EXPLORATIONS #1917 - 2000 Summer Olympic Games

By Nancy SteinbachThis is Steve Ember.And this is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. The Summer Olympic Games begin this week in the city of Sydney, Australia. Today we tell about the Olympics and some of the American Olympic athletes.

(THEME)The world's most famous sports event is the Olympic Games. Five-million people are expected to attend the Summer Olympic Games this year in Sydney, Australia. They include leaders and officials from many countries. About fifteen-thousand reporters are there. More than three-thousand-million people are expected to watch the games on television.

More than ten-thousand athletes from two-hundred countries will compete in twenty-eight different sports in the Summer Games. They will be trying to win medals - gold for first, silver for second and bronze for third-- in about three-hundred events. New additions to the Summer Olympics this year include synchronized diving, women's weight lifting, trampoline, women's pole vault and the triathlon.

((BRIDGE:OLYMPIC MUSIC)The name of the modern Olympic Games comes from games held in ancient times. The games are said to have started in the ancient Greek city of Olympia, about two-thousand-seven-hundred years ago.

The first thirteen Olympic Games were foot races during festivals held to honor the Greek god, Zeus. Winners were honored with a crown of olive leaves placed around their heads. Greece continued to hold the Games every four years for the next one-thousand years. Then the Games stopped. The ancient Romans banned the Olympic Games when they ruled Greece. They destroyed Olympic temples and sports fields.The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece in Eighteen-Ninety-Six. French diplomat Baron Pierre de Coubertin proposed a world celebration of sports like the ancient games of Greece. He believed the international event would provide a way for athletes of all nations to become friends.

The official symbol of the Olympics shows five rings. Baron de Coubertin designed the symbol in Nineteen-Thirteen. The five rings represent the linking through sports of five parts of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas.

The colors of the rings are blue, yellow, black, green and red. The flag of every nation competing in the games has at least one of these colors. Under the rings is the Olympics saying in Latin: "citius, altius, fortius". The words mean in English "swifter, higher, stronger".The Olympic flame links the old and new games. In ancient Olympia, a fire burned in honor of the god Zeus during the sports competition. Now, runners carry a flame from Olympia to every new Olympics.

This year's fire was lit in Olympia, Greece on May tenth. Each person ran with it for one kilometer and then passed it to another runner. Before the flame reached Sydney, it was carried by more than thirteen-thousand people.

The flame was flown from Athens, Greece, to the island of Guam in the South Pacific. It then was carried by individuals who traveled by foot, boat or vehicle through the Pacific islands to Australia. This Olympic flame has traveled farther than any other.This Friday, September fifteenth, a runner will use the flame to open the twenty-seventh Summer Olympic Games. The Olympic flame will burn during the Games. It will be put out during closing ceremonies.

((MUSIC BRIDGE:OLYMPIC MUSIC))Some of the athletes taking part in the Summer Olympics have trained for these events since they were children. One is American swimming champion Lenny Krayzelburg.

Lenny Krayzelburg was born in the former Soviet Republic, Ukraine. He started swimming when he was five years old. A coach told Lenny's father that he could be a great athlete. The coach said Lenny was born to swim the backstroke.

The Krayzelburg family left Ukraine and arrived in the United States when Lenny was thirteen. They wanted to escape from anti Jewish feeling and prevent their son from being forced to serve in the Soviet army. They settled in Los Angeles, California. Lenny continued to swim in competitions.

In Nineteen-Ninety-Four, Lenny Krayzelburg's swimming skill won him financial support to attend the University of Southern California. In Nineteen-Ninety-Eight, he became the first swimmer in twelve years to win all the backstroke races at the World Swimming Championships. Last August, he broke the American record in the two-hundred meter backstroke for the fifth time. Later in the month, he broke the world records for the two-hundred meter and one-hundred meter backstroke.

Swimming experts say Lenny Krayzelburg should win both the one-hundred and two-hundred meter backstroke races at the Summer Olympics this year. Lenny Krayzelburg says he will be unhappy if he does not win three gold medals in Sydney.Three members of the same American family will compete in Sydney. Hazel Clark, Jearl (JERR-ill) Miller-Clark and Joetta (JO-etta) Clark-Diggs are all members of the track and field team. Hazel and Joetta are sisters. Jearl is married to their brother, J. J. Clark. He is the coach for all three women.

It is unusual for members of the same family to compete in the Olympics. But it has been done. Jackie Joyner-Kersee and her brother's wife Florence Griffith Joyner both competed in past Olympics. But they did not compete in the same event.

The Clarks do. They all compete in the eight-hundred meter women's foot race.

Hazel Clark is the youngest in the Clark family of runners. She was the fastest in the Olympic trials. Her brother's wife, Jearl Miles-Clark, was second. Jearl has already won medals in two earlier Olympic Games. Joetta Clark-Diggs finished third. She is the oldest, at thirty-seven.

That was the first time three family members finished first, second and third in the same United States Olympic trials race. And this will be the first time three Americans competing in one Olympic race are from one family. Many people will be watching the eight-hundred meter race to see if the three members of the Clark family can win all three medals.Another international sports event will take place in Sydney following the Summer Olympics. The Paralympic Games will be held from October eighteenth to the twenty-ninth. All the athletes who compete in the Paralympics have a physical disability. About four-thousand disabled athletes will compete this year.

One American athlete who will compete in the Summer Olympics is already a Paralympics champion. Her name is Marla Runyan. She won the one-hundred, two-hundred and four-hundred meter races and the long jump at the Nineteen-Ninety-Two Paralympics. She also won the Pentathlon competition in Nineteen-Ninety-Six. This year, she will become the first legally blind athlete in the Summer Olympic Games.

Marla Runyan suffers from an incurable eye problem called Stargardt's Disease. It destroys part of the retina of the eye, and blocks the center of vision. Marla Runyan has been legally blind since she was nine years old. She has been taking part in track events since she was in high school.

Marla Runyan will compete in the women's fifteen-hundred meter foot race at the Sydney Games. She says her goal was not to be the first legally blind Olympian. She just wanted to take part in the Olympics. But her story has helped other disabled people find the strength to try to reach their goals. And Marla Runyan says that makes her feel very good.

((BRIDGE:OLYMPIC MUSIC))The Two-Thousand Summer Olympic Games will end October first, after sixteen days of competition. The next Summer Games will be held four years from now, in Athens, Greece.

The Summer Olympic and the Winter Olympic Games used to be held in the same year, every four years. Now, however, they are separated. The next Winter Games are less than two years away. The western American city of Salt Lake City, Utah is busy preparing for the Winter Olympics of Two-Thousand-Two.

This Special English program was written by Nancy Steinbach. It was produced by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.

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