Exhibition captures spirit of the Olympics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 September, 2008, 12:00am

More than 100 pieces including the world-famous Discus Thrower trace the development of the event from its ancient origins in Olympia to today

The Ancient Olympic Games exhibition, now on at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, is the third display celebrating the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Hong Kong's co-hosting of the equestrian events, following the Story of the Horse and the Heavenly Horse exhibitions.

Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the British Museum, The Ancient Olympic Games presents more than 100 items chosen from the British Museum that give insight into the sporting spirit embodied in the ancient games and the origin and development of modern-day Olympics.

There are sculptures, pottery, gold and bronze items, coins, medals and even the world-renowned marble sculpture Discus Thrower. All of these exhibits tell stories about the sporting venue of ancient Olympia, the different events held at the ancient games as well as the ceremonies honouring the winners.

The exhibition also traces the development of the modern Olympic Games and reviews the history of the participation of China and Hong Kong.

Belinda Wong Sau-lan, the chief curator of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, said: 'With more than 110 valuable exhibits from the British Museum on display at this exhibition, visitors can enjoy travelling back through time to experience the religious and athletic spirit of ancient Greece and to explore the history of the modern Olympics.'

First held in 776BC, the ancient Olympic Games took place at Olympia in Greece every four years, and originally formed part of a religious festival to honour the god Zeus. The ancient Olympic Games attracted athletes from all over ancient Greece to Olympia, where they competed before an audience of thousands. They were protected during the time they travelled to and from Olympia, and states participating in the Olympics were not permitted to take up arms, pursue legal disputes or carry out death sentences during the Games.

The ancient Olympic Games were celebrated until the late 4th century AD. It took nearly 15 centuries and the strong advocating of French educator, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, for the Olympic Games to be revived.

The first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896 in Athens. Today, the modern Olympics strive to promote the Olympic spirit, a combination of mutual understanding, friendship, unity as well as fair play.

'The star piece of this exhibition is the celebrated statue of the Discus Thrower, which featured on the official Olympics poster in 1948 when the Olympics were held in London,' said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. The world famous Roman marble statue of a discus thrower (Discobolus) shows a young, naked athlete captured at the moment when he was about to release the discus.

The Ancient Olympic Games runs until November24 at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum