FALSE START #12 by David E. Ortman

[November 2001 National Masters News Reprinted by Permission]


On your mark . . .get set. . .run for cover. Our country is in another undeclared war. In September, major league sporting events in the U.S. were canceled for a week. It is likely that any major track meets (open or masters) held in the United States would also have been suspended.

Not so in the good old days.

Of course, it is no secret that many of the ancient Olympic events (most of much survive to this day) are based on skills of war: boxing, equestrian events, chariot racing, pentathlon (discus, javelin, long jump, running and wrestling).

But in the fifth century B.C., in ancient Greece, the Olympics had reached such importance that the city-state of Elis instituted the “Olympic Truce”. According to the following website , the Olympic Truce protected participants from involvement in local conflicts and violations were punishable by a fine. For example, in 420 B.C. the Spartans were caught engaging in military maneuvers during the Truce and were fined. The Spartans protested, to no avail, that they had ended their maneuvers before the Truce had been officially announced. No excuses. They were kicked out of that years Olympics.

In 364 B.C. Elis actually attacked a nearby town that was hosting the Olympics during the festival. According to the historian Xenophon’s first-hand account of the day-long battle:

“The horse race had been completed, as well as the events of the pentathlon which were held in the dromos. The finalists of the pentathlon who had qualified for the wrestling event were competing in the space between the dromos and the altar... The attacking Eleans pursued the allied enemy... The allied forces fought from the roofs of the porticos... while the Eleans defended themselves from ground level.”

News at eleven, as they say.

But the “ancient” Olympic Games, first recorded in 776 BC, are not the first known athletic competition. For that you have the Tailteann Games, from the great sports center of Ireland, which also claims to have originated the hammer throw.

“As early as 1829 BC, Ireland was the scene of the Lughnasad (held on the Feast of Lughnasa - Autumn) or Tailteann Games involving various forms of track-and-field activity - and Hammer throwing was an important part of those Games. Legends trace its origin to the Celtic hero Cú Chulainn who gripped a chariot wheel by its axle, whirled it around his head, and threw it farther than did any other individual. Wheel hurling was later replaced by throwing a boulder attached to the end of a wooden handle. Forms of hammer throwing were practiced among the ancient Teutonic tribes at religious festivals honouring the god Thor, and sledgehammer throwing was practiced in 15th- and 16th-century Ireland, Scotland and England.”

There is no record of any Tailteann Truce, however.

What we really need is for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to beef up their Track and Field program. Everybody knows that the Army, Navy and Air Force have football teams. How many people know they also have Track & Field?

Check it out: http://www-p.afsv.af.mil/AFSports/Sports/TrackandField.htm

http://www.navysports.com/sports/mtrack/ or


Next time a Masters Track and Field meet is scheduled for your area call up your local military base and/or reserve outfit and challenge them to send out everyone over 30 for a little competition. And remember. Throwing javelins with your competition is a big improvement over throwing javelins at your competition.

*Alert. New e-mail address for ranking and other purposes:

[POSTSCRIPT: On Nov. 7th, the International Olympic Committee plans to call for a truce in the fighting in Afghanistan during February's Salt Lake City Olympics. IOC President Jacques Rogge said that the IOC would ask all countries around the world locked in armed stuggles, including those involved in the Afghan conflict, to observe a cease-fire for the Games' duration. "We will as usual, call for an Olympic truce," said Rogge. "We believe that sport is an answer to violence."]

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