Religion At 2012 Olympics: From Ancient Greece To London

There’s always talk about the number of condoms handed out at the Olympic Village — I suppose in an effort to forestall the rise of a race of super-humans. Well, there are also a couple hundred chaplains, and one can only assume that they’re not an aphrodisiac. But seriously, folks, when that mass of humanity is assembled, there must be some fascinating conversations about spirituality.

A 600-foot footrace was the only athletic event at the first Olympics, a festival held in 776 B.C. and dedicated to Zeus, the chief Greek god.

For the next millennium, Greeks gathered every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus through sports, sacrifices and hymns. The five-day festival brought the Greek world together in devotion to one deity.

What began in ancient Greece as a festival to honor a single god, Zeus, has now become an almost Olympian task, as organizers of the games navigate dozens of sacred fasts, religious rituals and holy days.

The London Olympics will try to accommodate religious athletes with 193 chaplains, a prayer room in every venue and a multifaith center in the Olympic Village.

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