Olympic Games: Fact or Fiction?

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Are the following stories true or false?

The 1904 Olympic games included a side-competition for third world tribesmen


The 1904 Olympic Games included a side-competition for third world tribesmen in addition to the traditional Olympic sports. The strange and controversial event was called “Anthropology Days”. As part of the two-day contest, the third world tribesmen were taken from a “human zoo” and encouraged to try the Olympic sports. These men were paid to participate in traditional Olympic sports such as the long jump, archery and javelin throw and also in specially made contests such as pole climb and mud throwing. The tribesmen received almost no instruction and most of them didn’t perform very well. “Anthropology Days” organizer James Sullivan believed the events were proof that these primitive people weren’t as athletic as everybody thought, but others believed that the events were just a racist sideshow. The Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin called “Anthropology Days” a horrible make-believe and said, “it will lose its appeal when black men, red men and yellow men learn to run, jump and throw, and leave the white men behind them.”
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In the the 1904 St. Louis Olympics women only competed in one official event

Women competitors in the National Round (60 yards - 50 yards) Archery event of the 1908 London Olympics which was won by Sybil 'Queenie' Newall of Great Britain. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Out of the nearly 100 sports at the 1904 Olympics, archery was the only event in which women were allowed to compete. The competition took place on September 19 and 20 and involved six contestants. Five of them were part of Ohio’s Cincinnati Archers Club. 45-year-old Lida Howell, the nation’s undisputed top lady archer, coasted to the gold medal in both the Double Columbia and Double National rounds. Women also stepped into the ring as part of the Olympic boxing games, but their bouts were considered display events and no medals were awarded. Amazingly, the 1904 show in St. Louis was the last time women boxed at the Olympics for 108 years, as the competition was not revived until the 2012 Summer Games in London.


Sumo will make its debut at the Tokyo Games in 2020.


Almost 30 years after the International Sumo Federation was founded to encourage the sport’s development worldwide, Sumo will finally be recognized as an Olympic sport. Sumo, an ancient sport which originated in Japan has become popular worldwide in recent years. 

Amateur sumo clubs are gaining in popularity in the United States and Europe, with competitions regularly being held in major cities across the country. The sport has grown beyond the sphere of Japanese communities and athletes come from a variety of ethnic, cultural, and sporting backgrounds. Many athletes come to the sport from a background in judo, freestyle wrestling, or other grappling sports. 

Life as a professional sumo wrestler in Japan is very strictly controlled. Most sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal sumo training stables, known in Japanese as heya, where all aspects of their daily lives—from meals to their manner of dress—are dictated by strict tradition.

The Athlete’s Dilemma

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In the 1970s, a researcher named Gabe Mirkin reported that more than half of the top runners whom he polled, would accept the following proposal: “If I could give you a pill that would make you an Olympic champion and also kill you in a year, would you take it?”. This surprising result prompted Bob Goldman to ask world-class athletes in combat and power sports a similar question: “If I had a magic drug that was so fantastic that if you took it once you would win every competition you would enter from the Olympic Decathlon to the Mr Universe, for the next five years but it had one minor drawback, it would kill you five years after you took it, would you still take the drug?” He also found that more than half said they would take it. This result was consistent in his findings over a period from 1982 to 1995.

Only amateur athletes competed in the ancient Olympics


The idea that only amateurs should participate in the Olympics is an entirely modern-day concept that developed when the sporting festival was resurrected in 1896. Not only were many ancient Olympians full-time professionals who received stipends from states or private patrons, but the ancient Greeks didn’t even have a word for “amateur.” (To the Greeks, the word “athlete” meant “one who competes for a prize.”) Money prizes were not offered to competitors at Olympia, but they were at other Greek sporting competitions. As is the case today, fame and fortune awaited many ancient Olympic champions when they returned home. States awarded cash prizes to Olympic victors. Athens, for example, showered its champions with enormous sums of money and other rewards such as tax exemptions, front-row theater seats and a lifetime of free meals in its civic building.

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