The Olympic Games History

From the ancient times to the modern era

The start of the 100 metres final first modern olympic games 1896

When did the Olympic Games begin?

The Olympic Games history is a long and precious one. The Olympic Games are an international sports events, which began in ancient Greece. The earliest evidence we have about the beginning of the Games comes from 776 B.C. The Games took place every four years for nearly 12 centuries, until they were abolished during the early Christian era.

How were the ancient Olympic Games different from the modern ones?

The main difference between the ancient and the modern Olympic Games is that in the ancient times the Games had religious connotations. They were actually part of a religious festival dedicated to Zeus, the father of all gods.

Where did the ancient Olympic Games take place?

The ancient Olympic Game took place in Olympia, a rural area in the western Peloponnese, Greece. People from all over Greece gathered at the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia to attend the festival. It was a huge event; as it is today.

Who competed in the ancient Olympic Games?

The athletes were all males and competed nude. They came from every part of the Greek world. Women were neither allowed to compete, nor to watch the Games.

Did you know?

Kallipateira was the first woman to enter a sports venue. Her father, her husband, her three brothers, her son and her nephew were all Olympians. When her son competed in the Games, she was desperate to attend the event. However, she was a woman and therefore not allowed to enter the venue. Kallipateira, therefore, enter the stadium disguised as a man. Everything was going well until her son won! Kallipateira could not hide her feelings and her real identity was revealed. However, she was not punished, because of her family’s tradition at the Olympic Games.

What sports were included in the ancient Olympic Games programme?

The sports included in the programme of the ancient Olympic Game were:

  • Pentathlon
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Discus throw
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Pankration
  • Equistrian Events

You can learn more about the sports of the ancient Olympic Games here: Olympic Organization –  About Ancient Olympics

Each sport was added to the programme at a different stage of the ancient Olympic Games history. It is believed that up to 724 B.C. the stade race (200m) was the only athletic event of the Games.

Did you know?

The word “pentathlon” is derived from the Greek words pente (five) and -athlon (competition). That is because the pentathlon was a sport which included five events: long jump, javelin throwing, discus throwing, the stade race and wrestling. They were all contested on the same day.

Who was the first recorded winner in the Olympic Games History?

It was actually Koroibos, a cook from the city of Elis. He won the stade race in the 776 B.C. Olympic Games.

Did you know?

The marathon was not a sport of the ancient Olympic Games. It was only included in the Olympic Games after their revival, in 1896. The race is inspired by the run of Pheidippides, who in 490 B.C. carried the news of the Persian arrival at Marathon to Sparta, in order to ask for help. The distance he covered was around 40 km!

Why and when were the ancient Olympic Games abolished?

Following the rise of Rome, the importance of the Olympic Games faded. In 394 A.D. the Roman Emperor Theodosius I decided to abolish the Games. Theodosius I was a Christian and his decision was part of a wider attempt to suppress anything pagan in the Roman Empire.

You can learn more about the ancient Olympic Games by clicking here: Wikipedia Organization – About Ancient Olympic Games

When were the Olympic Games revived?

The first Olympic Games of the modern era took place in 1896. It took 1503 years for the Games to return, after their abolishment by Theodosius I.

Who had the idea of the Olympic Games revival?

The revival of the Games was the idea of a French educator and historian, called Pierre de Coubertin. De Coubertin presented his idea during a convention in Paris, in 1894. His plan included Paris as the host city of the first modern Olympic Games, which would take place in 1900. The other delegates, however, were so excited by his idea that could not wait for another six years! They therefore suggested that the first modern Games should take place in 1896. It was the Greek delegate, Dimitrios Vikelas, who proposed Athens as the host city.

Pierre de Coubertin with the olympic rings

Did you know?

Dimitrios Vikelas became the first president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which was founded in 1894.

When did the 1896 Games take place?

The opening ceremony of the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens took place at the Panathenaic Stadium on 25 March (6 April using the modern calendar). The Games lasted nine days and were extremely successful.

Which countries took part in the 1896 Games?

241 athletes (all male) from 14 countries took part in the 1896 Games. The countries which were represented were:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Chile
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Great Britain
  • Ireland
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States

Did you know?

Only five countries have been represented in all the editions of the Olympic Games since 1896, even though not always in the form of official teams. These are Greece, Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Australia.

Memorabilia from the 1896 Games could be purchased in our online collectibles store!

When do the modern Olympic Games take place?

The modern Olympics take place every four years, in a different city of the world. After the success of the first Olympic Games of the modern era in Athens, the second edition took place in Paris, in 1900, and the third edition took place in St. Louis, in 1904.

M. Sheridan (USA) 1st in the shot-putting contest. The same athlete was also the winner of the discus-throwing event at 1896 modern olympic Games

M. Sheridan (USA) 1st in the shot-putting contest. The same athlete was also the winner of the discus-throwing event.

V. Wechman (Finland) competing for first place in the wrestling contest at 1896 olympic games

V. Wechman (Finland) competing for first place in the wrestling contest.

The start of the 100 metres final first modern olympic games 1896

Snapshot of the start of the 100 metres final. 

Here is a list of all the host cities of the Olympic Games history:

  • 1896 – Athens (Greece)
  • 1900 – Paris (France)
  • 1904 – St. Louis (USA)
  • 1908 – London (UK)
  • 1912 – Stockholm (Sweden)
  • 1916 – Cancelled because of WW1
  • 1920 – Antwerp (Belgium)
  • 1924 – Paris (France)
  • 1928 – Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
  • 1932 – Los Angeles (USA)
  • 1936 – Berlin (Germany)
  • 1940 – Cancelled because of WW2
  • 1944 – Cancelled because of WW2
  • 1948 – London (UK)
  • 1952 – Helsinki (Finland)
  • 1956 – Melbourne (Australia)

  • 1960 – Rome (Italy)
  • 1964 – Tokyo (Japan)
  • 1968 – Mexico City (Mexico)
  • 1972 – Munich (Germany)
  • 1976 – Montreal (Canada)
  • 1980 – Moscow (Soviet Union)
  • 1984 – Los Angeles (USA)
  • 1988 – Seoul (South Korea)
  • 1992 – Barcelona (Spain)
  • 1996 – Atlanta (USA)
  • 2000 – Sydney (Australia)
  • 2004 – Athens (Greece)
  • 2008 – Beijing (China)
  • 2012 – London (UK)
  • 2016 – Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
  • 2020 (2021) – Tokyo (Japan)

Did you know?

London hosted the Olympic Games three times: in 1908, in 1948 and in 2012. When Paris won the right to host the 2024 Games and Los Angeles the right to host the 2032 they became the second and third city to be awarded the Games for the third time.

Did you know?

The members of the International Olympic Committee award the Games to a city and not to a country.

Were the Olympic Games ever cancelled?

The Olympic Games were cancelled three times. In 1916 because of World War 1 and in 1940 and 1944 because of World War 2. The 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the Olympic Flame?

The Olympic Flame is one of the most important symbols of the Games and a big part of the Olympic Games history. The concept of the Olympic Flame started in 1928, when the Games were held in Amsterdam. However, it was only in the 1936 Games in Berlin that the first torch relay took place. The flame is traditionally lit at the site of ancient Olympia, in Greece, and then travels through different cities of the world until it reaches the host city and the stadium in which the Games take place. A famous athlete from the host country has the honour of lighting up the cauldron in the stadium, during the opening ceremony.

2004 Olympic Games Athens: the Olympic Flame Ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium 

olympic Games Athens 2004 described in our blog and news

The Sochi 2014 Olympic Flame transition from Greek to Russian hands in a rousing Handover Ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium.

What do the five rings represent?

The five rings are basically the logo of the Olympic Games. The rings are interlocking and coloured blue, yellow, black, green and red, on a white background. According to Pierre de Coubertin, who created the symbol in 1913, the five interlocking rings represent the five continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Oceania. The flag colours of all the countries which took part in the Games at the time were represented in the symbol.

Did you know?

The Olympic flag also carries the Olympic symbol with the five rings.

Many original items carrying the Olympic symbol could be purchased in our online collectibles store!

What is the Olympic motto?

“Citius, Altius, Fortius” is the motto of the Olympic Games. It is latin for “faster, higher, stronger”. The motto was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin and was first used at the 1924 Games, in Paris.

What medals are awarded to the winners of the different events?

A gold medal is awarded to the winner of each event, a silver medal to the athlete who takes the second place and a bronze medal to the athlete who comes third. The one side of the Olympic medals is standard, while the design of the other side is a choice of each host city.

What is the Olympic Hymn?

The Olympic Hymn is the official anthem of the Olympic Games. Its lyrics were written by the renowned Greek poet Kostis Palamas and composed by the Greek musician Spiros Samaras. It was performed for the first time during the opening ceremony of the 1896 Games, in Athens. However, it wasn’t until 1958 that it was declared the official hymn by the IOC.

What is the Olympic mascot?

Each Olympic Games host city has its own mascot: a pet or a figure which represents the Games values. Some famous mascots from the Olympic Games history include Micha from the 1980 Games in Moscow and Cobi from the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Why does each edition have its own logo and poster?

The logo and the poster of each edition of the Olympic Games is the visual identity of the Games. In other words, they carry the messages that each host city wishes to convey to the world. The first Olympic logo was created for the 1924 Games, in Paris. The Olympic poster has a similar role and it is used for the promotion of each edition of the Games.

You can see the different posters from the Olympic Games history by clicking on this link. 

Collectible that all lovers of the Olympic Games would love could be purchased in our online collectibles store!

What about the Winter Olympic Games?

The Winter Olympic Games include sports which take place on snow or on ice. These are:

  • Alpine skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Bobsleigh
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Curling
  • Figure skating
  • Freestyle skiing
  • Ice hockey
  • Luge
  • Nordic combined
  • Short track speed skating
  • Skeleton
  • Ski jumping
  • Snowboarding
  • Speed skating

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