Essentially, there is now shortage of exciting facts and events in the history of both ancient and modern Olympic Games. We have compiled a list of 10 amazing facts about the Olympics for you — from 776 BC to the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan!
1. When did Olympics begin?
The first Olympics were held in 776 BC in Ancient Greece. It was in honour of Zeus, the Greek god of sky and thunder. The tournament lasted for about 6 months. The events included running, wrestling, chariot racing, javelin, boxing, discus and long jump.
The first Olympics took place in Olympia, the Greek city in the state of Elis. A cook named Koroibos was the first Olympic champion. He won the 192-meter foot long race.
The Games happened every 4 years with olive leaf wreaths and crowns awarded to winners
2. Greek Olympics was banned
In 393 AD, the Olympic Games were cancelled for about 1,500 years. The Roman emperor at the time, Theodosius the Great (Theodosius I) who reigned from 379 to 395 AD, banned the Greek Olympics because of religious celebrations. Theodosius I was a Christian and termed it as a pagan festival.
In 1984, a man named Baron Pierre de Coubertin formed the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This committee revived the Olympic events which brought about the modern Olympics, first held in Athens in 1986.
3. How did Olympic torch flame originate?
Before the start of any Olympics tournament, the torch flame is lit by a torchbearer. It serves as a tribute to Hestia, the Greek virgin goddess of Hearth. The first time they lit the torch was at the 1928 Games in her honour.
The flame represents continuity between the ancient and modern Olympics. In modern Games, the torches have different designs. The torch is lit by the sun in Olympia, the birthplace of the Games.
4. What does Olympic symbol represent?
In 1913, Baron Pierre de Coubertin who founded the IOC designed the Olympic rings. The rings have five colours, blue, black, red, yellow, and green. They represent the continents participating and their respective nations.
The blue colour represents Europe, black — Africa, red — America, yellow — Asia, while the green colour is reserved for Australia. The intersection of the rings represents international relations between athletes with different nationalities and backgrounds.
5. Only 2 athletes won gold medals both at Summer and Winter Olympics
In the history of the Olympics, only 2 athletes have ever won gold medals both at the Summer and Winter Olympics. American boxer and bobsledder Eddie Eagan and Swedish figure skater Gillis Emanuel Grafstrom hold this record.
Gillis has 3 gold medals across 1 Summer and 2 Winter Olympics. Eddie won his gold medals from different events while Gillis won his from only 1 event, which is figure skating.
Eddie won his first gold medal from the 1920 Summer Olympics boxing event and won his second from the 1932 Winter Olympics four-man bobsled game. Gillis won 1 gold medal from figure skating at the 1920 summer Games and 2 gold medals from the 1924 and 1928 Winter Games.
6. Only 2 athletes won gold medals representing 2 different nations
There are 2 athletes who have won gold medals representing different nations. Daniel Carrol and Kakhi Kakhiashvili hold this record. Daniel won 2 gold medals while Kakhiashvili won 3.
Daniel Carrol was an Australian union rugby player who won gold in rugby representing Australia in 1908 and won another gold for the USA in 1920. Kakhi Kakhiashvili is a Georgian-Greek weightlifter who won his first gold in men’s weightlifting in 1922 for Georgia before winning two gold medals as a Greek citizen.
7. Event can be voted in or voted out of Olympics
Some events used to be at the Olympics when it started and got voted out later. At the same time, some events got voted into the tournament. The IOC is saddled with this responsibility.
This is why events like rugby, golf, chess, car racing, and tug of war are scrapped, while events like karate, baseball and softball, skateboarding, surfing and sports climbing are included. Some may reappear, like baseball and softball, that were included in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
8. Artists once participated in Olympics
It may come as a surprise, but yes, artists once participated in the Games. During 1921-1948, sculptors, architects, painters, writers and musicians were part of the games. The winners were awarded medals at the time. In 1954, these events were removed, because artists were considered to be professionals. They were replaced by Olympic cultural programmes in 1956.
9. Gold medals are made of...
Up until 1912, the gold medals were made from pure gold. After World War I, they started making the gold piece from silver and little amounts of gold.
The composition is at least 92% silver with about 6 grams of gold. It weighs about 556 grams, is 85 mm in diameter and thickness of 12.1mm to 7.7mm. The gold medal is awarded to athletes that come first in the games.
10. Youngest Olympian in Modern Era
The youngest Olympian in the modern era is Dimitrios Loundras. He was 10 years 218 days old when he participated in the competition. Dimitrios Loundras was a Greek gymnast and later a naval officer, who participated at the 1896 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. He won the bronze medal from the team parallel bars game.
Marjorie Gestring is the youngest female to participate in the Olympics. She set the record at the age of 13 years 268 days. Marjorie was an American springboard diver who won the gold medal at the 1936 Summer Games. That made her as well the youngest person to win a gold Olympic medal in history. So basically, she holds two records.
Kusuo Kitamura is the youngest male to win a gold medal. Kitamura was a Japanese swimmer who participated in the 1932 Summer Games. At the age of 14 years 309 days, he won gold in the men’s 1500 freestyle swimming event.