Sports in Cyprus
The sports history of Cyprus dates back many centuries.
Inscriptions found in various archeological sites both on the island and in Greece bear witness to the Cypriots love for sports, and also to their success in the Pan-Hellenic and Olympic contests of ancient times at Olympia, Pythia, Isthmia and elsewhere. The ancient stadia of Cyprus at Curium, Salamina, Pafos, Kitium and Lapithos, were centers where athletes and friends of sport gathered. These existed until the Byzantine period. During the Middle Ages athletics remained a favorite Cypriot pastime. Since 1897, when the first Gymnastic club was founded in the town of Limassol, gymnastic clubs began to spring up across the island. Today, there are six gymnastic clubs, one in each of the major towns. In 2000 45.000 athletes of all ages were registered in 35 federations and 600 athletic clubs. These figures changed in 2004 to 60.000 athletes registered in 42 federations. Cyprus participated in the last Athens Olympics of 2004 with teams in track and field (athletics), swimming, shooting and sailing. Cyprus' participation in the Athens Para-Olympic Games was marked by a big success - a gold medal in swimming by 18-year-old swimmer Karolina Pelendritou.
Cyprus Sport Organization - In its effort to promote sports, in 1969 the government of Cyprus set up the Cyprus Sport Organization (CSO). This body is the official spokesman of government policy on sports matters. The CSO is responsible for a wide range of activities including supervision of out-of-school sports, financing the construction and maintenance of sports stadium and facilities, giving technical assistance to clubs and supporting Cyprus' participation in international meetings. The CSO is an autonomous and independent semi-governmental body. Its funds are used for assisting financially the federations and clubs for the promotion of their athletic programmes, for the creation, maintenance and running of the basic athletic infrastructure (stadium, indoor halls, sport facilities, equipment) to the highest possible standards and for the repayment of the financial obligations of the Organization.
The Administrative Board of the Organization is made up of nine members appointed by the Council of Ministers for a period of at least three years. The CSO runs sports centers, Olympic standard swimming pools and multi-use indoor halls across the island, while other sports facilities are under construction. The multi-purpose indoor hall 'Eleftheria' is worth mentioning. It can be used for competitions and practice in almost every sport. With its two air-conditioned, glass-wall squash courts, it has given a new impetus to the game of squash. The Nicosia Squash Club, with the help of CSO, has initiated a training programme for school age children and already some of its graduates are among the sport's best, representing Cyprus in international competitions.
In 2000 the new stadium of the Nicosia Gymnastic Club “Pagkypria, which consists of one football stadium seating 25.000 spectators, one track and field stadium seating 2.000 spectators and another field with track surrounding it, was given for use. The stadium is one of the most modern stadiums in Europe providing every facility needed by footballers, athletes, journalists and spectators. In view of new trends in world sports, the CSO has been successfully running a Centre for Sports Research whose main aim is to assist athletes of all fields to excel at international meetings. The Centre cooperates with other similar centers in Europe. As a result of CSOs programme “Sports for All” over 15,000 children have benefited in six main sports. The programme has been running throughout Cyprus and is available at 180 sports centers.
Cyprus Olympic Committee - 2003 marked the year in which the Cyprus Olympic Committee celebrated 25 years since its official recognition and affiliation to the International Olympic Committee. Undoubtedly, Cyprus participation of its athletes at international level is one of the Committees main concerns. 2003 saw athletes from Cyprus compete in Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE), held in Malta, and the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Paris. Cyprus won an unprecedented total of 81 medals at the Malta GSSE and the first position in the overall rankings amongst the eight participating countries. A total of 140 Cypriot athletes participated in the Games. Overall, the Cyprus Olympic Committee achieved its targets regarding the area of international competition, with an exceptional appearance at the GSSE and significant achievements in the Paris EYOF.
During the months leading to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the focus of the Committee's attention was on the preparation and support of the Olympic team. Financial, technical and psychological support for the athletes, were all part of the Cyprus Olympic Committee's multi-faceted “Olympic Preparation” plan. The Olympic Committee assisted its athletes financially through IOC-funded scholarship programmes from Olympic Solidarity and its own marketing programme. Olympic Solidarity also offered educational programmes for coaches at national and international level.
The most ambitious, perhaps, project that the Cyprus Olympic Committee has undertaken is the construction of the Olympic House and Park. Work has already begun on what will eventually become the heart of sport and Olympism in Cyprus. The Olympic House and Park will be home, not only to the Cyprus Olympic Committee, but also to its 42 national member-Federations.
Olympic Education remains pivotal to the Cyprus Olympic Committee's aims. Especially important is educating youth and children. The annual Olympic Day Run provided the perfect opportunity for hundreds of schoolchildren to participate in a series of events, related to the Olympic Games and Olympism in general. An equally important event, which took place during October 2003, was the Olympic Torch exhibition. The Torches on display, part of a private collection, gave viewers an opportunity to become familiar with the most important, perhaps, symbol of the Olympic Games and its history.
Five main sponsors as well as a number of other groups and services support the Cyprus Olympic Committee and, consequently, the Cyprus Olympic team. Equally important, however, is the assistance and support received from individuals on a voluntary basis. The Cyprus Olympic Committees permanent volunteer team grows in number each year.