Olympic fever hits

Sunday, July 22, 2012

By Gary Clothier

United Features Syndicate

Question: The modern Olympics were first held in 1896 in Athens, Greece. My question is about the original, ancient Olympic Games: Who was the first champion?

H.L., Chandler, Ariz.

Answer: The first Olympic champion in recorded history was a naked runner, Coroebus of Elis. Coroebus was a baker who won the sole event at the Olympics, the stadion, a sprint the length of the stadium.

Did you know: After the Olympic Games of 2012, London will be the first city to host the games three times: 1908, 1948 and 2012.

Question: What was the first event of the modern Olympic Games?

J.D., Newton, Iowa

Answer: The very first event in the modern Olympics was the first heat of the 100-meter race, held on April 6, 1896. The 100-meter race final took place on April 10.

The first Olympic champion was American James Connolly, who won the triple jump later on April 6.

Question: Have any Summer Olympians died as a direct result of participating in their event?

T.L., Russellville, Ky.

Answer: In 1912, during the games held in Stockholm, Portuguese runner Francisco Lazaro, suffering from sunstroke and heart problems, collapsed and died the day following the marathon. He was 21. At least two other athletes died while participating in their sport -- Romanian Nicolae Berechet in 1936 and Knud Jensen of Denmark in 1960.

During the 1972 Munich Olympics, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed in a terrorist attack by Palestinian extremists.

Question: Johnny Weissmuller, who is famous for his role as Tarzan, was an excellent swimmer. I was told he competed in the Olympics. Did he win any medals?

G.R.T., Deltona, Fla.

DID YOU KNOW: The fastest human footspeed (or sprint speed) on record is 27.79 mph, seen during a 100-meter sprint by Usain Bolt. Look for him in London.

Answer: Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) won five Olympic gold medals and one bronze in the 1924 and 1928 games.

Question: What are the dates of the original, as in ancient, Olympic Games? In my limited research, I have come across several dates.

S.T., Hamilton, Ohio

Answer: There is no consensus on when the games officially began or ended, although it is widely accepted the first games were held in 776 B.C., though it is also generally accepted that the Olympics were at least 500 years old at that time.

According to Greek myth, Heracles and his father, Zeus, were the founders of the games. Heracles named them "Olympic," and he created the custom of holding the games every four years. Again, according to myth, Heracles built the first Olympic stadium in honor of Zeus. The two most common dates for when the games ended are 393 or 426 A.D. The first date (393) is commonly accepted because Theodosius I declared that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated. Many also accept the second date (426) because it was then that Theodosius II ordered the destruction of all Greek temples.

Question: I think the Olympic flag with its five interconnected rings is a wonderful representation of the games. When was it created?

E.L.D., Williamsport, Pa.

Answer: The official Olympic symbol was created by Pierre, baron de Coubertin, who was considered the father of the modern Olympic Games, in 1914. A flag with the symbol was first flown at the Antwerp Olympic stadium in 1920. The original flag was retired after the 1984 games at Los Angeles; a new flag was flown at the 1988 Seoul games.

The colors are (from left to right): blue, yellow, black, green and red. The five rings represent the five major regions of the world -- Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania; they are interconnected to symbolize the friendship created by the competition. Each of the rings' colors represents at least one color of the flag of every country in the world.

DID YOU KNOW: Misty May-Treanor is an American professional beach volleyball player and actress. She has won more tournaments than any other female player, with 110 career wins. Look for her in London.

Did you know: Misty May-Treanor is an American professional beach volleyball player and actress. She has won more tournaments than any other female player, with 110 career wins. Look for her in London.

Question: What happened to Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnast who stole the hearts of the world in the 1970s?

J.T.L., Salem, Mass.

Answer: It's hard to believe that little Nadia will be 51 this November. She is the winner of three gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the winner of two gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. She is married to former American Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Bart Conner. The two run a gymnasium empire, which includes a gymnastics academy, a production company, a magazine and several sports equipment shops. They have one son, Dylan, who was born in June 2006.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIA@gmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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