games of the Hellenistic city of Tire in 172 BC (andI commented on this in the list that was published in Hidan). And later, in the Roman period, when the Olympic Games were on the verge of collapse due to the economic reason of the lack of development budgets and ongoing management, King Herod called for their restoration for a variety of reasons - political, personal and even sporting, and thanks to him they continued to exist. Thanks to this, Herod won the prestigious title of "permanent game editor" ("Agonotet").

continued? Well, roughly, because long, long before the Herodian contribution, the Olympic Games lost their luster and dignity, not to mention their genesis, and slowly became a meeting of professional athletes, those of whom a significant part belonged to professional sports associations, and who wandered from competition to competition to enrich their personal coffers , thus erasing much of the idealization of the ancient Hellenic competitions.

As mentioned, the Olympic Games ceased to be held towards the end of the fourth century AD, which did not surprise the "History Minister" at all, considering the end of a process of rotting internal collapse.

It is true that there were attempts in the Middle Ages, failed of course, to inject revival promoters into the Olympic Games, and these were like waiting for the right hand at the right time and in the right place. And precisely the lever for the revival of the Olympic Games was from a theoretical-traditional point of view, we were from what is not for its own sake comes for its own sake.

Those days were marked by the national awakening in Europe, which absorbed a tense atmosphere of pre-world war, when the fuel to drive the war machine was the transition from national teachings to nationalist, fundamentalist ideas.

Good-or-bad, one of the signs of the pre-national struggles was a kind of competition, and if you will, a kind of "pre-pre-Cold-War", that is, confrontations between the nation-states in various fields, one of which was in the area of ​​the ancient tensions that prevailed between France and Germany , has been for hundreds of years, stuck, for example, in the seemingly not-so-important question, such as: which of the two will reveal the location and antiquity of ancient Olympia. In this "strange" encounter, the Germans recorded an impressive archaeological victory in 1852 (when the excavation season ended in 1881) under the direction of Prof. Ernst Curtius from the University of Berlin and "a little" brought down a waterfall of humiliation, of defeat, on the heads of the French. And we remember how a few years earlier the French were humiliated by the Germans in the Battle of Sedan in 1870.

And then there appeared in the feverish mind of a French nobleman, the Count of Felltan, who answered to the name Pierre de Coubertin. And one that was immanently guided by the anti-German germ and asked himself: how do we turn the aforementioned agonizing failure into a lever for success: "The Germans exposed the remains of Olympia," said Coubertin, "and we, the French, will 'sting' them with the idea of ​​a revival The ancient games", and so it was.

It is worth noting that Coubertin saw the revival of the Olympic Games as an important link between the past and the present. That is to say, just as the ancient Olympic Games stood as a sign of peace and the cessation of hostilities between the city-states (i.e. the cities of the polis) of Las (ancient Greece), and even for a short period of one month, in terms of a message and a lesson for the future, so the world deserves, one that was on the brink of a chain reaction that would lead to war world, and at least the tradition of enmity and tensions between France and Germany (the mythical Alsace-Lorraine Affair), to reach an era of peace and the lever for this, perhaps, will be the renewal of the Olympic Games.

And when he penetrated with all his energy, although after quite a few different difficulties, Coubertin threw the above-mentioned idea into the world and began to roll up his sleeves, although not without impatience - to the realization of the dream of worldwide athletics on the purity of amateurs, one that would play national rivalries all over the world . Coubertin even dreamed of world peace and even a new religion - the cult of beauty as a sign of the revival of the ancient classical ideal (and alas for the later, German, Nazi translation and interpretation of that ideal), of fair competition. However, Coubertin's dream was not completely clean, and this time also in the ancient Hellenic spirit, from the social and socio-economic aspect, and let's not forget that he himself came from a famous aristocratic family, to restore to France the lost aristocratic rule that had been defeated since the revolution of 1789.

Moreover, Coubertin did speak of cosmopolitanism, but his eyes were fixed and focused on the French youth, who, unlike the British and certainly the German, were distant from sports activities and lacked enthusiasm for victories achieved through competitive effort, and he undoubtedly remembered the famous sentence of the British Wellington who claimed that "victory The British over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo was achieved on the meadows of Itan". Eton was a prestigious educational institution for members of the aristocracy that developed and fostered, alongside the theoretical studies, physical activity and especially the competitive one. Coubertin even saw before his eyes the ideal of the "epboy" (youths in ancient Greece) in their post-gymnasium stage, who were intended to be useful citizens for the police on the one hand and skilled warriors and military commanders on the other.

Indeed, in Coubertin and in the thoughts of his soul, there were opposing trends, interests that contradicted each other to a great extent, which, by bridging those trends, made the theory of the revival of the Olympic Games very clear from his point of view. He saw before his eyes the French youth, whose insides would be burned with ideals of physical strength on the one hand and leadership on the other, such that would benefit not only France itself but its control ("alas"!) in the various colonies overseas.

Coubertin coined the term "Olympism" in which three important messages were folded into his theory: the first - the religion of Olympism and emphasizing the amateurs in sports; The second - the peace of Olympism to create a better humanity; The third - the beauty of Olympism in terms of the ideal harmony of body, spirit and soul.

In 1894 Baron de Coubertin initiated a second international convention hosted by the famous Sorbonne University under the title of "International Amateurism in Sports". There it was decided to hold the games every four years and to establish the Olympic Committee whose fifteen members were not identified as representatives of the countries elected to the committee but as representatives of the committee towards the nations of the world, a sign and example of the value of internationalism, in this spirit it was decided that the name of the host country would not be displayed above each and every game, but a name the host city.

It should be noted that this is what we will connect later to the matter of the five interlocked rings, because the opening day was marked by a musical, nostalgic-romantic. Namely, the singing of the "Hymn to Apollo" based on the reconstruction of the musical notes discovered in the excavations of the ancient city of Delphi, who hosted Hellenic sports games between the time-outs of the Olympic Games and even there once every four years. The restoration of the Apollinian anthem? Very doubtful because the marks found on the site are not at all certain that these are musical notes and certainly against the background of the fact that no musical notes were used at that time.

The renewed Olympic Games were held in Athens and marked the 75th anniversary of the war of liberation and freedom in Greece, in terms of a salute to peace. Coubertin also tried to preserve as much as possible the ancient characteristics such as the prohibition of women's participation, and apart from the gymnastics exercises, no team competitions were held and a special victory gate was erected at the entrance with the Greek letters OA ("Olympiakoi Agunas" in Greek - "Olympic Competitions") engraved on it.

And now, considering the closing of the circle of this article - the five interlocked rings. Considered the classic icon of the Olympic Games to this day, this symbol was first designed by Coubertin in 1913 and was first introduced at the 1920 Antwerp Games, which were counted as the seventh Olympiad. During the First World War there were no Olympic Games, but according to the ancient Olympic tradition they were recorded, as if they were played, and this is the Munich Olympics of 1916, the sixth in the Olympic series.

The colors of the five rings were these - red, black, light blue, green and yellow, in terms of international significance, and were chosen carefully to note that the colors of the flags of the countries participating in the competitions are reflected in one or more of the colors of the five rings. There was a compromise here between the anti-national, international principle and state nationalism.

So why was the number five chosen? It is true that the international idea is to call every city/country in each of the five continents to take part in the games. But this is a controversial interpretation.

And for our matter, many people do not know that the origin of the five rings was actually German-French. The Germans uncovered the antiquities of Olympia and, as mentioned, a stone tablet was found on which the five rings were drawn and stamped, and the French (Coubertin and his friends) decided, for some reason, that this was a clear Olympic symbol. What this board was used for is unknown and its special imprint does not appear in any Olympic-competitive find - not on coins, medallions, red-black and black-red paintings on urns and plates - and such finds have been known in the thousands. And perhaps, very carefully, the drowning involves some sort of ritual accessory?

Be that as it may, it is worth noting that the number five was deeply embedded in the ancient Olympic Games. For example - the games were called the "Five Year Games" even though they were held once every four years. And this is in order to emphasize the chains and cycles of the games, when the year of the games was counted twice - once as the opening year and once as the closing year, and this for somewhat religious-ritual reasons, a break or space of some kind harms the sanctity of the events, and so for example in almost every "gable" (the triangle equals - the shins at the top of a Greek temple), there is almost no space in most sculpted and embedded objects, and so in Hellenic coffins. Especially in the games dedicated, in Olympia, in honor of the head of the family of gods, Zeus.

Moreover, although the games were held once every four years, the participants were expected to devote the year before the competitions to personal training, and this is also one of the reasons for the names of the games with the number five. This nickname appears more than once in the writings of Joseph.

Number five? Let's look at the competitions themselves. The pinnacle of achievements was the pentathlon competition ("fight of five") - competition in five disciplines: stadium running (about 190 m long), jumping (long distance), javelin throw, discus throw and upright/elite wrestling (different from Pankration).

These and separately were also considered to be the leading and prestigious sports, in which the idealization of Greek sports is embedded, considering a healthy mind in a healthy body.

And maybe-maybe the five rings symbolize, if at all, the winner of the pentathlon competition, as a super athlete. And each ring also represents in its shape the victory crown won by the winner - in Olympia - a wreath braided from the branches of the olive tree sacred to Zeus, while in Delphi the winner's head was decorated with a wreath made of laurel, the one sacred to Apollo, the patron of the games of Delphi.

Unfortunately, my assumption above is not so reinforced. However, she came to offer some kind of lever, however small, to remove the shell of the mystery: what is the connection, if any, between the Olympic, archaeological find, and the symbol of the Olympic Games to this day?

4 תגובות

  1. According to Wikipedia the symbol is not really historical. The symbol's popularity and widespread use began during the lead-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Carl Diem, president of the Organizing Committee of the 1936 Summer Olympics, wanted to hold a torchbearers' ceremony in the stadium at Delphi, site of the famous oracle, where the Pythian Games were also held. For this reason he ordered the construction of a milestone with the Olympic rings carved in the sides, and that a torchbearer should carry the flame along with an escort of three others from there to Berlin. The ceremony was celebrated but the stone was never removed. Later, two British authors Lynn and Gray Poole when visiting Delphi in the late 1950s saw the stone and reported in their "History of the Ancient Games" that the Olympic rings design came from ancient Greece. This has become known as "Carl Diem's ​​Stone".[9] This created a myth that the symbol had an ancient Greek origin.

  2. Dr. Sorek. Don't shy away from hostile responses. I sometimes disagree with you too. As a rule, you do an excellent job and that's why people get angry, including me, and the site was donated thanks to you.

  3. "In two weeks the world sports exhibition will open" - what, they postponed the Olympics and didn't inform me?

  4. Thanks to Dr. Yachiam Sorek who brought us the basic Olympic facts and even the surprising early Jewish participation in the games and their organization.

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