Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Passion for Victory

A Passion for Victory

Benson Bobrick
For ages 12 and up
Random House, 2012   ISBN: 978-0375868696

These days, the Olympic Games are watched by millions of people all over the world. The host countries spends enormous amounts of money building venues for the events, and preparing for opening ceremonies that they hope will thrill and delight spectators. The games are “global extravaganzas” that people remember for years to come.

The ancient Olympics were nothing like the modern day games. The first recorded Olympic event took place in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. There was a two-hundred-yard footrace in a meadow, and the race was won by a cook who came from the town of Elis. Over time, other races were added, along with events such as the discus throw, the long jump, the javelin throw, and boxing.

The games were held every four years on the second full moon after the summer solstice. As more events were added, and as more athletes participated who came from all over the Greek world, more buildings and facilities were added. The athletes now had proper tracks to run on, gymnasiums where they could make use of steam baths, and various other buildings that were used for training. Just like today, athletes were accompanied by coaches, trainers, and doctors. Just like today they were expected to “do nothing to disgrace the Games.” The one big thing these earlier Olympiads did not have was an Olympic Village. Their accommodations were rudimentary at best. To ensure that both the athletes and spectators could safely come to the games, an Olympic Truce was put into effect that lasted for four months, and it was upheld in all the countries and territories in the Hellenic world.

When the Romans took over the Greek Empire, they also took over the Olympic Games. Their versions of the event lost many of the elements that made the Greek Games so special. In 394 AD pagan festivals were banned and to all intent and purposes the Games were no longer celebrated.

A few Olympic Games type events became popular in England in the 16 and 1700’s, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that men interested in reviving the games who came from England and France began to work towards a common goal to create an international event. The first Olympic Congress gathered in France in 1894 to create the International Olympic Committee, and two years later the first modern Olympic Games was held in Athens, Greece. There were only forty-one athletes from fourteen countries present, but it was a beginning. In time more countries would participate, and in 2012 over fourteen thousand athletes in two hundred and five teams arrived in London for the Thirtieth Olympiad.

Readers who enjoy history and who look forward to watching the Olympic Games will greatly enjoy this unique book. They will not only see how the Games changed and evolved over time, but they will also get to meet some of the great athletes who attended the Games. With period photos and illustrations throughout the book, this is a title that is easy to read and full of fascinating stories.