Legend holds that the Olympics were founded by Heracles (Hercules to the Romans), son of the god Zeus, but classical historians believe they were actually a religious festival celebrating the physical ideal. The book explores how the Games grew from simple running contests into a range of events designed to test the strength and fighting skills of young men from the city states of ancient Greece. Every four years a truce was called so that athletes would gather at Olympia to compete in javelin, discus, wrestling, running and chariot racing, with the winners receiving an olive branch in recognition of their achievement. The book discusses how this ancient celebration of sport encouraged physical fitness, spread culture and learning and helped to promote peace throughout the region, and how these ideals live on in the Modern Olympic Movement.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.