Held every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus, the ancient Olympics games had a pretty good run. For twelve centuries, athletes ran, jumped, threw javelins and raced chariots. The games went a bit haywire after the Romans conquered Greece. Nero, who is most famous for fiddling while Rome burned, cheated in the 67 AD games. In spite of falling off his chariot mid-race, he declared himself winner. It was downhill from there and the games met their demise at the end of the 4th century AD.
Happily for athletes and sports fans, the games were revived in 1896 with the first modern Olympics. Although there were forty-three different events at the 1896 games, there were no chariot races. The nine-day competition was packed with a multitude of track and field, cycling, fencing, shooting, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling and gymnastics events. Fourteen nations sent athletes to Athens for the games. More than 200 men competed but not a single woman. That omission was rectified at the second modern Olympiad in Paris in 1900.
A lot has changed since the first few Olympics. Here are a few fun facts about the Rio Games:
Rio 2016 is an Olympic first! Rio de Janeiro beat Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to become the first South American city to host the games.
Part cat, part monkey and bird, Rio’s Olympic mascot has musical roots. He is named for Vinicius de Moraesis, one of the authors of the bossa nova jazz classic “The Girl From Ipanema.” Unlike some of the more bizarre and even downright frightening mascots of the past, Vinicius is cute in a colorful, cartoonish sort of way.
More than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries are expected to participate in Rio. Five hundred and fifty-four of those athletes make up the US Team.
For the first time men and women without a country will compete at the Olympics. A team of ten refugees will compete under the Olympic flag. The team includes runners from South Sudan, swimmers from Syria, judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a marathon runner from Ethiopia.
Gymnastics, track and field, swimming, tennis, wrestling, boxing and weightlifting are just the start. The list of events may seem endless but there are actually 306. From the sands of Copacabana beach to the legendary Maracanã Stadium, the games will be held at thirty-two different venues.
By the way, rugby returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1924 and the US is the defending champion. Golf has waited even longer. It’s returning after more than a century. The last time golf was played at the Olympics was in 1904 in Saint Louis.
Of course, our hopes are high for US victories. Although geopolitics and shifting national boundaries have had an impact, the US is at the top of the charts with an all-time count of 2,681 medals.
A whole lot of cookin’ wi1l be goin’ on in Rio. Tens of thousands of meals will be prepared in the Olympic village every day. Athletes will discover Brazilian staples like black beans and rice and some of the best grillin’ they’ll ever eat!
Enjoy the games! Bon appétit!
8 (4-6 ounce) filets mignons or your favorite cut of steak
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salsa Verde (recipe follows)
Brush the filets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (In hot weather, reduce the sitting time.) Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-hot or a gas grill to high.
Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, turn and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes more for medium-rare. Reduce the cooking time for rare and increase for medium. Transfer the filets to a platter or individual plates, top each with a generous spoonful of Salsa Verde and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with more Salsa Verde.
2-3 tablespoons or to taste sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons or to taste minced jalapeno or serrano chili
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add garlic and jalapeno, season with the cumin, salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the lime zest, scallions and herbs and pulse to chop and combine. Let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving
Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
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What are your favorite summer Olympic events? Feel free to share.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to <strong><a href=”https://susannye.wordpress.com/a-thing-or-two-more-to-read/” target=”_blank”>read, see & cook</a></strong>. © Susan W. Nye, 2016