Edinburgh Napier University

Author: jemmalidgard

The First Modern Olympics

Despite Covid, Tokyo hosts the delayed summer Olympics of 2020 this month representing the ultimate challenge to the world’s top athletes.  Organisers estimate some 11,000 athletes, from 205 countries will compete in 330 events in 28 sports in front of TV audiences numbering billions. Today’s intense interest, however, contrasts markedly with the more haphazard nature of the very first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896.   

 

Reproduction of the cover of the 1896 Olympics Official Report (Olympic Studies Centre)

Reproduction of the cover of the 1896 Olympics Official Report (Olympic Studies Centre) 

 

Then, 300 competitors, all men and mostly local, took part in 43 events in athletics, cycling, swimming, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, gymnastics, shooting and lawn tennis. 

These sports, with the exception of shooting and tennis, would have been broadly familiar to any ancient Greek. However, some of the events, one armed weightlifting for example, appear slightly odd to us today. 

The indifference shown by the established sporting authorities to what they all then regarded as a passing fad meant that the non-Greek competitors tended to be sportsmen of the amateur and gentlemanly kind rather than necessarily the world’s best. 

Take the tennis, for example, a sport pretty unfamiliar in Greece at the time. The singles was won by an Irish undergraduate, named John Boland. Boland was spending the Easter holidays in Athens with a friend and had no intention of competing. However his friend, one of the local organisers, persuaded him to enter the tournament at the last minute. A recreational player, with little experience of competition, Boland ended up winning all his matches. 

He then repeated the feat in the doubles forming a scratch partnership with German player, Fritz Traun. Their success no doubt helped assuage Traun’s disappointment at having previously lost both in the singles and also in the 100 metres sprint.   

Unlike future winners of Olympic tennis, Boland did not enjoy a stellar career in the game. In fact there is no record of him ever winning anything again. He did, however, go on to serve as an MP for 18years. 

Carl Schuhmann was the most successful athlete at the games, winning both the individual vault and contributing to the Germans’ success in both team gymnastic events.  

 Bizarrely, Schuhmann then fought his way to the final of the wrestling where he faced local man, Georgios Tsitas. The contest turned into a two-day affair. Darkness forced an end to proceedings on the first day with Schuhmann winning his 4th medal on resumption the next morning.  

 

Carl Schuhmann and Georgios Tsitas at the 1896 Wrestling final (ac-wuestenrot.de)

Carl Schuhmann and Georgios Tsitas at the 1896 Wrestling final (ac-wuestenrot.de) 

 

To huge national acclaim the marathon, which actually started in Marathon, was won by an Athenian mineral water salesman Spyridon Louis. Hailed as a national hero, his colourful later life included serving jail time for falsifying papers. 

Rather than spending millions on purpose built stadia, as is the norm today, the Greeks used what they had available. The swimming events took place in the sea off Piraeus, 2 out of the 3 open events being won by a Hungarian Alfred Hajos. Entry to a fourth event was peculiarly restricted to members of the Greek Navy.  The Panathenaic Stadium hosted 4 sports, and the formal ceremonial. It was a refurbished facility excavated out of solid marble on the site of a stadium that hosted the ancient games dating back to 144CE.  The track, a narrow horseshoe shape, caused some runners problems when cornering. It’s still possible to channel one’s inner Olympian today and run round that same track provided you pay the stadium tour entrance fee of 5 euros. 

 

The Panathenaic Stadium Athens (Greeka.com)

The Panathenaic Stadium Athens (Greeka.com) 

 

Oddly no Gold medals where awarded. Gold, silver and bronze medals didn’t appear until St Louis in 1904. The first winners each received a silver medal and a laurel branch, runners up a copper medal. There was nothing for coming 3rd.  

Retrospectively, however, the IOC upgraded gold, silver and bronze to the top 3 in all the Athens events. 

From this fairly modest start and despite the initial lack of international enthusiasm the Games developed into the multi-million dollar extravaganza we are now enjoying. 

 

By John Baillie

Lions’ Gate comes to Craiglockhart and Sighthill Campuses!

Many of you will have visited the Lions’ Gate garden at Merchiston campus  (you get a good view of it from the Library’s Relaxation Space!). Well the good news is that Callum Egan, the garden co-ordinator (working with ENSA, the Business School and the Development Office), has secured funding from the Scottish Government’s Community Climate Asset Fund to develop areas at Craiglockhart and Sighthill campuses. 

Raised beds, a water harvesting kit, top soil and compost have already been purchased, along with plants with culinary and medicinal benefits.  The fund has also been used to buy apple and plum trees.  The team working on this would like to create a micro-forest at Sighthill, and at Craiglockhart there’ll be a small orchard and a thinking walk around the grounds.   

Interested? Read more about it in the Lions’ Gate blog 

https://blogs.napier.ac.uk/thelionsgate/university-community-an-orchard-and-a-micro-forest/ 

The good news is that the Craiglockhart orchard has now been created.  I was lucky enough to be part of a group of 15 helping out with the planting of 2 plum and 10 apple trees. Take a look next time you’re on campus. It’s directly opposite the chapel entrance.  Before and after photos below. 

 

Orchard, Chapel Lion's Gate Garden

Orchard, Chapel Lion’s Gate Garden

Plants Lions' Gate Garden

Plants Lions’ Gate Garden

 

On a library-related note!  Check out the Garden Collection of books held at Merchiston Library.  Merchiston campus too far away?  Request items via LibrarySearch. 

 

By Cathryn Buckham

Lions’ Gate Garden: Digital Growth

The Lions’ Gate Garden is a permaculture habitat adjacent to the library at Merchiston campus. The gardens, allotment, pond, and outdoor laboratory provide a space to relax and unwind.

Three years ago, Research Fellow and Interaction Design Lecturer Callum Egan sparked the idea of using digital technology and environmentalism to create “techno gardens to make real spaces for people”.

The digital interactions aim to inspire people on educating and taking action for climate change and ecosystems.

 

Some of these interactions include:

  • Augmented realities
  • QR codes
  • Building food forests
  • Wifi and sensor icons

The pandemic has even taught us all to be more resourceful and individuals have shown a growing hobby for urban gardening! As the seasons change at Lions’ Gate, we can be more ‘fruitful’ by generating natural resources, from strawberries to Christmas trees. This creates social spaces and could even make homemade jams and chutneys!

 

Christmas Trees

Photo by Dave Michuda on Unsplash

 

But how can we incorporate more ‘greenness’ into university teaching spaces and libraries?

 

https://www.volunteeredinburgh.org.uk/volunteer/find-opportunities/?search=

 

You can find more information about the Lions’ Gate Garden project in the link below:

https://blogs.napier.ac.uk/thelionsgate/

Sustainability in Academic Libraries

How can universities become a spur for sustainable development in the next generation?  One way would be by engaging more with their local communities.

Here at Edinburgh Napier, we encourage you to become involved in groups, societies or activities that help make campuses greener places for working and studying.

We are even committed to minimising our carbon footprint beyond the campuses. 80% of our waste is recycled, while the remaining 20% is used for fuel production. Further information can be found in the links below:

https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/environmental-sustainability

https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/environmental-sustainability/get-involved

 

 

Bookshelf and plants

Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

One of the upsides of the Covid pandemic is that it has taught us all how to be more digitally resourceful. Our academic libraries are capitalising on these eco-friendly practices:

 

  • Digitisation – with the availability of ever-changing technology, physical information can be converted into digital formats, from physical photographs to handwritten documents in PDF.

 

 

  • Onedrive is free cloud storage. It is a great way of storing and saving large files and documents online, accessing on other devices and sharing with others. You no longer need a ring binder folder full of paper!

 

Further resources:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/onedrive

https://www.qs.com/improve-sustainability-higher-education/

 

 

Highland Games

Highland Games are a traditional event held in many Scottish towns during the summer and are a mixture of sporting, cultural and social events. The well-known events such as tossing the caber and the hammer throw are only for the strongest and fittest competitors!

Origin and history

It is believed that the Highland Games originated in Ireland around 2000BC and they were brought to Scotland with 4th and 5th century migrations of the Scotti people into Dalriada (Argyll). The games may have become a way of choosing the strongest and most able men for the household of clan chieftains, with musicians and dancers also sought to add prestige to the clan. The first historical reference to Highland Games-type events was made during the 11th century. They were banned following the Battle of Culloden in 1746 but the ban was lifted in the early 19th century.

The Braemar Gathering is the most famous of all Highland Games. Queen Victoria attended the games in 1838 and royal support has continued since then. Queen Victoria’s endorsement of the games ensured the growth of such events and their export around the world. Highland Games now take place in many different countries, particularly countries where Scots emigrated to in large numbers such as Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The Ceres Games in Fife are considered the oldest, continuous Highland Games in Scotland and began in 1314.

 

Highlands, Scotland

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Events

It wouldn’t be a Highland Games without the traditional strong man events such as tossing the caber and the tug of war.

Tossing the caber-The caber is a large wooden pole and the name derives from the Gaelic word cabar which refers to a wooden beam. The caber is around 20 feet long and normally weighs around 150 pounds. Competitors must balance the caber in their hands and perform a run-up before they toss it. Throws are judged on their straightness – a perfect toss sees the small end of the caber facing away from the thrower at a 12 o’clock angle.

Hammer throw-The “hammer” used consists of a metal ball weighing around 22 pounds attached by a steel wire to a grip. Competitors use the handle to whirl the hammer around their head and throw it as far as they can.

Tug of war-This event involves teams of eight pulling against another team of eight, encouraged by another team member who shouts instructions and encouragement to spur their team to pull the other one across the line to win the event.

 

These competitions make the games a thrilling event, but to add to the spectacle there are also other attractions.

Highland dancing – Dancers give dazzling displays on pointed toes of dances such as the Highland Fling and the sword dance. They wear colourful tartan outfits and compete in solo and group events.

Pipe bands-They will play for entertainment and in competitive events.

More recently Highland Games have become a celebration of country life and many now include events such as:

Animal exhibitions-Displays of Highland cattle, Clydesdale horses and Shetland ponies.

Sheep dog trials-Competitions against the clock.

Food stalls-Showcasing local produce with free tastings.

Arts and crafts.

Re-enactments-Groups give displays of sword fights, spinning yarn and cooking.

More recently novelty events have been added such as wellie throwing and tossing the haggis.

Sadly due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions most of Scotland’s major events have been cancelled this year. A few events are still going ahead and the calendar can be viewed here.

Hopefully you will be able to visit a Highland Games in the future and get to enjoy all they have to offer.

Sword carving

markus-spiske-DRtaBL8Xx24-unsplash.jpg

 

Article written by Vivienne Hamilton

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