boys running

The First Olympics were held every four years after being started by the ancient Greeks in 776 B.C. It was considered a religious event. A Break of Hostility Truce was reinforced in which military actions and disputes were stopped for a period of time before, during and after the Games so people could travel safely during that time. .

At first women were not allowed to take part in or even watch the Olympic games. If anyone tried, she could be thrown over a cliff to her death. However, one woman, Kallipateira, began training her son in boxing after her husband died. She disguised herself as a man so she could watch the game. But when her son won, she was so excited she jumped up suddenly to cheer. Her clothes got caught and came off, revealing her true identity! Since her father, brothers and son had all been champions, the judges decided to let her go free. But from that day on, all trainers had to work without wearing clothes so no women could ever sneak in again! It had already been a rule that the athletes had to be naked when competing.

To qualify to be an athlete in the First Olympics, competitors had to be Greek, male, and born free (not slaves). They could not have committed any acts of violence or made the Greek gods angry in any way. They could not have violated the Break of Hostility Truce. Competitors had to have 10 months of training at home and then train for 30 more days in Olympia.

At first the only competition at the First Olympics was Running in which barefoot runners raced on a track 200 yards long. Spectators watched from surrounding hills. Later, these other sports were added. 

  • Horse Racing: Competitors rode bareback across a rough field. This now have variations and the most popular of which is the one that involves using golf clubs – the sport is called Polo.
  • Boxing: First Olympic boxers fought until one either gave up or was knocked out.
  • Pankration: The pankration was an extremely dangerous event. It was a combination of judo, boxing, and wrestling. Anything was allowed, even breaking the oppositions’ bones or strangling them. However, biting and scratching out the eyes were not allowed.
  • Wrestling: If competing in upright wrestling, the winner had to force his opponent to the ground. Ground wrestling was done in mud to make it hard to grab on to each other. The contest was over when one man gave up.
  • Javelin: Javelin throwers won if they threw a wooden pole the farthest or hit a target while riding a horse.
  • Discus: The discus throwers used a discus made of stone or metal that were decorated with poems and pictures.
  • Pentathlon: Five events made up the Pentathlon. They included running, discus, wrestling, javelin and jumping. Flute music was played while the athletes performed.


The Greeks believed that winning at the First Olympics was a gift from the gods. The winners were given crowns of olive branches cut from the sacred tree at Olympia. They were not allowed to accept money for winning. However, Athletes were considered heroes the rest of their lives and their honor was also bestowed on their hometowns.