The Roar
The Roar


Bring back the Ancient Greek Games cycle

The Closing Ceremony of Rio 2016 (EPA/LI XIN CHINA OUT)
Roar Guru
17th August, 2016

The Olympic games is a peculiar phenomenon. For two weeks every four years a huge array of sporting disciplines flit across and hold the public imagination, only to disappear entirely from view again.

The sports fan is treated to a deluxe variety show, a representation of the possibilities of sporting endeavour involving the human athlete. They are temporarily excited by the kinetic explosiveness of weightlifting, the slippery elegance of diving, the miniature skill of table tennis, all on show with the very best in the world at the top of their game.

It is also a panorama of the full range of human emotions, from transcendent ecstasy to doom-laden despair. The level of concentration that is as draining to watch as it is exhilarating. Where else have the highs and lows, the hopes and dreams of people been played out in such variety and extent?

If such a multi-faceted thrill succeeds so well, why is it only repeated every four years? Why do most of these sports separate into their own spheres, and hold championships of their own which are effectively invisible from the world?

Many of these sports’ spectators might only wish to watch once a year for an afternoon, but would prefer to see them more often than every four years. In addition, all the benefits of following the sport and knowing the participants are less apparent with only four-yearly appearances.

It should be clear that pooling 35 sports into one tournament benefits them all, as with a variety show. Most people who would not tune in to watch one of the sports, will watch several if they are presented together.

So why don’t they pool together more often, once a year or every two years, to give themselves a collective stage?

The four games in the Ancient Greek Panhellenic cycle were: the Olympic games, the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games and the Isthmian games.


The Pythian games were held two years before and two years after the Olympic games.

The Nemean and Isthmian games were both held the year before and after the Olympic games.

So there might be two options if we were to approach such a concept:

Option 1: Just revive the Pythian games. Two years away from each Olympics, essentially the same programme would be scheduled but for lesser medals.

Option 2. Revive the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian games, but assign the later two to the year before and after the Olympic games respectively (rather than both in the year before and after the Olympics as was the ancient case). This means basically a similar tournament every year.

It would be made clear that these were lesser tournaments than the Olympics, and weren’t supposed to steal its thunder, which would hardly be likely given that the Olympics have been in existence for well over a century in the modern era.

Essentially most of the minor sports draw small but committed followings to their own championships, which would be swelled significantly with the massive exposure of taking part in a major international tournament.


The new games could be held in cities that had previously been Olympic hosts, so the infrastructure was already in place, as well as providing extra economic boost to offset the cost of constructing stadia for the Olympics before. It might, however, be better to hold them in cities like London where the Paralympics sold every ticket, rather than Rio where even the 100m final is partially empty.

Perhaps even more frequent winter Olympic tournaments could mirror the new summer games for the same reasons.

Many people enjoy the Olympics when it appears, and would be happy to watch the banquet of human excellence more often, at least for two weeks every year or two years. There may well be a great market and benefit for the sports concerned allowing them to do so.