The Olympic Games were held every four years from 776 B.C. to A.D. 394, making them the longest-running recurring event in antiquity. What was the secret of the games' longevity?
It was the sheer spectacle of it. Sports [were] one part of a grand, all-consuming extravaganza. It was first and foremost a religious event, held on the most sacred spot in the ancient world. It had this incredible aura of tradition and sanctity.
Today's Olympics is a vast, secular event, but it doesn't have the religious element of the ancient Olympics, where sacrifices and rituals would take up as much time as the sports. And there were all these pecripheral things that came with the festival: the artistic happenings, new writers, new painters, new sculptors. There were fire-eaters, palm readers, and prostitutes.
This was the total pagan entertainment package.
Perrotet elaborates on all those things in the rest of the interview at NatGeo. Link -Thanks Marilyn!