The opening ceremony of the summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, takes place at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro this Friday. The modern Olympic Games (or Olympics) are the world's leading international festival of sport in which over 10,000 athletes from 206 nations will participate in 42 sports from August 5-21.
The creation of the modern Olympics was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, which were held in Olympia, Greece, from 776BC to 393AD as a part of a pagan festival to honour Zeus, the father of the Greek gods. The Greeks who competed at Olympia were all male citizens of the city-states from every corner of the Greek world, coming from as far away as Iberia (Spain) in the west and the Black Sea (Turkey) in the east.
Theodosius the Great, Roman Emperor from 379AD to 395AD, decreed Nicene Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 393AD he banned the pagan rituals of the Olympics in ancient Greece. It took 1,503 years for the Olympics to return.
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. The man responsible for its rebirth was a Frenchman named Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. The Olympic motto "Citius, Altius, Fortius," which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger" was proposed by Baron de Coubertin upon the establishment of the IOC.
The ancient Olympics in Greece were based on an especially high standard of sportsmanship, known as the "Corinthian spirit."
Baron de Coubertin's vision of the modern Olympics was a festival of sport where the world's best amateur sportsmen could compete for the glory of their respective nations, for their personal glory and to demonstrate sportsmanship at the highest level.
Even though the Olympics have shifted away from pure amateurism and are dogged by political, commercial and doping controversies, they will always show the power of sport to unite all the nations of the world.
To be an Olympian, motivated by passion, ambition, resilience and integrity - the "Corinthian spirit" of ancient Greece - is a huge feat. To win an Olympic medal is a lifetime achievement. As a sports enthusiast, I feel great anticipation ahead of the sporting extravaganza of Rio 2016. I wish all the athletes, especially Team Ireland, the best of luck in Rio. Carpe diem!
Tralee, Co Kerry
Terrible legacy of Iraq invasion
Last week, I met up with an old friend I hadn't seen for 18 years.
"You haven't changed a bit in all that time," I remarked. "Well, if I haven't, the world around us changed an awful lot since," came the reply.
As we chatted about the various global events of close to two decades, it became all too clear how volatile the world has now become.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was driven by George W Bush and Tony Blair's search for non-existent "weapons of mass destruction". Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and eventually tried and executed, yet the war dragged on.
Now, tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and African migrants are fleeing their homes due to terrorist attacks and seeking asylum in Europe. Yet the Big Powers seem unable to find a solution.
The unanimous conclusion of that chat with my old friend was that much of the unhappiness and unrest currently being experienced worldwide is the direct fallout from that ill-conceived invasion of Iraq 13 years ago.
Every country's security is now under threat of attacks from terrorists with all kinds of warped priorities.
A terrible recent example was the attack in which terrorists slit the throat of an 85-year-old parish priest, in front of his congregation, after bursting in on a Mass last week in a peaceful Christian community in Normandy, France.
Could there be some truth in the remark: "There will never be peace as long as God remains unseated at the conference table"?
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Banking on justice
Following the jailing of two former Anglo bankers and a former Irish Life and Permanent executive last week, can Ireland now bank on justice for white- collar crime?
Clonmel, Co Tipperary
Zika virus hits Florida
I see the Zika virus has now been confirmed in Florida in the USA.Unfortunately, both Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell live there most of the year.
I suppose their recent well-documented worries about this virus will probably mean that they will have to sell up and cease playing golf there until a cure is found.
EU trade after Brexit
Hugh Duffy wonders how many, compared to the UK, "Italian fashion items ... Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland can absorb." (Irish Independent, Letters, July 28).
Well, as a matter of fact, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic can absorb more Italian exports than the UK, at 5.78pc compared to UK's 5.5 pc.
So what about Germany?
The 10 new EU members are by far the biggest importer of German goods in the world - over 11pc, compared to the US's 10pc, UK's 7pc, and China and Russia's combined total of 9.6pc.
But there is something else that some EU members, including Ireland, will miss after Brexit - Britain's common-sense approach to the EU law.
Bray, Co Wicklow
Fish belong in the ocean
'Finding Dory', the sequel to the smash hit film 'Finding Nemo', may leave viewers tempted to purchase a "Dory" (ie, a blue tang fish) for themselves - but these fish belong in the ocean, not in a tank.
The novelty of a fish bought on a whim fades quickly, and many parents learned their lesson after the first film, when the goldfish they rushed out to buy to satisfy their kids' pleas ended up flushed down the loo or abandoned at a shelter. The RSPCA reportedly had to deal with almost 10,000 fish in the months following the Nemo craze.
Fish aren't low-maintenance pets. They need far more than just a few millimetres of water.
Bowls have to be routinely cleaned - a chore most children dodge very quickly - and the water's temperature needs to be carefully monitored.
Fish also need sunlight, and like Dory and Nemo, they need the company of other fish, too. Cared for properly, blue tang fish can live for more than 20 years - long after the kids have moved out.
Go and enjoy 'Finding Dory'. But leave fish in the oceans, where they belong.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
London N1, UK