The Olympiad kick off marks the return of the Games to their ancient birthplace. In Ancient Greece the lands best athletes would test their skills in events like wrestling, and running. However, one constant of the Olympics is the significance of sporting superstars. Philosopher Dr Angie Hobbs from the University of Warwick contends that some top athletes fulfil a vital social function, as they can provide happiness, hope, inspiration, release from care and a sense of national identity.
Today, the Games are transformed into the worlds premier sporting event, but the ancient world also had huge sporting stars, just as we do now. In the next few weeks at least a few of the Olympic victors will be treated as heroes, particularly by their own nations. Likewise, their Ancient Greek Olympic forbears, such as the great wrestler Milo or the boxer Theogenes (unbeaten for 22 years), were lauded by their cities and the emerging Greek nation over 2,500 years ago.
Sports heroes act as a replacement for war heroes in times of peace. A communitys longing for heroes to cheer, motivate and unite them still continues in peacetime, and sport provides the chance for peacetime heroes to emerge.
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