The Spartakiad was the name of an international sports event that the Soviet Union invented in the late 1920s to both oppose and supplement the Olympics.
The name, derived from the name of the slave rebel leader,Spartacus, was supposed to symbolize proletarian internationalism because Spartacus’ revolt united slaves from diverse ethnic backgrounds within the Roman Empire. As a Classical figure, Spartacus also stood directly in contrast to the aristocratic nature of the Ancient Olympic Games on which the modern “capitalist” Olympics were, according to the Soviet hierarchy, supposedly based.
The first Winter Spartakiad was held in February 1928 in Oslo, and the first Summer Spartakiad was held in August 1928 in Moscow. In 1952 the Soviet Union decided to join the Olympic movement, and international Spartakiads ceased. However the term persisted for internal sports events in the Soviet Union of different levels, from local up to the Spartakiad of the Peoples of the USSR. The latter event was held twice in four years: Winter Spartakiad and Summer Spartakiad, with international participation.
The first Soviet Spartakiad was held in 1956. These events were of huge importance for Soviet sports. Everyone could participate in them - from ordinary people to top-level athletes. The number of participants, for example, in the 6th Summer Spartakiad of the Peoples of the USSR, was 90 million people (twice the number of athletes in the USSR in that time).