The Ancient Olympic Games were a very famous event in ancient times. Taking advantage of their popularity, Paul used them (specifically, the Stadion/200 metres and boxing games) in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to illustrate his teachings (maybe in the same way Pope Francis does with football?) by comparing the race to life, the prize to salvation, the fighting to Christian life:
Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.
Was the usage of sports to illustrate religious teachings (in the same way Paul and Francis did) or to comment a church statement (by analogy, etc) a common thing in ancient times? Do it occur in other places of the Bible, and did other popes do it?