Bookmaker Fitzdares celebrates the history of the Olympic Games and looks at how Britain has fared at recent Games
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, bookmaker Fitzdares delves into the history of the Games, and the mythology that surround them.
Take a look at Fitzdares rundown of the Grand National — a race that can feel like a lottery to the uninitiated.
SPORTING WAGERS: THE OLYMPIC GAMES
After an epic struggle against God and the elements, Noah sent some animals to scour the land, looking for a signal of hope. A dove eventually returned with an olive branch, thus letting Noah know that the floods had subsided. Symbolic, then, that the first prize ever handed out at the Olympic Games was an olive branch – an emblem of reconciliation and peace.
The quadrennial festival of sport juxtaposes fierce gladiatorial battle with international harmony. Yet, after victories have been declared and flags planted in the soil, the athletes shake hands and hand over olive branches.
For all the mythology surrounding the olive branch, Coroebus, a humble cook and winner of the first event, a 192-metre sprint, would probably have preferred a gold medal. Yet it wasn’t until the St Louis games of 1904 that gold, silver and bronze medals were first awarded.
Although the Christian Bible is an obvious reference point for the use of the olive branch, it is the gods of Ancient Greece whose influences are most associated with the Games. Heracles,
son of Zeus, is said to have founded the Olympic Games around 776BC. From that point forward, it was held every four years, honouring Zeus, taking its name from its location at Olympia, a sacred site in southern Greece.
The 1896 Games (pictured) were truly global as Athens played host to the first modern Olympics, with 280 participants from 13 nations, competing across 43 events. In 2004, the Games returned to Athens. This time, 11,000 athletes competed from 201 nations. This year, the Games head to Tokyo after a year’s delay. Whilst it will look a little different, with no international fans flooding the kokuritsu, it promises more excitement and drama.
Britain has gone from strength to strength in recent Olympics, reaching third on the medals table at London 2012 and second in 2016. No doubt, in years to come, that feat will be regaled in the same mythological terms as the achievements of the Greek Gods. However, 2021 is looking far more modest.
The Kennys, Jason and Laura, return to the velodrome, having already won 10 gold medals between them – more than 100-odd countries have achieved in history. Taekwondo Olympian Jade Jones and freestyle dressage world record holder Charlotte Dujardin join Laura Kenny in trying to become the first British women to win gold at three consecutive Olympics. Katarina Johnson-Thompson hopes to back up a 2019 world championship victory by finally winning the Heptathlon, while Dina Asher-Smith, the fastest woman in British history, is the best chance of a track medal. Adam Peaty will bid to make another record-breaking splash in the 200m butterfly, Mo Farah returns to the track and pommel horse ‘jockey’ Max Whitlock rounds up the British superstars. He ended a century-long wait for a British gymnastics medal in 2012 and backed that up with two golds in 2016. If Britain is to have another extraordinary Games, there will need to be more stories like Whitlock’s.
However, as a betting spectacle there are limitations, which have become more pronounced with the introduction of data and technology. While the unpredictability of horses seeds doubt, Olympic athletes are not subject to such variance. They are highly specialised talents, whose career achievements are well documented. To a certain extent, it is often known who will come out on top should all athletes perform to their peak. The beauty of the Olympics isn’t necessarily in the competition but in the wonder of what a human can achieve. How fast can we run? How high can we jump? How big can we dream?
Not to say you can’t have a bet or make a bold prediction. After all, one Fitzdares’ member placed a four-figure sum on a young, American athlete in the 1500 metres at a double-figure price. Matt Centrowitz crossing the winning line was, in a way, another small but symbolic moment in Olympic history. An athlete, literally, defying the odds. Let’s hope for more of that this summer.
By Fitzdares, Racing Bookmaker of the Year (fitzdares.com)