Commemorating the return of the 2004 Summer Olympics to its place of origin in Athens, THE REAL OLYMPICS tells the true story of the original games, comparing the Ancient Greek Olympics to the modern games of today. The series examines the ideals, the events themselves, the stories of the athletes and the politics and financial considerations that were as much a part of the Olympics 2000 years ago as they are now. Appealing to sports fans as well as historians, the series juxtaposes contemporary footage with recreations of the early competitions in all their beauty and occasional savagery.
PBS's The Real Olympics successfully compares the ancient and modern games with regards to politics, events and techniques, scandals, and commercialization, while demystifying many common beliefs and glorified myths of the ancient games. Part religious retreat, part bacchanal revelry, part athletic competition, the ancient Olympics were a ritualized celebration of the human form. No physical medals were awarded. There was no prize or honor for second and third place. Winners of event became earthly representations of the gods of Olympia, inheriting immediate fame and fortune. Considered a pagan spectacle, the ancient games were banned by ruling Christians 800 years after their birth. Over a thousand years later, it took a German archeological dig in the ancient grounds and the dream of a Frenchman to reignite the concept that the world could meet peacefully in sport. Today, the modern Olympics have grown to become one of the most prodigious and viewed sporting events in the world. In addition to comparing the past and present, the documentary also explores some of the darker elements of the modern-day Olympics--for example, the Nazis' development of the current modern Olympics pageantry and the ideal that amateurism would emphasize the pureness of sport, when in actuality it was a block by "gentlemen sport club" amateurs to keep out competitive athletes. Overall, the The Real Olympics is a well-put-together documentary rich with academic content set to visual reenactments of the ancient games and video clips of the modern Olympics. --Rob Bracco