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Olympic games, series of international amateur sports contests that originated in ancient Greece. The Greek games were held once every four years, beginning (according to tradition) in 776 B.C. The games reached their height in the 5th and 4th cent. B.C., later fell into disfavor because of professionalism, and were discontinued at the end of the 4th cent. A.D. The first Olympics were confined to running, but many events were added. The modern revival of the games began in Athens in 1896. They have since been staged at four-year intervals (except during the world wars) in cities around the world. The number of entrants, of competing nations, and of sports and athletic events has steadily increased. The modern games were originally only open to amateur male athletes. Women first competed in 1912, a separate series of winter games was begun in 1924, and professional athletes began competing in some sports in 1988. After 1992 the winter games were rescheduled so that they would alternate, at two-year intervals, with the summer games. The International Olympic Committee is the governing body of the games.
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