Everything you need to know about the greatest sporting event in the world.
The first Olympics were held in Olympia in ancient Greece more than 2 500 years ago, in honour of the god Zeus. Athletes travelled from all over Greece to attend and, while the competition was on, cities that were at war with each other had to declare a truce.
The Games lasted only one day to begin with, but grew to five days. The contests included races, long jump, javelin and discus, as well as sports such as boxing, wrestling and chariot races.
No Clothes Please
Only men were allowed to participate in the ancient Olympic Games – and they had to do so naked! One theory is that this was to stop women from sneaking in.
The Olympic flag was designed by Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1912. The five rings symbolise the five ‘main’ continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia (hopefully your geography is better than his). At least one of these five colours – blue, yellow, black, green and red – is in every country’s flag.
The Modern Games
Fast-forward to the 1800s and people began to be interested in reviving the Olympics. There were several attempts, but Pierre de Coubertin’s was the most succesful. In 1894 he founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and in 1896 the first modern Olympic Games, as we know them today, were held in Athens, Greece. The Summer Olympic Games have been held every four years since then in a specific host city (rather than a whole country) elected by the IOC. A separate Winter Olympic Games is held every four years in between.The last Summer Games were held in 2008 in Beijing, China. This year’s host, London, has held the Games twice before, in 1908 and 1948.
Women were only allowed to participate as athletes at the second modern Olympic Games in 1900. Today, women can take part in all of the same sports as men, but the horse-riding events are the only ones where men and women compete against each other in the same competition.
At this year’s Games, 10 500 athletes from 205 nations will take part in 26 different sports in 302 events.
The Games have included some bizarre sports over the years, such as one-handed weight lifting, tug-of-war and live pigeon shooting. The IOC has since stopped these strange events.
On The Box
The Berlin Games, in 1936, were the first Olympics to be televised.
Closed For Business
The Games have only been cancelled three times: in 1916, 1940 and 1944. This was because of World War I and World War II.
The Final Frontier
Africa and South America are the only two continents that have not hosted the Olympics. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil will have a turn in 2016. Will Africa be next?