Open AccountOpen AccountDeposit 
DepositMy Bets
Join usDeposit
CasinoLive CasinoPromotionsSports

Olympic Games History and Fun Facts

The Olympic Games are the world’s biggest international sporting event. In many sports, the greatest achievement for an athlete is taking home an Olympic gold medal, and billions of people around the world watch the games. More than 200 countries take part in the Olympic Games and across the Summer and Winter Games, there are more than 400 different sporting events.

The Ancient Olympics

As you most likely know, the origins of the Olympics lie in Ancient Greece. The first written record of the games dates from 776BC. At that time, there was just one event, a 192m race called the Stade (which is where the word stadium comes from) and a cook called Coroebus won it.

However, according to legend, Heracles founded the Olympics, and many historians believe that the games had been happening for many years before the first written record. Regardless of when they began, the Olympics took place every four years in August and September in a festival to honour Zeus and they were held in Olympia, a town on the Greek peninsula.

Over the years, more events were added, such as the Diaulos and Dolichos, which were longer races of 400m and 1,500m respectively. There was also a Pentathlon, which included a race, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, and wrestling. Later events added included boxing, chariot racing, and pankration, which was a mixture of boxing and wrestling with very few rules.

The Ancient Olympics lasted for at least 290 Olympiads and they continued even after the Roman Empire had taken over. However, they were ultimately banned in 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all pagan festivals.

The Modern Olympics

For roughly 15 centuries, there was hardly a word spoken about the Olympic Games. That was until Baron Pierre de Coubertin came along, a man who was passionate about both history and sports. He was a French educator who went to England to study educational philosophy. While there, he became passionate about the importance of organised sport in children’s development. 

Upon returning to France, he developed his own physical education theory that drew on concepts from Ancient Greece. However, the French education system failed to adopt his ideas, so instead he began working on an international Olympic Games event.

De Coubertin defined a philosophy of what the Olympics should represent. He included a definition of amateur athletics, the importance of competing across class lines, and the idea of a sacred truce for the duration of the event. It took him many years and there were several hurdles that had to be overcome, but in 1896, the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens. A total of 245 athletes took part from 13 countries, but 200 of them were from Greece.

The first few editions of the modern Olympic Games were nothing like the spectacle we know today and they did not gain much of a following internationally. Furthermore, there were several arguments about who should be allowed to take part.

However, De Coubertin persisted and he didn’t give up on his dream. He was head of the International Olympic Committee until 1924 and built the foundations for an event that was open to men and women, regardless of wealth and class.

The first six modern Olympic Games were all summer events. However, in 1924 the Winter Games were introduced. There have been a total of 42 different sports, but the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will feature 33 sports. Some sports, such as polo and croquet are simply not as popular as they once were, while others have been removed due to controversies or disputes over rules.

The most recent sports to be added are Karate, Skateboarding, Sport Climbing and Surfing, while other sports such as Baseball and Softball are being reintroduced this year.

In general, more attention is paid to the Summer Games than the Winter Games. Early editions of the Olympics included figure skating, but the weather prevented other sports from being included. As mentioned, the Winter Games were introduced in 1924 and today they include many sports such as cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, ski jumping, bobsled, curling, biathlon, snowboarding, and more.

Other Editions of the Olympics

De Coubertin’s philosophy was that all people should have access to sports, including people with disabilities. Ultimately, this lead to the creation of the Paralympics. The first was held in 1948 and it was open to World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. Dutch and Israeli veterans then joined the games in 1952.

The 1960 games were the first that were open to any athlete who used a wheelchair, regardless of whether they were a veteran. Today, there are six disability categories for athletes: Impaired muscle power, Impaired passive range of movement, Limb deficiency, Leg length difference, Short stature, Hypertonia, Ataxia, Athetosis, Vision impairment, and Intellectual impairment.

There is also the Special Olympics, which are open to athletes with intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, Autism, and Fragile X Syndrome. They are open to athletes as young as 8 with no upper age limit. The flagship events are the Special Olympics World Summer Games and the Special Olympics World Games that began in 1968 and 1977 respectively. They include many sports:

  • Athletics (Track and Field)
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Bocce
  • Bowling
  • Cycling
  • Equestrian
  • Football (Soccer)
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics — Artistic and Rhythmic
  • Handball
  • Judo
  • Powerlifting
  • Roller Skating
  • Sailing
  • Softball
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Cross-country Skiing
  • Floorball
  • Floor Hockey
  • Short Track Speed Skating
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Speed skating
  • Figure skating
  • Cricket

However, neither the Paralympics nor the Special Olympics were the first international sports competition for athletes with disabilities. The Deaflympics began in Paris in 1924 and were officially known as the International Games for the Deaf. To qualify, athletes must have a hearing loss of 55 decibels or more in their better ear, and they are not allowed to use hearing devices. The games use modified signals, such as flags and lights instead of whistles and starter guns, but the list of sports is very similar to that of the regular Olympics.

Olympic Games Facts

If you enjoy fun facts, then here are some about the Olympics that you may not have known:

  • In ancient Greece, the Olympic athletes did not have to worry about displaying sponsorship logos as they all competed naked.
  • The Ancient Olympic Games would often last for many months as part of the wider festival celebrating Zeus.
  • Women were first allowed to compete in the Olympics in 1900.
  • Until 1992, the Winter and Summer Olympic Games took place in the same year, however, now they alternate every two years.
  • Just four athletes have won medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympics, and only one of them, Christa Ludinger-Rothenburger, won medals in the same year.
  • At the 2012 London Olympics, roughly 165,000 towels were used in the Olympic Village in just over two weeks.
  • The official languages of the Olympics are English and French, plus the official language of the host country.
  • Tarzan took part in the Olympics! The actor Johnny Weissmuller was an athlete before he starred in 12 Tarzan films and he won five gold medals in swimming in the 1920s.
  • Between 1912 and 1948, artists would take part in the Olympics competing in fields such as painting, sculpting, architecture, writing and music.
  • At the 1936 Berlin Games, two Japanese pole-vaulters tied for second place. Rather than competing again, they cut the silver and bronze medals in half and fused the different halves together.
  • To this day, the Olympic torch is lit in an ancient ceremony at the temple of Hera in Greece. Actors wearing costumes of Greek priestesses light it using a parabolic mirror and sunrays.
  • The torch is relayed to the host city by a series of runners. It has also be transported by boat, by Concorde, on horseback on a camel, via radio signal, underwater, and in a canoe.
  • The unlit Olympic touch has been taken to space many times.
  • The relay torch and the Olympic flame are designed to burn throughout the entire event. If the flame goes out it may only be rekindled with a backup torch that has also been lit in Greece.
  • The 2012 London Games was the first time that all participating countries sent female athletes.
  • Some entertaining sports that are no longer part of the Olympics include solo synchronized swimming, tug of war, rope climbing, hot air ballooning, duelling pistol, tandem bicycle, swimming obstacle race, and plunge for distance. At the 1900 Olympics in Paris there was even live pigeon shooting.
  • Bardon Pierre de Coubertin designed the five-ring Olympics logo to represent the five inhabited continents of the world.
  • The six colours of the logo, blue, yellow, black, green, red, and the white background, were selected because every nation’s flag contains at least one of them.
  • The Olympic Games have been hosted by 23 different countries.
  • The first official Olympic mascot was Waldi, the dachshund, at the 1972 Games in Munich.
  • The 2016 Rio Games were the first edition of the Olympics to be held in South America.
  • At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it is expected that at least 11,238 athletes from 206 nations will compete in 33 sports

Related Articles