The History of the Olympic Games

The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin is considered to be the father of the modern Olympic Games, and also founded the International Olympic Committee.

Olympic Motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (faster, higher stronger)

Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” (coined by Pierre de Coubertin)

Olympic Rings: The rings are interlocking and have five colors — blue, yellow, black, green and red. They are meant to represent the five inhabited continents.

Olympic Flag: The flag has a white background and the Olympic rings. The six colors on the flag represent colors that appear on all of the national flags.

Olympic Flame: The Olympic flame has been part of the games since the ancient Olympics and is associated with positive values. The Olympic flame can only be lit by the sun’s rays and is lit months before the opening of the Games for the torch relay that carries the flame to the host city for the opening ceremony. 

Did You Know?

  • The first modern Olympic Games only featured 241 athletes from 14 countries. The 2012 Olympic Games in London welcomed 10,568 athletes representing 204 National Organizing Committees.
  • There were only 43 events contested in 1896. In London, 302 medal events were held. Events featured 26 sports (and 39 disciplines) and were held in 34 venues. Through the course of the Games, athletes set 38 world records and 99 Olympic records.
  • The Olympic Winter Games were not held until 1924. Prior to that, figure skating and ice hockey were held as part of the Olympic Games that had been traditionally held in the summer.
  • Summer and Winter Olympics used to be held in the same year. This changed in 1994.
  • From 1912 to 1948, art competitions were held as part of the Olympic Games. There were five categories for sport-related works — architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. Though these events are no longer contested, each Olympic Games has a cultural component.

What’s an Olympiad?
An Olympiad refers to a period of four years. This term was used during the ancient Olympic Games to refer to a specific competition. Back then, an Olympiad started with the Games.

In the modern Olympic Games, an Olympiad is a period of four consecutive years based on the calendar. 2016 is the start of a new Olympiad, so you will often hear the Rio de Janiero Olympic Games referred to as “the Games of the 31st Olympiad.”