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  • In 2012 Time Will Tell Theatre  were commissioned to produce a play  

  • celebrating the Olympics which were  coming to London for the third time.  

  • Our light-hearted look at the history of the  Olympic Games from ancient times to the modern day  

  • looked at the origins of the Olympics in Greece  and the contribution of the Olympic ideal  

  • of events at the London games of 1908 and 1948.  These extracts from the original called 'Gold'  

  • take a light-hearted look at the origins of the  Games and two noteable moments from its history.

  • Welcome to the Oracle of Delphi, Ancient Greecesome 3000 years ago. It is the year 776 and King  

  • Iphitos of the city of Elis has come here to  the most famous of all the ancient Greek oracles  

  • to ask the high priestess  to beg a favour of the gods.

  • Oh great and all-knowing oracle, I — King Iphitos  of Elishave come to beg a favour of the gods.

  • King Iphitos the gods hear you. How may they help?

  • I have traveled across Greece. I have  sacrificed many an oxen in the temple and now  

  • I ask that Zeus, the most powerful  of all gods, will hear my plea.

  • How may Zeus aid his loyal servant?

  • Well... it's like this...

  • Greece is in chaos. Over 750 separate  states are fighting each other.  

  • Trade, ruined. Our young men are at each other's  throats. People are frightened of the soldiers,  

  • the crops are rotting in the  fields and now to top it all...  

  • a plague! I was wondering if Zeus might  have any bright ideas to sort of... stop it?

  • King Iphitos, I will go to the Temple of  Zeus and ask your question. Wait here.  

  • I won't be long. Don't touch anything.

  • The great god Zeus has heard your  plea and asks this of King Iphitos:  

  • Have you ever heard of holding  a national sporting event?

  • What?! Err. No, not really. Would that help?

  • Great Zeus commands that every  four years at the second full  

  • moon after the summer solstice by  the sacred sanctuary of Olympia  

  • and his temple, your people should hold an  athletics competition open to all Greeks.

  • Right. Great! Thank you.

  • Oh don't go, there's more. One month either  side of the games there will be a divine truce.  

  • All wars will stop. The whole  of Greece will be at peace.

  • *mutters* Go tell that to the Spartans.

  • You will be a judge at the Games which will  consist of... a running race. To qualify a  

  • runner must prove that he is a free-born Greek  and that he hasn't committed murder or sacrilege.

  • Right. Anything else?

  • Plenty! There will be prayers  and sacrifices to Great Zeus.

  • Sacrifices. Right. Anything else?

  • Great Zeus the Almighty says...  that is all for now, any questions?

  • Well... I don't want to be a fly in the olive  oil but... the Temple of Olympia is at least  

  • forty miles from my city and about 200 miles from  Athens with no facilities as such. In the summer  

  • the rivers dry up and the flies take overAre you sure anyone will want to go there?

  • Zeus the All Powerful says...  if you build it, they will come.

  • Great, well, suppose I'd better crack  on then! Thank Zeus for his help!

  • And so it was that the Olympic Games were born  

  • in a sleepy back-water of Ancient Greece some  3000 years ago. Over the next 11 centuries,  

  • the Olympic Games would become the most  famous sporting event in the ancient  

  • world. Every four years, 40,000 Greek sports fans  would make the arduous pilgrimage to Mount Olympus  

  • to watch athletes from all over Greece compete. In  time, the games grew into a five day event where  

  • spectators could witness sports such as runningjumping, wrestling, boxing, javelin, discus,  

  • the four horse chariot race and the infamous  pancration. A successful athlete at the Olympic  

  • Games could find themselves catapulted into the  A list of Ancient Greek sporting celebrities.

  • Ancient Greek sports fans, welcome to the  Hippodrome and the mayhem and carnage that is  

  • the four horse chariot race. The ultimate  demonstration of skill and danger,  

  • the sport of kings. All of the  risks, none of the health and safety.

  • The charioteers are pros hired in, the  chariots brightly coloured and the horses  

  • thoroughbred. It costs a fortune. 40 chariots  and their charioteers enter the hippodrome,  

  • a field with two stone pillars at either end  to signal the turning points. A special device,  

  • the Aphesis, acts as a starting gate. The  charioteers hold the reins in their right hand  

  • and a whip in their left. A trumpet soundsThe Aphesis rises. And the charioteers  

  • thunder down the Hippodrome. The crowd go wild  with excitement, they watch in amazement. Some  

  • of them choose to stand close to the stone pillars  where the crashes are most likely to happen. The  

  • charioteers have to survive 12 laps, that's  24 turns! The course is around six miles long  

  • and it takes about quarter of an hour to completeBut that quarter of an hour demands all the  

  • charioteers' concentration if they are just to  survive. In the noise, the chaos, and the dust,  

  • chariots are thrown into the air, horses go mad  and charioteers are flung to the ground to be  

  • dragged mangled and trampled. Attendants rush on  to clear the crashed and the crushed out of the  

  • way. The charioteers have to find a path through  all the chaos. A trumpet call announces the last  

  • turn. Sometimes only one or two chariots are left  as they race around the last turn into the home  

  • straight. A moment's lack of concentration  and a chariot crashes out. By a miracle  

  • it stops short of the screaming crowds. As the  winning chariot crosses the line, the crowd go  

  • mad! [cheering] Especially those lucky enough to  have money on the winner. The winning charioteer  

  • will have a statue erected in their honourBut the real winner is the owner of the horses!  

  • They now have the most valuable breeding stock in  Ancient Greece, so they will throw a lavish party  

  • that evening and at the awards ceremony it is  they who will pick up the victor's laurel wreath.

  • So, uh, where is the owner  of this fine team of horses?

  • At the London Olympics of 1908, a true  sporting spectacle occurred. The Marathon.  

  • A long distance endurance race of just over 26  miles. It had been introduced in 1896 to the  

  • games. It had captured the public imagination like  no other event. 55 competitors from 16 nations  

  • in regulation shorts and jerseys. At 2:33pm  precisely Queen Mary starts the race. [bang!]

  • And the competitors pass the statue of Queen  Victoria, Tom Longboat in the lead. On past  

  • Eton School and Britain are in the lead. Five  miles in Britain are first, second and third with  

  • the little Italian in fourth place. News of the  leaders is telephoned through to the stadium every  

  • five minutes. The day is hot and humid. The road  is hard as flint. In Uxbridge at the nine mile  

  • mark, Britain are first and second, Hefron thirdAnd just behind him, the Italian Pietri, Tom  

  • Longboat is up near the front. At Pinner Gasworksfifteen miles in, some competitors are collapsing  

  • from exhaustion. Hefron has the lead. Ten minutes  behind him, Pietri and Longboat run neck and neck.  

  • At the twenty mile mark, the Indian Wonder  sees off the Italian baker for second place  

  • and closes with Hefron on a long  stretch of road. The sun beats down.

  • Then, disaster! Tom Longboat  throws up his arms and collapses.  

  • The Italian Pietri staggers on into second placeThe American, Johnny Hayes, moves into third.

  • At the 24 miles mark, Charles  Hefron has a commanding lead  

  • of one mile! He pauses for a glass of champagne  offered by a well-wisher and continues on his way.  

  • Wormwood Scrubs comes into  view. Only one mile to go.

  • Then, disaster! The champagne gives  Hefron cramp. His stride slows until  

  • he is barely moving. Dorando Pietri staggers  on, his eyes glazed but the gap is closing.

  • Within sight of the domes and  turrets of White City Stadium,  

  • Hefron slows to a walk. Dorando Pietri  closes in, his limping gait energised.  

  • In the stadium, 100,000 spectators  wait. Nobody knows who is winning.

  • And then, at the gate, a lone figure  staggers into view in the stadium.  

  • He pauses and the crowd erupt into cheers!

  • Cheers change to groans as Pietri collapsesHe crawls to his feet again and totters on.

  • Race officials circle round. 100 yards to  go. The last bend before the finshing tape!  

  • He stumbles and falls again. This timerace officials catch and support him.  

  • Now he is yards from the tape. In his delirium, he  is unaware that the American Hayes has entered the  

  • stadium and closing fast. Willing himself on, he  totters forward, breaks the tape and collapses.

  • The Italian flag is hoisted over the stadiumThe crowd are making so much noise that when  

  • Johnny Hayes crosses the finishing line people  barely notice. Charles Hefron comes in third.

  • Almost immediately, American officials complain  about the official interference. The Italian  

  • officials complain their man was assisted against  his wishes. But it is no good. Dorando Pietri is  

  • disqualified later that evening, but it is  his heroic effort the crowd remember. He has  

  • won over not only the public but also the royal  family. At the awards ceremony, Queen Alexandra  

  • presents him with a silver cup and postcards  of him holding it are sold by the thousands.

  • [music]

In 2012 Time Will Tell Theatre  were commissioned to produce a play  

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History on Stage | Gold: A Brief History of the Olympics

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/29
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