The Star Online, May 31, 2004
The Olympic Torch’s global journey will begin on June 2, and the Malaysian representatives are set to carry the torch on July 10. ALLAN KOAY takes a brief look at the Olympic Games history and the five local sports heroes who will do the nation proud.?
Last month, the result of the Samsung Torchbearers for Malaysia campaign was announced.?
After two months of voting by the public, the top five sportspersons chosen to represent the country in the history-making Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay were Olympic Council of Malaysia deputy president Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, former national footballer Datuk Soh Chin Aun, former national swimmer Nurul Huda Abdullah, squash player Nicol Ann David and badminton player Wong Choong Hann.?
Each of the five expressed their surprise at being chosen, and felt honoured that the Malaysian public recognised their contributions to local sports and felt privileged to be a part of international sports history come July, when they will be joining 10,000 other torch-bearers from around the world to carry the torch to Athens, Greece.?
What is so special about this edition of the Olympic Games??
The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. Since then, the Games have travelled around the world for more than a century, and are now returning to their country of origin and the city of their revival.?
Historical records show that the ancient Olympic Games were held in Greece as early as 776BC. Pindar, the Greek Lyric poet who lived in the 5th century BC, wrote: “As in the daytime, there is no star in the sky warmer and brighter than the sun, likewise there is no competition greater than the Olympic Games.” ?
The ancient Games had a religious significance. Held on the plains of Olympia, they were dedicated to the Olympian gods and many of the sporting events were based on Greek myths. In fact, the ancient Greeks believed the first true Games were held by the Greek heroes and gods. Today, depictions of these mythical Games can be found at the temple of Zeus in Olympia. Other myths state that the first Olympic Games were started by Hercules.?
The ancient Games were initially a one-day event, but were expanded to three days in 684BC, and then to five days in the 5th century. Competitors came from all over the Greek world, and the ultimate prize was an olive wreath, plus hero status and bragging rights when they returned home. Before the Games, a sacred Olympic Truce, or “ekecheiria”, would be announced, where athletes and spectators would be able to travel to Olympia without being harassed, and no arms or acts of hostility were allowed in the area of Elis (known as Ileia today).?
It was during the ancient days when the core values of the Olympic Movement – noble competition, sport, peace, culture and education – began to evolve into the yardstick for human excellence and achievement.?
But in 393AD, the emperor Theodosius abolished the Games for being too pagan and for placing too much emphasis on athletic and spiritual matters. But in 1896, the Games were brought back to life, and thus, the modern Olympic Games were born.?
This year, the Olympic Torch Relay will be the first truly global relay as, for the first time ever, the torch will be travelling through all five continents represented by the Olympic Rings. The Olympic Flame is usually carried by torch-bearers from Olympia to the host city, and it represents the Olympic Ideals of noble competition, friendship and peaceful co-existence. This year’s Relay will take 78 days and cover more than 78,000km around the world and pass through all 54 prefectures of Greece. Also for the first time, the flame will be brought to Africa and Latin America. It will pass through cities of symbolic importance, such as Brussels, Belgium, heart of the European Union; Lausanne, Switzerland, seat of the International Olympic Committee; and Beijing, China, the next host city of the Games.?
In Greece, the host country, the flame will travel for 43 days and will arrive at the Athens Olympic Stadium on Aug 13 to mark the start of the Games. The 2004 Games will be held from Aug 13 to 29.?
The torch relay ritual was performed in ancient Athens during the Panathenaia fest held every four years to honour the goddess Athena. It involved 40 youths from the 10 Athenian tribes running a total distance of 2.5km, carrying the flame from the altar of Prometheus to the altar of Athena on the Acropolis. The torch relay was revived during the Berlin Olympiad in 1936. Since then, a torch relay has been held as a prelude to every Summer Olympic Games.?
The Malaysian sportpersons, along with five lucky Famemas Supporters Group members to be chosen by Samsung as torch-bearers, will take part on the second day of the Greece leg of the Relay on July 10 (the Olympic Flame’s global journey begins June 2). The route will cover about 30km from Lithines to Lerapetra on the island of Crete. The torch-bearers, including those from Singapore, Indonesia, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, South Korea, China, Kenya and Thailand, will arrive at the starting point at 6am, begin warming up at 8am, start the Relay at 8.30am, and complete it by 11am. They will be passing through Pilalimata, Analipsi, Makrygialos, Koutsounas, Ag. Panteleimonas, Galini, Achilia, Ferma and Koutsounari.?
Here is a look at the achievements of our five chosen sports heroes.?