What's in a Word | All Blogs


A place for measuring up

By Debra Dobbins

Stocker Stadium will be the site for Special Olympians to test their measure in track and field events both Saturday and Sunday. We wish them the best in these and other events such as soccer and gymnastics, which will be held at other venues. (See 5A of today’s paper for complete schedule.)

Although we now use stadiums for sports such as soccer, football and baseball, the original meaning of the word “stadium” more precisely lent itself to track and field events.

The ancient Greeks prized their Olympian Games and set exacting standards for all aspects of the games, according to Isaac Asimov in Words from History. A course to be run had to have “a fixed length, for instance,” Asimov writes. “The Greek word ‘stadios’ meant fixed or established, so a fixed length was a ‘stadion’ (the neutral form of the word).”

A “stadion,” equivalent to 631 of our feet, was the measurement established for the foot race at the Olympian Games, Asimov explains. Its measurement was adjusted elsewhere, he continues, noting that the Athenians determined a stadion to be just 607 feet long.

Asimov goes on to explain that the Romans adopted the idea, but they called it “stadium.” Eventually, he concludes, the length of the course became synonymous with the name of the structure.

Good luck to all Special Olympians this weekend!

Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece
Photo special to the Sentinel

 

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