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Olympics Fun Facts

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.

Jade Carey of the United States wins the floor exercise gold.

Jade Carey of the United States wins the floor exercise gold.

Millions of people love watching the Summer and Winter Olympics. Here are a few facts about the Olympics that you may enjoy knowing.

Olympic Games: Definition

Olympic Games or just Olympics are international sporting events with competitions among thousands of athletes from more than 200 countries competing during either the summer or winter.

The Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics alternate every two years during a four-year period.

Historical Facts

  • The Olympic Games we see today are based on the early Olympic Games of Ancient Greece. The religious festival occurred every four years between 776 B.C. and 393 A.D. The Games were banned in 394 A.D. for being a pagan festival because the celebration was to honor the Greek god Zeus.
  • In 1894, French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin proposed a revival of the ancient tradition. He was responsible for the modern-day Olympic Summer Games we see today.
  • Only three modern Olympic Games have ever been canceled. They were canceled because of World War I in 1916, World War II in 1940, and World War II in 1944.
  • The 1980 Olympics were boycotted by 66 nations, including Canada and the United States after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
  • Originally, the Games were only in the summer. The Winter Olympics began in 1924.
  • Up until 1994, the Olympics were held every four years. Since then, the Winter and Summer Games have alternated every two years. Read more about the Winter and Summer Games below.
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The Olympic Rings

  • Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, designed the five rings on a letter he wrote.
  • The colors are always in this order from left to right: blue, green, yellow, black, and red. At least one of those colors appears on all the national flags of the world.
  • The Olympic rings represent solidarity and unity among the continents arranged in this order: Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and Oceania.
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The Olympic Medals

  • Spoiler Alert: The gold medals are not really gold. Since 1912, gold medals began to be made mostly of silver with only approximately 6 grams of gold to meet the standard of the Olympic Charter.
  • Gold, silver, and bronze medals were not awarded until 1904. Up until then, winners were only given an olive branch wreath. Since the 1904 Olympics, medals have been awarded in every event. Gold medals are for first place, silver for second, and bronze for third.
  • Over the years, the United States has won more than 2,800 medals.
  • When Greece hosted the Olympic Summer Games in 1896, that country won 46 medals, more than any other country.
  • Norway has won 263 medals, the most medals in the Winter Games.
  • Photographers tell winners to pose with their medals between their teeth for the iconic picture.

Notable and Not So Notable Olympic Winners

Becoming Olympic winners does not mean they will be remembered years after receiving their gold, silver, bronze medals, or wreaths.

  • Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian. The former Olympian swimmer representing the United States earned 28 medals, including 23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze over four Summer Olympics. Most people still remember him and his accomplishments
  • Only four athletes have ever won medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games. They made headlines at the time, but who remembers Eddie Eagan (United States), Jacob Tullin Thams (Norway), Christa Luding-Rothenburger (East Germany), and Clara Hughes (Canada).
  • Bonnie Blair won six medals at the Olympic Winter Games, more than any other American athlete. Who remembers the speed skater?
  • Cross-country skier Bjorn Dhlie of Norway won 12 medals at the Winter Games. Nobody has won as many medals at the Winter Games than Dhile. You might not even remember him and his accomplishments.
  • Gymnast Larrisa Latynina from the former Soviet Union won 18 medals during her career. That was more than anyone else in history. Do you remember her?
  • So far, the artistic gymnast Simone Biles has won a combined total of 31 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is the most decorated American gymnast and is considered one of the greatest and most dominant gymnasts of all time.
  • Before Gabby Doublas retired at the age of 20 on August 16, 2016, people were talking about her for being the first African American to become the Olympic individual all-around champion and the first United States gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. However, people don't hear much about her any longer.

The Sports

The Olympic sports have changed over the years. Some sports have been added, but some have also been removed. For instance, artists once competed in the Olympics. From 1912 to 1948, disciplines such as painting, sculpting, writing, and music were included, but they have been removed. Tug of war was a team sport at every Summer Olympics Game from 1900 to 1920. It was contested as a team event, and it is no longer part of the competition.

Some sports started out in the Winter Olympics but are now in the Summer Games.

There are a limited number of positions for every nation in all Olympic events.

Summer Olympics

  • Originally, the Olympic Games were only in the summer.
  • Greece, Australia, France, Great Britain, and Switzerland are the only countries to have had representatives at every Summer Olympic Games.
  • As of 2012, the USA has won more Gold (976), more Silver (758), more Bronze (666) and more total medals (2400) than any other country at the Summer Games.
  • Great Britain is the only country to have won at least 1 gold medal at every Summer Olympics.
  • Today's Summer Olympics sports are listed in alphabetical order: archery, badminton, baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, handball, judo, karate, modern pentathlon (shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping, and running), mountain biking, rowing, rugby, sailing, shooting, skateboarding, soccer, softball, sport climbing, swimming, surfing, synchronized swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, track and field, triathlon (swimming, biking, running), volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
  • Figure skating started out as a Summer Olympics sport, but now it is a Winter Olympics sport.
  • Golf and rugby had been previously discontinued, but they both returned for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Baseball and softball were dropped from the Summer Olympics in 2012 and 2016, but they are back in Tokyo's Olympics along with four newcomers: karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing.

Winter Olympics

  • The first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France in 1924. That was the first time the Winter Olympics were held in a different year than the Summer Olympics. They have been alternated every two years since then.
  • Today's Winter Olympics sports in alphabetical order: alpine skiing, biathlon (cross-country skiing and target shooting), bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country skiing), skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, and speed skating.

Host Cities, Countries and Continents

  • Athens, Greece hosted the first modern Olympics.
  • London is the only city that has hosted the Summer Olympics the most: three times in 1908, 1948, and 2012.
  • The United States is the only country that has hosted the Summer Olympics more than any other country: twice in Los Angeles (1932 and 1984), St. Louis (1904), and Atlanta (1996).
  • The Olympics have been hosted by 19 different countries since 1896.
  • No country in the Southern Hemisphere has ever hosted the Winter Games.
  • Three continents: Africa, South America, and Antarctica have never hosted the Olympic Games.

Olympics: Past and Present

  • The first Olympic Games took place in the 8th century B.C. in Olympia, Greece. The Games continued every four years for 12 centuries before they were banned by Emperor Theodosius I. The first modern Olympics took place in Athens, Greece in 1896.
  • The first Olympics had only 280 men (no women) from only 13 nations competing in 43 events. Back then, athletes competed in the nude. Today, the athletes do wear clothes, but some of the women perform their sports in skimpy outfits. Some of them are bikinis and throngs.
  • The Tokyo Summer Olympics is made up of 11,909 men and women from 205 countries competing in 33 sports in 50 disciplines over 339 events.
  • Women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics until 1900. The first to allow female competitors was the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
  • English and French were and still are the official languages of the Olympics. Those two languages are joined by the official language of the host country.

For Further Reading

10 Surprising Facts About Olympics

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