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unit of a chronological eraera,
period of historic time. In geology, it is the name applied to large divisions of geological process, e.g., Paleozoic era (see geology). In chronology an era is a period reckoned from a fixed point in time, as before or after the birth of Christ—before Christ, B.C.
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 of ancient Greece, a four-year period, each one beginning with the Olympic gamesOlympic games,
premier athletic meeting of ancient Greece, and, in modern times, series of international sports contests. The Olympics of Ancient Greece

Although records cannot verify games earlier than 776 B.C.
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. TimaeusTimaeus
, c.356–c.260 B.C., Greek historian of Tauromenium (now Taormina), Sicily. Son of the tyrant of the city, he was banished by Agathocles either in 317 or 312 B.C. and lived for 50 years in Athens, where he wrote a history of his native land.
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 (c.356–c.260 B.C.) of Sicily was the first to use, as a check on chronology, the list of victors kept in the gymnasium at Olympia. The first Olympiad was reckoned to have begun in 776 B.C.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) In ancient Greece, the four-year period between two consecutive Olympic Games. Time measurement according to the olympiad was introduced by the historian Timaeus circa 264 B.C. The year 776 B.C. is considered to be year one of the olympiad; lists of Olympic winners began to be kept in that year. Time measurement based on the olympiad was used by Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and other historians. Use of the olympiad continued in Greece until 394 A.D., at which time the Olympic Games were abolished.

(2) In the modern Olympic movement, a four-year period, in the first year of which the Olympic Games are held. For example, the first olympiad was from 1896 through 1899, and the games were held in Athens in 1896. The olympiad count continues regardless of whether the games are held.

(3) The world team chess tournament, held by the World Chess Federation. The first men’s Olympiad was held in 1927. Tournaments have been held regularly every two years since 1930. Each team has four members and one or two reserves. The winning team receives the title of world champion and is awarded the Hamilton-Russel Cup, which was instituted in 1927 by the British chess player F. G. Hamilton-Russel. Team members who take first, second, or third place are awarded the gold, silver, or bronze medal, respectively.

Between 1927 and 1940 there were eight Olympiads. The Hungarians won the first two tournaments, and the US team won four times. In 1950 the Olympiads resumed and were organized according to the charter of the World Chess Federation, which was adopted in 1947. The USSR has participated in the Olympiads since 1952 (the 10th Olympiad, Helsinki) and has won the world championship 12 times (1952–74). Since 1952, because of the increase in the number of participants, the Olympiads have consisted of elimination tournaments and finals. Two or three winners of each elimination tournament make up final group A (the main final); the remaining players, in pairs, enter finals B, C, and so forth.

Almost all the world’s outstanding chess players have participated in the Olympiads, starting with J. R. Capablanca. Members of the Soviet team have included V. V. Smyslov and T. V. Petrosian, who both participated in nine Olympiads; P. P. Keres, who participated in seven; and M. M. Botvinnik, E. P. Geller, and M. N. Tal’, who participated in six. Among the major present-day grand masters who appeared in more than one Olympiad are S. Gligorić and B. Ivkov (Yugoslavia), B. Larsen (Denmark), L. Portisch and L. Scabo (Hungary), R. Byrne and S. Reshevsky (USA), M. Najdorf and O. Panno (Argentina), and V. Hort and M. Filip (Czechoslovakia).

Olympiads for women have been held since 1957. A team consists of two members and one reserve. The winning team is awarded a cup named in memory of the first women’s world champion, V. Menchik. Team members who take first, second, or third place are awarded the gold, silver, or bronze medal, respectively. Since 1963 the women’s Olympiad has been held every three years. Between 1957 and 1972 there were five Olympiads for women. All the women’s Olympiads have been won by the Soviet team.

(4) From the 1920’s to the 1940’s, the name “Olympiad” was popularly given in the USSR to competitions and festivals of amateur performances and folk art. In 1927 the first music olympiad was held in Leningrad. It was organized and directed by the conductor I. V. Nemtsov. The number of participants in music olympiads reached 100,000. The first ail-Union music olympiad for amateur performances was organized in 1932 in Moscow.

In the 1930’s, olympiads of workers’ choral groups served to unify the working people in Germany, Austria, and other European countries. Prominent progressive musicians helped organize such olympiads and wrote songs and choruses for them. In 1956 the International Choral Olympiad, marking the 20th anniversary of the Popular Front, was held in Paris.

(5) A competition among students in some field of knowledge. In the USSR, the first olympiad, in mathematics, for schoolchildren was held in 1934 in Leningrad. In the 1930’s, school olympiads in mathematics became traditional. Since the 1960’s, city, raion, oblast and republic olympiads of pupils in the fifth through tenth grades have been held in physics, chemistry, biology, and other subjects from the school curriculum. Since 1967, all-Union physics-mathematics and chemistry olympiads for schoolchildren have been organized annually by the ministries of education and of higher and specialized secondary education of the USSR, by the Central Committee of the All-Union Lenin Communist Youth League, by the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, and by the All-Union Knowledge Society. The chairman of the organizing committee is Academician I. K. Kikoin. The winners of the all-Union olympiads participate in an international olympiad, which has been held annually since 1959.

An olympiad is one of the most effective ways of promoting study both in and outside the classroom. It encourages pupils to increase their knowledge and develop their skills and vocational commitment. Olympiads make it possible to recognize those students who would be most successful in institutions of higher education. For this purpose, olympiads for secondary-school children are held by such institutions. Thus, olympiads help strengthen the ties between secondary schools and institutions of higher education. Olympiads in academic subjects, competitions in specialties, reviews of term papers and graduation projects are held in institutions of higher education, specialized secondary schools, and vocational schools.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the four-year period between consecutive celebrations of the Olympic Games; a unit of ancient Greek chronology dating back to 776 bc
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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