The Olympic Games and the Crowds From All Over the World

What Are the Olympics?

Every four years, athletes from around the globe gather to compete in the Olympics. Competitors come from more than 200 nations to take part in sporting events most have spent the majority of their lives training for. Not only do individual athletes and teams compete to take home bronze, silver, and gold medals, but the total number of medals each country wins is tracked over the course of the games: It’s a matter of national as well as personal pride. During each Olympics, opening and closing ceremonies allow each country to display its flag and national pride.

When Do the Olympics Take Place?

There are two different types of Olympic Games: the Summer and Winter Olympics. Each kind is held every four years, with two years between the summer and winter events. However, from 1924 to 1992, the winter and summer games happened during the same calendar year. The 1994 Lillehammer games marked the beginning of alternating winter and summer Olympics every two years.

  • How Lillehammer Set the Standard: When it was decided that the Winter and Summer Games would no longer be held in the same year, the result was that only two years after the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, the Winter Games were held again in Lillehammer, Norway.

Who Runs the Games?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) produces and promotes the games. One of their main responsibilities is choosing which city will host each Olympic Games. After a location has been chosen, a national Olympic committee (NOC) in the host country will plan the games. Their responsibilities include making sure there are adequate accommodations for the athletes and suitable facilities for each sport. Additionally, they must produce the opening ceremony and design the medals.

Why Are the Olympics Important?

The Olympics bring together competitors from nations all over the world in the spirit of sportsmanship. While some of the competitors are already well-known and compete in popular sports, others take part in sports that rarely get any attention; many of the competitors have to work day jobs to support their athletic careers. No other competition unites the world on a global, competitive stage quite like the Olympics. The games give viewers at home a chance to learn about countries and sports they otherwise they might never learn about.

  • Do the Olympics Still Matter? The IOC has been plagued with scandals for years, and with the rise of globalization and sports being available to watch on the Internet, are the Olympics even worthwhile?

The Olympics in Ancient Greece

The first Olympics date all the way back to 776 B.C.E., when the games were part of a religious festival with great significance to the ancient Greeks. The games were held to honor Zeus, king of the gods, and people traveled to watch and participate in the games. Since the various city-states that made up ancient Greece were often at war with each other, a truce had to be called to allow the games to proceed safely. The people of Greece considered the games more important than whatever war they might be fighting.

  • How Did the Olympic Games Begin? One thing the organizers of the ancient Greek games had to worry about that modern organizers do not was sending out messengers announcing a truce for the length of the games.

The Revival of the Games

The Roman Emperor Theodosius I banned the Olympic games in 393 C.E. because he believed that the games encouraged the worship of pagan gods. However, in 1896, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens. Thirteen nations competed in front of crowds of more than 60,000 spectators in a variety of sports. At first, all of the competitors were men, but events for women were added over the course of the 20th century. As time passed, the games drew more attention and larger crowds.

What Activities Are in the Olympics?

A variety of sports make up the Summer and Winter Olympics. A partial list of the sports that make up the Summer Olympics include:

Events at the Winter Olympics include:

Many of the sports currently showcased at the Winter Olympics require fresh snow and cold temperatures. Because of this, there are limitations as to which countries and cities are capable of hosting the Winter Games.

Olympic Symbols

The Olympics symbols are some of the most recognizable symbols in the world. Each games has its own mascot, picked by the host city. However, the interlocking blue, yellow, green, black, and red rings against a white backdrop are probably the most instantly recognizable symbol of the Olympics. They were designed by Pierre de Coubertin in 1913 to represent the five parts of the world where the Olympics were embraced and the colors of the flags of all of the nations within.

  • The Meaning of the Olympic Rings: Pierre de Coubertin was intentional in every element of designing the rings, including the way they are interlocked to represent the unification of the world by the games.

The Olympic Flag

De Coubertin also designed the Olympic flag, which showcases the rings. At each Olympics, all of the flags of the participating nations are also displayed. During the closing ceremony, a flag is passed from the mayor of the current host city to the mayor of the next city to host the Olympics, a tradition known as the Antwerp Ceremony.

The Olympic Torch

The first Olympic torch was at the 1936 games in Berlin. Since then, it’s become an important symbol of the games. A torch relay begins in Olympia, Greece, where the original games were held, and travels the globe until it reaches the host city. There, the torch is used to light a large cauldron on the first day of the games to signal that the Olympics are underway.

  • Torch Relay Pays Tribute to Olympian: Adolf Hitler wanted the 1936 games to show Aryan supremacy, but African American Jesse Owens decimated Hitler’s plans with his incredible wins at the games. In 1996, the Olympic torch stopped at Jesse Owens Memorial Park in Alabama on its way to Atlanta.
Olive Leaf Crown

Medals weren’t given out to the winners of the ancient Olympics. Instead, they were awarded an olive wreath to wear as a crown. The olive leaves were chosen to reflect the importance of the olive tree in Greek culture.

Fun Olympic Facts for Kids

  • The first modern games took place in Athens, Greece, in 1896 as a way to honor the ancient games.
  • Gold medals don’t have very much gold in them.
  • Only five countries have taken part in every Summer Olympics since 1896: Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece, and Switzerland.
  • The ancient Olympics were also held every four years but lasted up to six months.
  • Figure skating originally was an event in the Summer Olympics.
  • London hosted the games in 1908, 1948, and 2021. It’s the only city to have hosted three times.
  • World War I and World War II caused the games scheduled in those years to be canceled.
  • The torch relay only began in 1936 but is now a cherished tradition.
  • The 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro marked the first time the Olympics were hosted in South America.
  • The Tokyo 2020 games mark the first time skateboarding has been an Olympic sport.

Additional articles and information about the author: Adam Hart