Interesting Facts About the Olympic Games

The Panathenaic Stadium, where the the first modern Olympic Games were held 1896.  Editorial credit: Anastasios71 /
The Panathenaic Stadium, where the the first modern Olympic Games were held 1896. Editorial credit: Anastasios71 /

The Olympic Games are one of the most celebrated and the most important global sporting events on Earth. The Olympic Games event features numerous winter and summer sporting competitions with thousands of competitors from around the world participating in different games. More than 200 countries take part in the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) holds both the Winter Olympic Games and the Summer Olympic Games every four years, but two years apart. The next Winter Olympics are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018 and Beijing, China in 2022. The Summer Olympics are being held in Tokyo, Japan in 2020, Paris, France in 2024, and Los Angeles, US in 2028.

1. The Ancient Olympics

The history of this event dates back to eighth century BCE in Olympia. These games were held on athletic and religious festivals every 4 years at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia for twelve centuries. In fact, during the fourth century CE, Emperor Theodosius the First banned all pagan celebrations including the Olympics. These games were resurrected 1,500 years later and Greece held the 1st modern Olympic in 1896. The ancient Olympic events in Greece lasted for up to six months.

2. Olympic Medals

The organizing committee of the host country always designs the medals. Every medal is 0.118 inches thick and 2.36 inches diameter. The gold medal is silver covered with 6 grams of gold. Every silver and gold medal must be at least 92.5% silver. The last 100% gold medals were given in the 1912 Olympic Games.

3. The Olympic Flame

The practice of the flaming torch started during the ancient games in Olympia. The sun ignited the Olympic torch and it was kept burning until the last day of the event. The Olympic Committee lit the first Olympic flame during the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. This fire represents numerous things including their effort for perfection and purity. The chairman of the 1936 event, Carl Diem, introduced the Olympic Torch Relay which is used to date. The torch is lit in Olympia by ladies dressed in the ancient-style using a uniquely bent mirror and the sun. The flame torch is passed from one sprinter to the other until it reaches the Olympic stadium in the Hosting State. The Torch relay symbolizes the continuation of the ancient Olympic Games tradition. This torch must burn during the entire event and if it goes out, it can only be lighted by a backup flame from Greece. Various runners carry the Olympic torch from Athens to the host city. The runner carrying the torch travels by plane, boat, canoe, and even on a horse to help deliver the torch to the host city.

4. The Olympic Hymn

The Hymn plays every time the Olympic flag is hoisted. It was composed by Spiro Samara, a Greek composer, and contains lyrics by Kostis Palamas, a Greek poet. The Olympic Committee played the hymn for the first time during the 1896 opening ceremony. The IOC declared it to be the official hymn of the Olympic Games in 1958, and since 1960, it has been played during the flag raising of the opening ceremony and the flag lowering of the closing ceremony.

5. The Procession Order of Athletes During the Olympic Opening Ceremony

The Greek athletes always lead the processions of all the athletes during the opening ceremony, followed by other countries in the alphabetical order of the language of the Olympic hosting State. The hosting nation always marches last after all the other countries have passed.

6. International Olympic Committee (IOC) Diplomats

To make the IOC an independent body, the IOC declared that their members were diplomats to their countries from the International Olympic Committee and not diplomats to IOC from their nations.

7. The First Olympic Marathon

During 490 BCE, a Greek soldier called Pheidippides ran to Athens from Marathon to report to the Athenians the results of the war between the Persians and the Greek soldiers. Pheidippides ran for 25 miles, a distance filled with numerous hills among other obstacles. After reporting to the Athenians, Pheidippides fell down and died. The first modern Olympic event held the first marathon race of about 25 miles in commemoration of the fallen soldier Pheidippides.

8. Length of the Olympic Marathon Race

During the initial modern Olympics, the IOC approximated the distance of the marathon. During the 1908 Olympics, the British Monarch requested that the race be held from Windsor Castle to the stadium so that the royal children could see the start of the race. The distance from the stadium to the Windsor Castle is 26 miles, and this length became the standard marathon distance in 1924.

9. The Winter Olympic Games

In 1921, it was decided that the 1924 Olympics would begin to contain some winter sports. The first Winter Games began as an 11-day winter sports week in Chamonix, France, three months before the 1924 Paris Olympics. In 1994, the IOC diplomats mandated that the Winter Games would be held separately from the Summer Games. As such, it would be held every 4 years, two years apart from the Summer Games, and in a different location.

10. Women in the Games

Women were once prohibited from taking part in the games; in fact, the first female athletes participated in the 1900 Olympic event. During the event, Charlotte Cooper from England won the first gold medal in the tennis singles held on July 11, 1900.

Other Facts:

11. From 1924 to 1992, both the summer and winter events were held in the same year every four years. Since 1994, the Summer and Winter Olympic Games are held on different cycles, which alternate every two years.

12. Only four individuals have participated in both the summer and winter events and won medals in both. Christa Luding-Rothenburger prevailed in both the winter and summer events in 1888. She won a silver medal in Summer Olympics and a gold medal in Winter Olympics.

13. The official Olympic languages are French and English in addition to the language of the hosting Nation.

14. The IOC cancelled the Olympic Games in 1916, 1940, and 1944 because of the First and Second World Wars.

15. All the flags on Earth have at least one color of the Olympic flag (blue, yellow, red, blue, and black). This means that no nation has a plain white flag. The 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp were the first to raise this flag.

16. The longest cycling race in Olympic history was 196 miles long, won by Okey Lewis from South Africa with a time of ten hours and forty-two minutes.

17. The five rings on the Olympic logo were designed by Olympic Games co-founder Pierre-de-Coubertin. The five rings symbolize the five continents on earth.

18. The IOC honors the city holding the Olympic Games and not the country when selecting the hosting country.

19. The first Olympic drug disqualification took place during the 1968 Games in Mexico when the IOC disqualified Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish athlete, for consuming too much alcohol the day before his competition.

20. The oldest known Olympic medalist is Oscar Swahn who won his silver medal at age 72 in a shooting competition during the 1920 Games.


More in World Facts