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July 17, 1996

An Olympic Medical Legacy

JAMA. 1996;276(3):248-249. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540030082038

The Olympic Games date back at least 2700 years, when a young Greek cook named Coroebus planted his feet at the starting blocks of stone and dashed 200 m for the olive wreath. In the first 52 years, that single race was the only Olympic event.1 In the years to follow, the distance was lengthened, and other athletic events were added, along with cultural contests featuring music, art, and poetry. The Olympic Games became a celebration of the total human potential, for the Greeks placed great emphasis on the development of body, mind, and spirit. In AD 393, the Roman Emperor Theodosius terminated the Olympics after 1000 years, deeming the event a pagan festival. It wasn't until 1500 years later, and thanks to the vision and determination of a French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, that the Olympic flame was rekindled.

As we celebrate the centennial of the modern games