14 things you didn’t know about the Olympics


As well as being the biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games are a celebration of the human spirit, unity, fairness, excellence and peace in the world.

Its traditions symbolize unity and connect the technologically advanced modern era with an ancient but glorious past. Thousands of athletes around the world are giving their all to win a medal at the event that takes place every four years. Participants write history with their courage as the Games themselves tell their own story. Here are some interesting facts about the Olympic Games, their athletes and their traditions.

14 interesting facts about the Olympic Games:

What the rings and colors represent

Image credit: Bryan Turner / Unsplash

The five interlocking Olympic rings – blue, yellow, black, green and red – represent five main continents. The color of the rings, which are on a white background of the Olympic flag, was chosen because each country has at least one of the colors of its respective national flag. The Olympic flag is based on a design by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, and was presented to the public in 1913 and was first hoisted at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.

Today there are seven official versions of the Olympic rings which include the main flag, five monochrome in each of the five colors, and a black and white version where the rings are in white on a black background.

The torch and the flame

Olympic torch
Image credit: Yuki Iwamura / AFP

Contrary to popular belief, the Olympic torch relay does not have a historical origin. It is a modern idea of ​​university professor and sports theorist Carl Diem that was first used at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and has since become one of the most famous sports traditions. Even the Olympic flame made its debut at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

The relay torch carrying the Olympic flame should always be lit from the time it is lit in a ceremony in Ancient Olympia, Greece, until the time it reaches its final destination – a cauldron in the Olympic Stadium. of the host city.

It is designed to find out if all the odds and was carried underwater during the Sydney 2000 Olympics. However, there have been several instances where it went extinct for man-made or natural reasons. As a back-up plan, a second torch carrying the flame of Olympia is always on hand to quickly relight the unlit main torch.

Pigeons were killed at the 1900 Paris Olympics

Clay pigeon shooting
A skeet shooter aiming at a clay target. (Image credit: Michael Satterfield / Unsplash)

It was the only time in the history of the games where live animals were killed for sport. Pigeon shooting was an event of the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. Belgian Leon de Lunden shot 21 of the 300 pigeons to win the event. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) no longer recognizes the event. There were several other weird events at those Olympics, including the standing width jump, standing high jump, underwater swimming competition and croquet, the latter of which was attended by only one fan. . None of these events have ever made a return to the Games.

Medals cut in half

Even though American pole vaulter Bill Sefton won pole vault gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a new chapter in sportsmanship (and friendship) has been written by Japanese athletes Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe. The two, who were tied for second, were invited to participate in a tiebreaker. However, they refused and decided to share half of the silver and bronze medals.

They cut the medals in half and merged half of the silver with that of the bronze to make what today is called “the medals of friendship.” Nishida’s half-bronze, half-silver medal is on display at Waseda University in Japan.

Representation of women

Women at the Olympics
Image credit: Adek Berry / AFP

The 1900 Paris Olympic Games were the first Games in which women participated. But it wasn’t until the 2012 London Olympics that each participating nation had female athletes in its contingent. At the same Games, judoka Wojdan Shaherkani from Saudi Arabia became the first woman from her country to participate in the Olympics.

Rectangular medals

olympic medals
Image credit: Yoho2001 (talk) / Wikimedia Commons

The 1900 Paris Olympics were the only Summer Games where the shape of the medal was rectangular. Designed by Frédéric Vernon, the obverse of the medals showed a winged goddess holding laurel branches in her hands with the city of Paris and the monuments of the Universal Exhibition as a backdrop. The reverse showed an athlete standing on a podium, striking a victorious pose while holding a laurel branch in his hand in front of a stadium and the Acropolis in Athens.

New sports and one that has changed tracks

Figure skating
Image credit: Noel Celis / AFP

Figure skating is the oldest sport on the Olympic Winter Games program, but it was introduced during the 1908 Summer Games in London. It took place once again during a summer edition – the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. It has since been part of the Winter Olympics, starting with the first edition which was held in 1924 in Chamonix.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will see the addition of four new events to the Olympic calendar. These are karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing. It will also be the first time since 2008 that baseball and softball have been part of the Olympics.

The ‘Tarzan’ who was an Olympian champion

Johnny Weissmuller
A 1920s photo of Johnny Weissmuller standing by a swimming pool. (Image credit: AFP)

American actor Johnny Weissmuller, who is best known for playing Tarzan in a Hollywood film series in the 1930s, is recognized as “the first swimming superstar” because of his exploits at the 1924 Summer Olympics and 1928.

He won gold in the 100m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 4x200m team relay at the 1924 Paris Olympics in addition to pocketing a bronze medal in the water polo competition. Four years later, in Amsterdam, he won gold in the 100m freestyle and the 4x200m team relay.

“Superman” George Eyser

Georges eyser
Eyser (C) poses for a photo with other gymnasts. (Image credit: Olympics)

Athletes with disabilities competed in the major Olympic Games before the introduction of the Paralympic Games in 1960 in Rome. One of the most inspiring athletes of the United States, George Eyser, was the first to wear a prosthetic leg to compete in the Olympics. Eyser had lost most of his left leg in an accident as a child. Wearing a wooden leg, Eyser competed in gymnastics at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics and won three gold medals in a single day. He won three more medals to end his tally at six.

Even after the creation of the Paralympics, some Paralympians competed in the Olympics. Two of those names are South African swimmer Natalie du Toit and Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka.

It’s not all gold, dear Scrooge!

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Medals
Image credit: Issei Kato / POOL / AFP

The last time an all-gold medal was presented to a champion at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Since then, the “gold” medal consists of just six grams of gold plating over 92.5% silver. The silver medal is made entirely of silver while the bronze contains red brass, which is 95% copper and 5% zinc. Gold medals were first awarded at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, United States. All medals are designed by the host city.

Only one stadium has hosted the Olympics twice

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Image credit: Frédéric J. Brown / AFP

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the only Olympic stadium to have hosted two Summer Olympics. The first of the Games was held here in 1932 and the next in 1984. It is set to make history again in 2028 when it becomes the first to host the Games three times. The stadium was built in 1923 in memory of American soldiers who fought in World War I (1914-1918) and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and in California.

The marathon man

Abebe bikila
Abebe Bikila in action at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960 (Image credit: Comitato organizzatore dei Giochi della XVII Olimpiade / Wikimedia Commons)

Marathon has been part of the modern Olympic Games since the first Games in 1896. But its origin dates back to 490 BC. against the Persian invaders. At the end of the race, he collapsed and died, but not before he had completed the task given to him.

The legend of Pheidippides spread far and wide and long distance racing was born. Initially covering almost the same distance as the Pheidippides race, a marathon was standardized in 1921 at 42.195 kilometers.

One of the most famous runners of the modern Olympics was Ethiopian legend Abebe Bikila, who became the first black African to win a gold medal when he won the marathon event at the 1960 Rome Olympics. What makes his feat even more inspiring is that Bikila ran barefoot. Four years later, and 40 days after the operation, he repeated the feat – this time with shoes on – to become the first to win the marathon twice.

The Olympics postponed for the first time

Tokyo Olympics postponed
Image credit: François-Xavier Marit / AFP

The Games have never been postponed since the modern Olympic Games began in 1896. In a first, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games had to be postponed for a year. The reason is – the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Olympics were canceled during World War I (1916) and World War II (1940 and 1944). Since the authorities of the world’s largest sporting event have counted every four years since 1896 as an Olympiad, the Tokyo Games are thus officially recognized as the XXXII Olympiad.

First Olympic Games with medals made from recycled materials

The Tokyo 2020 Games are the first in history to award medals made from recycled materials. As part of the “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project”, authorities collected small used electronic devices from the Japanese people, which were then used in the creation of some 5,000 medals, designed by Junichi Kawanishi.

(Main and Featured Image: Ryunosuke Kikuno / Unsplash)


Naomi C. Amerson