Useful Notes / Olympic Games

"Citius, Altius, Fortius"

In its purest form, the Olympic Games are a time when the world stops fighting, gathers together, and proceeds to try to show up every other country by beating them at sports. Essentially, it is a chance for friendly competition between nations for the greater glory of one's homeland, all under the light of a fire lit in Olympia, Greece, where the Games began. However, it can also get pretty political. Just ask the residents of Moscow and Los Angeles about their time under hosting duties.

Originally from Ancient Greece, the games were revived as a concept in 1896.

The Ancient Olympics

Held from 776 BC to AD 393 in (appropriately enough) Olympia, Greece. As with the modern Olympic Games, they were held every four years or Olympiad; Greek historians used the Olympiad to keep track of the years, because it was the one event that all of Greece could be counted on to attend and could therefore be used to cross-reference dates in the innumerable calendars the city-states used (each state had its own calendar, and some had twonote ).

The Games were only open to free mennote  who spoke Greek. (Although women could enter horses in the equestrian event.) Winners were given wreaths made of olive branches and became heroes to their hometowns, which often brought with it a considerable sum of money. Athletes competed in the nude; in fact, our word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek word "gymnos," meaning "naked".

Back in the day, Olympics were very big deals indeed; during the Olympic period, all wars were put on hold, armies were forbidden to enter Olympia, and the use of the death penalty was suspended. In contrast to the modern world, where the Olympics gets suspended in favour of warfare.

The Games were ultimately banned by Emperor Theodosius I, who established Christianity as the state religion of The Roman Empire and viewed the Olympics as a pagan festival.

The Modern Summer Olympics

Established by a group led by Pierre de Coubertin, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. Since then they have been held every four years, with the exception of 1916, 1940 and 1944, for fairly obvious reasons.

Originally a strictly amateur affair in the truest sense of the word; some early winners literally were just in town and decided to have a go. Jim Thorpe, who won two medals at the 1912 Stockholm Games, was actually stripped of them when it emerged he'd earlier played baseball semi-professionally. He got them back in 1983, thirty years after his death.

Events for the games have varied over the years, with some early events (like lacrosse and tug of war) not lasting and some more recent additions, like badminton in 1992, taekwondo in 2000 and rugby sevens from 2016.

One unique event for the games is the modern pentathlonnote  consisting of five events, purportedly based on the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines:
  • Show jumping note 
  • 200m freestyle swimming
  • Pistol shooting note 
  • Épée fencing
  • 3km cross-country running.

As a side note, from 1912 to 1952 cavalry officers were allowed to compete in the pentathlon, while cavalry soldiers were not; the reasoning was that soldiers trained in riding and weaponry for a living and hence were "professionals", while officers were independently wealthy and were considered "amateurs".

The host city for any given Summer Olympics is chosen about seven years in advance by the International Olympic Committee with cities submitting detailed bids, which are voted on in a fairly complex process. Hosting the Olympics is a very expensive thing, although (ideally) it does give you a nice stadium or three and some vastly improved city infrastructure when you're done.

    The Summer Games 
All Games are numbered as the "Games of the [Roman numeral] Olympiad", an Olympiad being a four-year cycle.

  • I — 1896: Athens, Greece
    Duration: April 6-15
    Participating Athletes: 241 (all-male) from 14 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 9
    The very first Olympic Games. Irish-American runner James Brendan Connolly was the very first modern Olympic champion, by way of winning the triple jump. The highlight of the Games, however, was the first marathon, ran at the route said to have been taken by Greek soldier Pheidippides to relay news of the Greek triumph over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, won by Greek water carrier Spyridon Louis, earning him a place in the Greek sporting pantheon. Princes George and Constantine of Greece ran the last lap alongside him. The second-place winner was also Greek, Kharilaos Vasilakos.
  • II — 1900: Paris, France
    Duration: May 14 — October 28
    Participating Athletes: 997 (975 men, 22 women) from 24 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 19
    Highlights include women participating for the first time, with Swiss sailor Hélène de Pourtalès becoming the first female champion, as well as American runner Alvin Kraenzlein winning the 60m relay (since discontinued after Saint Louis 1904), 110m hurdles, 200m hurdles and long jump — a record that stands to this day. The marathon's epic craziness involved a poorly laid-out course, leading to runners going in circles and two Americans claiming first place. (The winner, Michel Théato, was Luxembourgian.) Largely seen at the time as a sideshow to the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) that Paris was hosting that year. It wasn't even called the Olympic Games; the French organizers insisted on calling it an "international sports competition". Pierre de Coubertin remarked afterward that he was surprised that the "Olympic Movement" survived these games.
  • III — 1904: Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
    Duration: July 1 — November 23
    Participating Athletes: 651 (645 men, 6 women) from 12 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 16
    A confusing, badly organized mess, with the Russo-Japanese War and the traveling keeping many Europeans away. Like Paris 1900, these were basically a sideshow for the big World's Fair that year — the Louisiana Purchase Exposition — and indeed, de Coubertin had been browbeaten into accepting St. Louis in lieu of Chicago, which actually won the hosting rights fair and square. The marathon was a farce and a half.note  In short, these were the Games that almost ended the Olympics!
  • 1906: Athens, Greece
    A special edition of the Games to celebrate its tenth anniversary, but is now retconned by the IOC as unofficialnote . Still, a lot of things we now take for granted began here, including the Parade of the Athletes, an Olympic Village, and the Closing Ceremonies. Prince George of Greece was again involved in the organizing and some of the judging, and ran the last lap of the Marathon alongside the winner, Canadian Billy Sherring.
  • IV — 1908: London, England, United Kingdom
    Duration: April 27 - October 31
    Participating Athletes: 2,008 (1,971 men, 37 women) from 22 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 22
    Included some rows over the American flag not being dipped before King Edward VII at the royal box; Italian marathoner Dorando Pietri, also a strychnine user, staggering into the stadium half-dead, turning the wrong way, collapsing and being dragged across the finish line by doctors and officials (he was hailed as the winner, but disqualified for the assist); and the marathon length being standardized at 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 kilometers) because of royal requests to start the marathon at the Windsor Palace. Another highlight is American medley runner John Taylor becoming the first ever African-American champion.
  • V — 1912: Stockholm, Sweden
    Duration: July 6-22
    Participating Athletes: 2,406 (2,359 men, 47 women) from 28 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 14
    Saw the first arts competitions, a tradition kept up until London 1948. Japan also debuted as the first ever Asian nation at the Games. First Games to have automatic timers, invented by R. Carlstedt. These Games also featured the first women's aquatics events, as well as the first pentathlon and decathlon, both won by Jim Thorpe (USA), the first Native American champion, and Finnish runner Hannes Kohlemainen setting records on the 5km, 10km and cross-country events.
  • VI — 1916: Berlin, Germany
    Cancelled due to World War I.
  • VII — 1920: Antwerp, Belgium
    Duration: August 14 — September 12
    Participating Athletes: 2,626 (2,561 men, 65 women) from 29 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 22
    Olympic Oath: Victor Boinnote 
    First appearance of the Olympic Flag, the Oath and the doves. First Games in which the U.S. Army and Navy took an official part. The U.S. team were brought over on a military transport with lousy accommodations and threatened to strike — and again when they discovered their Antwerp lodgings were in an old abandoned schoolhouse. The losers of the First World War weren't invited. Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn set a record for becoming the oldest medalist ever, winning silver at 72 years old (he previously won gold on the previous two Games), and introduced the world to legendary Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, who won three gold and one silver. As the losing nations of World War I, Austria, Germanynote , Hungary and Turkey were banned from these games.
  • VIII — 1924: Paris, France
    Duration: May 4 — July 27
    Participating Athletes: 3,089 (2,954 men, 135 women) from 44 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 17
    Olympic Oath: Géo Andrénote 
    This marked the second time the Games were held in Paris. Not especially well known, except for the movie Chariots of Fire, which focused on Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, British runners who won the 400m and 100m, respectively. For those who would pry deeper, the Games featured Paavo Nurmi once again, as he tears through the competition with five golds, complementing his compatriots' domination of the track events. These Games also introduced the Olympic Motto and the idea of a Village in which athletes could interact and train with each other.
  • IX — 1928: Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Duration: July 28 — August 12
    Participating Athletes: 2,883 (2,606 men, 277 women) from 46 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 14
    Olympic Oath: Harry Dénisnote 
    The Games that set several firsts, such as the first appearance of the Olympic Flame, the tradition of Greece starting the athletes' parade, the 400m oval which would become the standard for Olympic track events, and the sponsorship of Coca-Cola. Germany, banned in both 1920 and 1924, made its return. Austro-Hungarian-American swimmer Johnny Weissmuller won two gold medals, then went on to a film career as Tarzan, and Paavo Nurmi ended his career with a gold and a silver. Amsterdam 1928 also featured the first ever Asian gold medalist, Japanese triple jumper Mikio Oda.
  • X — 1932: Los Angeles, California, USA
    Duration: July 30 — August 14
    Participating Athletes: 1,332 (1,206 men, 126 women) from 37 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 14
    Olympic Oath: George Calnannote 
    First use of the victory podium. Not exactly notable except for people who watched Letters from Iwo Jima — one of its main characters is Takeichi Nishi, Japan's only equestrian gold medalist, who would later die as a soldier during the defense of Iwo Jima. Fellow Japanese swimmer Kusuo Kitamura also became the youngest ever Olympic champion at 14 years old.
  • XI — 1936: Berlin, Germany
    Duration: August 1-16
    Participating Athletes: 3,963 (3,632 men, 331 women) from 49 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 19
    Olympic Oath: Rudolf Ismayrnote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Fritz Schilgen
    "The Nazi Games" and the first to be broadcast on television. African-American runner Jesse Owens won four gold medals (in the process defying Adolf Hitler's philosophy of Aryan supremacy) in a highly controversial games that saw a Spanish boycott, the first torch relay, and only "Aryans" being allowed to compete for Germany.
  • XII — 1940: Tokyo, Japan
    Taken from Tokyo when the Second Sino-Japanese War began, then moved to Helsinki, Finland, then definitely cancelled after World War II began. An unofficial POW games was held in Stalag XIII-A though.
  • XIII — 1944: London, England, United Kingdom
    Cancelled, also due to World War II. However, an unofficial POW games was held in Oflag II-C by the Polish prisoners with German permission.
  • XIV — 1948: London, England, United Kingdom
    Duration: July 29 - August 14
    Participating Athletes: 4,104 (3,714 men, 390 women) from 59 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 17
    Olympic Oath: Don Finlaynote 
    Lighter of the Flame: John Mark
    This marked the second time the Games were held in London. The "austerity games", with athletes housed in barracks. Germany and Japan, losers of World War II, were banned. These Games featured a breakthrough in women's sports through Dutch runner Fanny Blankers-Koen, then a 30-year-old mother of three, winning both the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4×100m relay.
  • XV — 1952: Helsinki, Finland
    Duration: July 19 — August 3
    Participating Athletes: 4,955 (4,436 men, 519 women) from 69 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 17
    Olympic Oath: Heikki Savolainennote 
    Lighters of the Flame: Paavo Nurminote  (on-track) and Hannes Kolehmainennote  (above stadium)
    The only appearance of Saar, then not part of West Germany. These Games marked the debut of Israel as well as the USSR, in its first appearance since Tsarist Russia last competed in Stockholm 1912 (previously, Soviet leaders denounced the Games as "bourgeois" and created their own "Workers Olympics"). Also, Japan and Germany, having been banned in 1948, made their returns again, although only West Germany represented Germany as a whole. These Games featured an astonishingly successful performance by Hungarian athletes, as well as Czechoslovak runner Emil Zátopek winning both the 5km, 10km and marathon, as well as USA's Bob Mathias becoming the first to successfully defend his decathlon gold. Also among the athletes was British runner Roger Bannister, whose failure to win the 1500m event inspired him to train harder, leading him to ultimately become the very first runner to run a mile (1609 m) under four minutes in a 1954 race.
  • XVI — 1956: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia / Stockholm, Sweden
    Duration: November 22 — December 8
    Participating Athletes: 3,314 (2,938 men, 376 women) from 72 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 17
    Olympic Oath: John Landynote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Ron Clarkenote 
    First Games in the southern hemisphere. The equestrian events were held in Stockholm due to quarantine regulations. Australian athletes had a field day, courtesy of runner Betty Cuthbert winning the 100m, 200m and 4×100m, as well freestyle swimmers Murray Rose, the first to win multiple golds since Weissmuller (400m, 1500m and 4×200m), and Dawn Fraser at the 400m and 4×100m. The Games also featured the debut of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won four gold and one each of silver and bronze. The Americans left far from empty-handed, with sprinter Bobby Morrow winning the same events on the men's side as Cuthbert on the women's, as well as discus thrower Al Oerter, who would win the first of his four discus golds – the first of only two athletesnote  to win four golds in the same event.
  • XVII — 1960: Rome, Italy
    Duration: August 25 — September 11
    Participating Athletes: 5,338 (4,727 men, 611 women) from 83 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 17
    Olympic Oath: Adolfo Consolininote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Giancarlo Peris
    The Games featured American runner and polio survivor Wilma Rudolph winning three sprint medals. The Games also marks the debut of nineteen-year-old Cassius Clay — the boy who would become Muhammad Ali — through a gold medal at light-heavyweight boxing. Other highlights included Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila running barefoot to become the first black African gold medalist, Australian runner Herb Elliott dominating the 1500m event, and American decathlete Rafer Johnson defeating his Taiwanese friend Yang Chuan-kwang in perhaps one of the most dramatic finals in Olympic history, as well as Larisa Latynina adding three golds, two silvers and a bronze to her collection.
  • XVIII — 1964: Tokyo, Japan
    Duration: October 10-24
    Participating Athletes: 5,151 (4,473 men, 678 women) from 93 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 19
    Olympic Oath: Takashi Ononote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Yoshinori Sakainote 
    First Games in Asia, the first broadcast live via satellite, and also the first in color for viewers in Japan and America. To emphasize Japan's message of postwar recovery, the Flame was lit by 19-year-old runner Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in 6 August 1945 — the day the atomic bomb destroyed his native Hiroshima. The Games featured Larisa Latynina capping her career with two each of gold, silver and bronze, making her one of the most successful Olympians ever with 9 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze, for a total of 19 medals total — a record that stood until Michael Phelps broke it in 2012. Other highlights include Dawn Fraser's final gold at the 100m freestyle swimming (capping a 3-peat), Abebe Bikila becoming the first marathoner to successfully defend his Olympic gold, and Native American runner Billy Mills's astonishing win at the 10km event — the only American to do so.
  • XIX — 1968: Mexico City, Mexico
    Duration: October 12-27
    Participating Athletes: 5,516 (4,735 men, 781 women) from 112 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 18
    Olympic Oath: Pablo Garridonote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Enriqueta Basilionote 
    American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze winners at the 200m race, respectively, did a Black Power salute and got banned for life, while somebody got banned for drug use for the first time. The Games were also marred by student protests against the dictatorial government, which ended with the army being sent in to massacre protesters and civilians, ten days before the opening ceremony. On a lighter note, the Games feature the first woman to light the Olympic Flame, hurdler Enriqueta Basilio. American long jumper Bob Beamon also set a record at the long jump with 8.90m – a world record until 1991, and an Olympic record to this day. Other highlights included Tanzanian marathoner John Stephen Akhwari finishing last at the marathon, trudging on despite a dislocated knee, as well as a boxing gold for future American heavyweight star George Foreman.
  • XX — 1972: Munich, West Germany (now Germany)
    Duration: August 6 — September 10
    Participating Athletes: 7,134 (6,075 men, 1,059 women) from 121 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 21
    Mascot: Waldi the dachshund; the first Summer Games mascot (the Winter Games had the first overall mascot, in 1968).
    Olympic Oaths: Heidi Schüllernote  (Athletes) / Heinz Pollaynote  (Judges)
    Lighter of the Flame: Gunter Zahn
    Tragically overshadowed by a hostage crisis involving eleven Israeli athletes and Palestinian terrorists which ended in bloodshed. Particularly jarring since the Games are meant to be a Lighter and Softer counterpoint to Berlin 1936's Nazi leanings, with its basic aesthetics designed to be as colorful and joyful as possible. Other highlights include a controversial win of the Soviet basketball team against the USA, as well as Jewish-American swimmer Mark Spitz setting a record for most medals in one Games (seven), which stood until Michael Phelps surpassed it in 2008, and Belarusian Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut winning three gold and one silver. Also the first summer edition to include the judges' oath of impartiality.
  • XXI — 1976: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Duration: July 17 — August 1
    Participating Athletes: 6,084 (4,824 men, 1,260 women) from 92 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 21
    Mascot: Amik the beaver
    Olympic Oaths: Pierre Saint-Jeannote  (Athletes) / Maurice Fauget (Judges)
    Lighters of the Flame: Stéphane Préfontaine and Sandra Hendersonnote 
    Montreal 1976 saw a 24-nation African boycott over New Zealand's national rugby team touring South Africa (then banned from the Olympics due to apartheid), a guy win a gymnastics medal with a broken knee and the first perfect score in a gymnastics event by fourteen-year-old Nadia Comăneci from Romania. The scoreboards couldn't handle it. The Games were also notorious for Canada not winning a gold medal on its home Games, a streak that continued in Calgary 1988 but finally broken come Vancouver 2010. The Games also put Montreal in debt for the next three decades. Other highlights include Georgian Soviet triple jumper Viktor Saneyev complete a rare three-peat, American decathlete Caitlyn (then Bruce) Jenner setting a world record with 8,634 points, and American boxers Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks and Leo Randolph winning gold medals before launching successful professional careers. Also among the athletes was Thomas Bach, member of the gold-winning West German fencing team, who in 2013 would become the very first Olympic medalist to become IOC President.
  • XXII — 1980: Moscow, USSR (now Russia)
    Duration: July 19 — August 3
    Participating Athletes: 5,179 (4,064 men, 1,115 women) from 80 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 21
    Mascot: Misha the bear
    Olympic Oaths: Nikolai Andrianovnote  [Athletes] / Aleksandr Medvednote  [Judges]
    Carrier of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Viktor Saneyevnote  / Sergei Belovnote 
    The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a year earlier saw a large-scale (65 nations) USA-led boycott of these Games, with some nations only parading under the Olympic Flag, so these Games were dominated by the USSR and East Germany. A lot of world records got broken, though. Other standouts include British decathlete Daley Thompson breaking Jenner's record en route to gold (and later repeating four years later) and Cuban boxer Teófilo Stevenson becoming the only heavyweight to win three consecutive golds. Even though the boycott was made on its behalf, Afghanistan ironically participated and later joined the 1984 boycott (it had a pro-Soviet regime at the time, after all). These were also the first games in which the opening and closing ceremonies became the expensive, full-blown, almost theatrical events we know today.
  • XXIII — 1984: Los Angeles, California, USA
    Duration: July 28 — August 12
    Participating Athletes: 6,829 (5,263 men, 1,566 women) from 140 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 21
    Mascot: Sam the eagle
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jennernote , Wyomia Tyusnote , Parry O'Briennote , John Nabernote , Al Oerternote , Mack Robinsonnote , Billy Millsnote  and Bill Thorpe, Jr.note , accompanied by Sammy Leenote , Pat McCormicknote  and Richie Sandovalnote 
    Olympic Oath: Edwin Mosesnote 
    Carrier of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Gina Hemphillnote  / Rafer Johnsonnote 
    This marked the second time the Games were held in Los Angeles. A smaller, USSR-led Eastern boycott for this one in retaliation for the USA-led one four years prior. This allowed America to earn its most medals since Saint Louis 1904. Also had a theme by John Williams that is still played by NBC to this day and a guy fly a jet-pack during the opening ceremonies, and the appearance of a fake UFO during the closing ceremonies. Widely considered the most financially successful Games, according to The Other Wiki. Many of the Games' notable events come from athletics, with USA's Carl Lewis matching Owens' feat in winning the 100m, 200m, 4×100m and long jump (in the first of his four appearances), Morocco's Nawal El Moutawakel becoming the first woman from an Islamic nation to win a gold medal, and Great Britain's Sebastian Coe the first back-to-back 1500m winner. Other notables include British rower Steve Redgrave winning the first of his five consecutive gold medals, Chinese gymnast Li Ning winning 3 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze — the most of any Chinese athlete — presaging his country's ascendancy in future editions, and the first appearance of future Dream Team players Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, then amateurs, as the US basketball team wins gold. These are the last Summer Games to date to be telecast in the United States on a network other than NBC (in this case, ABC).
  • XXIV — 1988: Seoul, South Korea
    Motto: "Harmony and Progress"
    Duration: September 17 — October 2
    Participating Athletes: 8,391 (6,197 men, 2,194 women) from 160 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 23
    Mascot: Hodori the tiger
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Yang Jung-monote , You In-taknote , Kim Weon-keenote , Shin Joon-supnote , Jo Hea-jungnote , Choi Aei-young, Yoon Soo-kyungnote  and Seo Hyang-soonnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Hur Jaenote  and Son Mi-nanote  [Athletes] / Lee Hak-raenote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighters of the Flame: Sohn Kee-chungnote  / Im Chun-aenote  / Kim Won-tak, Chung Sun-man and Sohn Mi-cheungnote 
    The attention the Games brought helped make South Korea a democracy. During most opening ceremonies, doves of peace were released after the lighting of the Flame. In Seoul, they let the doves out before the torch came in, a number of confused doves perched on the rim of the Olympic Cauldron just before it was lit, and were burned to death on worldwide television; that's why this was the last Games at which live doves were released (future editions of the Games would use replicas). On a side note, one gymnast who was infamously snubbed when participants were selected for this games despite winning the National Championship in her home country went on to become an action star in the James Bond parody Spitfire. Canadian Ben Johnson won a gold medal and a new record at the 100 metre dash, only to be promptly stripped of both when he was caught using banned steroids. There was an event that saw a very controversial boxing judgment. There was a boycott by North Korea, which had demanded that the Games be co-hosted by both Koreas. Albania and Cuba joined the North Korean boycott, but the less hardline communist countries (including glasnost-era USSR) competed.
  • XXV — 1992: Barcelona, Spain
    Motto: "Friends Forever"
    Duration: July 25 — August 9
    Participating Athletes: 9,356 (6,652 men, 2,704 women) from 169 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 25
    Mascot: Cobi the sheepdog
    Olympic Oaths: Luis Dorestenote  [Athletes] / Eugeni Asensionote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Herminio Menéndeznote  / Juan Antonio San Epifanio "Epi"note  / Antonio Rebollonote 
    Twelve of the states of the recently defunct USSR competed as a unified team and Yugoslav athletes competed as individuals. As the first Games where NBA players were allowed to compete in men's basketballnote , the USA exploited the opportunity by sending a "Dream Team" composed of NBA superstars such as Michael Jordan, which steamrolled their way to gold. Also best-known for having probably the most memorable lighting of the Olympic Flame in history, featuring Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo firing a flaming arrow into the cauldron note . Also featured the Olympics theme song "Barcelona", sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. First Games since 1960 to feature South Africa, which had previously been banned as punishment for apartheid. Other notables include Fermín Cacho becoming the surprise winner of the 1500m run and the first Spanish running champion; 13-year-old Chinese diver Fu Mingxia the youngest Olympic gold medalist of all time; and Belarusian gymnast Vitaly Scherbo (as part of the Unified Team) winning six golds (four on one day alone), and also tying Eric Heiden's record from the 1980 Winter Games with five golds in individual events.
  • XXVI — 1996: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
    Motto: "Celebration of the Century"
    Duration: July 19 — August 4
    Participating Athletes: 10,320 (6,797 men, 3,523 women) from 197 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 26
    Mascot: Izzy the "Whatizit"
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Edwin Moses, Steve Lundquistnote , Katrina McClainnote , Geoff Gaberinonote , Mary T. Meaghernote , Ralph Bostonnote , Dave Maggardnote  and Benita Fitzgerald-Brownnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Teresa Edwardsnote  [Athletes] / Hobie Billingsleynote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Al Oerter [Outside] / Evander Holyfieldnote  and Voula Patoulidounote  / Janet Evansnote  / Muhammad Alinote 
    Touted as a commemoration of the centennial of the Games, though overshadowed by a bomb attack in the Olympic Park. Ruined the career and ultimately prematurely ended the life of the security guard who called in the threat. The selection of the venue also caused the Greeks to switch to Pepsi given Atlanta is Coca-Cola's headquarters. On the brighter side, the Games featured the lighting of the Flame by one of Atlanta's most famous locals: Muhammad Ali, then a 54-year-old with Parkinson's disease. Also notable for being the first Opening Ceremonies scripted with a flowing, cohesive storyline, a concept since used in every subsequent Summer games' opening ceremonies thereafter. Also the first Opening Ceremonies to have an opera written to symbolize the spirit of the Games, and also noted for featuring marching-bands and cheerleaders, both of which are traditions somewhat unique to the United States (and to a lesser extent, Canada). Other notable events include the USA women's gymnastics team winning its first gold, Canadian runner Donovan Bailey setting a world record at the 100m note , American runner Michael Johnson doing the same for the 200m and 400m, France's Marie-José Pérec winning the same two events as Johnson (but without the world records), Carl Lewis matching Al Oerter with his fourth long jump gold, and USA winning gold for the very first women's football/soccer tournament. Also notable for being the only recent Olympics in which no nation swept the podium (in other words, in no event did all 3 medals go to the same nation). Swimmer Amy Van Dyken became the first American woman to win four gold medals in a single Olympics, Winter or Summer, capturing gold in the 50m freestyle, 100m butterfly, and 4x100m freestyle and medley relays. Four years later in Sydney, Van Dyken would pick up two more golds in the latter events, ending her Olympic career with six medals, all of them gold. In June of 2014, Van Dyken was severely injured in an ATV accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Also, for some reason, the ads that aired during NBC's coverage of the games seemed to be better fit for the Super Bowl than the Olympics; Platypus Comix has more info on that.
  • XXVII — 2000: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    Motto: "Share the Spirit, Dare to Dream"
    Duration: September 15 — October 1
    Participating Athletes: 10,651 (6,582 men, 4,069 women) from 199 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 28
    Mascots: Olly the kookaburra, Syd the platypus, and Millie the echidna
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Bill Roycroftnote , Murray Rosenote , Liane Toothnote , Gillian Roltonnote , Marjorie Jacksonnote , Lorraine Crappnote , Michael Wendennote  and Nick Greennote 
    Olympic Oaths: Rechelle Hawksnote  [Athletes] / Peter Kerrnote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Herb Elliottnote  [Outside] / Female Australian Olympic medalists, celebrating the centenary of women's participation in the Games: Betty Cuthbertnote  (on wheelchair) and Raelene Boylenote  / Dawn Frasernote  / Shirley Stricklandnote  / Shane Gouldnote  / Debbie Flintoff-Kingnote  / Cathy Freemannote 
    Basketball fans probably remember that dunk by Vince Carter. Sydney 2000 was also dubbed the "Women's Games", celebrating 100 years of female participation (it was also the first Games to have women's weightlifting, and saw increased female participation, albeit then at 25% the number of men). The final torch relay was done entirely by women medalists from past Games, culminating with aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman, silver medalist from Atlanta 1996, who would win her event, the 400m run. Michael Phelps, then 15, made his Olympic debut here, finishing fifth in the men's 200m butterfly final, while fellow American Tom Malchow won the event, the only Olympic gold of Malchow's career. These Games are infamous in the US for the fact that everything that NBC and the cable channels they used to supplement their coveragenote  aired was taped, thanks to the 14-hour time difference between Sydney and the US's Eastern Time Zone. The only event NBC aired live was the men's basketball gold medal game between the US and France, since it fit into the primetime slot on their penultimate night of coverage.note 
  • XXVIII — 2004: Athens, Greece
    Motto: "Welcome Home"
    Duration: August 13-29
    Participating Athletes: 10,625 (6,296 men, 4,329 women) from 201 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 28
    Mascots: children Athena and Phevos
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Petros Galaktopoulosnote , Ilias Hatzipavlisnote , Niki Bakoyianninote , Angelos Basinasnote , Leonidas Kokasnote , Michail Mouroutsosnote , Valerios Leonidisnote  and Dimosthenis Tampakosnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Zoe Dimoschakinote  [Athletes] / Lazaros Voreadisnote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Nikos Galisnote  / Mimis Domazosnote  / Voula Patoulidou / Kakhi Kakhiashvilinote  / Ioannis Melissanidisnote  / Nikolaos Kaklamanakisnote 
    This marked the second time the Games were held in Athens. The torch relay for this Olympics notably spanned every continent. Touted as the "Homecoming Games", this marks Greece's best performance since the inception of the games. However, these games were notable by the low number of attendance at the events, and eventually being one of the contributors to putting Greece into a crippling default later in the decade. These Games also served as the introduction to 19-year-old American swimmer Michael Phelps, who showed much promise with six golds and two bronzes. Other notable events include Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima defying a last-minute crasher to win bronze, hurdler Liu Xiang winning China's first gold in men's athletics, Moroccan runner and world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj finally winning the 1500m (following a last-minute stumble in 1996 and being outpaced by Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge in 2000) as well as the 5000m, and a shock defeat by the US men's basketball team, which had to settle for bronze.
  • XXIX — 2008: Beijing, China
    Motto: "One World, One Dream"
    Duration: August 8-24
    Participating Athletes: 10,942 (6,305 men, 4,637 women) from 204 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 28
    Mascots: The Fuwa (good-luck dolls): Beibei the fish, Jingjing the panda, Huanhuan the flame, Yingying the antelope, and Nini the swallow
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Zhang Xielinnote , Pan Duonote , Zheng Fengrongnote , Yang Yang (A)note , Yang Lingnote , Mu Xiangxiongnote , Xiong Ninote  and Li Lingweinote 
    Olympic Oaths: Zhang Yiningnote  [Athletes] / Huang Lipingnote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Xu Haifengnote  / Gao Minnote  / Li Xiaoshuangnote  / Zhan Xugangnote  / Zhang Junnote  / Chen Zhongnote  / Sun Jinfangnote  / Li Ningnote 
    A controversial Games, where the torch relay became a source of protests by anti-chinese government demonstrators, including more than one Torch runner getting attacked by pro-Tibet protesters and the Flame actually being deliberately put out three times in Paris by security. (Torch relay teams carry a backup lamp, also lit in Athens, for incidents like these.) This got so bad that it's pretty much killed off any chances of another worldwide torch relay. The main event, though, passed without incident. Phelps set the record for the most medals in one Games at eight golds on all his events, also tying Heiden and Scherbo for most golds in individual events in a single Games at five. This also marked the debut of 21-year-old Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, who set a 100m sprint record while showboating for the last 20 meters. Live but Delayed. The dazzling ceremonies of these Games will possibly not be beaten for a long, long time. The opening culminated with Li Ning, 1984 six-time medal-winning gymnast (3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) and China's most successful Olympian, literally running through the sky with the Torch in hand across a giant scroll which unrolled to reveal the stylized cauldron as he lit the Flame.
  • XXX — 2012: London, England, United Kingdom
    Motto: "Inspire a Generation"
    Duration: July 27 — August 12
    Participating Athletes: 10,768 (5,992 men, 4,776 women) from 204 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 26
    Mascots: Following the Vancouver Winter Games' lead in uniting the Olympics and Paralympics mascots, both Games share Wenlock and Mandeville the blobs of steel, with Wenlock representing the Olympics and Mandeville the Paralympics.
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendonnote , Haile Gebrselassienote , Sally Beckernote , Ban Ki-Moonnote , Leymah Gboweenote , Shami Chakrabartinote , Daniel Barenboimnote , and Marina Silvanote ; brief cameo by Muhammad Ali
    Olympic Oaths: Sarah Stevensonnote  [Athletes] / Mik Basi (boxing) [Judges] / Eric Farrell [Coaches]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighters of the Flame: David Beckhamnote  [by motorboat] / Steve Redgravenote  / Seven teenage athletes nominated by seven legendary British Olympians, in the spirit of the Games' theme of "inspiring a generation": Callum Airlie (Shirley Robertsonnote ), Jordan Duckitt (Duncan Goodhewnote ), Desiree Henry (Daley Thompsonnote ), Katie Kirk (Mary Petersnote ), Cameron MacRitchie (Steve Redgrave), Aidan Reynolds (Lynn Daviesnote ) and Adelle Tracey (Kelly Holmesnote )
    This made London the first city to host the Games thrice, as well as the first Games where all 204 participating nations, including individual athletes from recently-dissolved Netherlands Antilles and newly-independent South Sudan, have female athletes. These Games boast Great Britain's best medal haul since 1908 (ending with a respectable third-place finish behind perennial board-leaders USA and China), Usain Bolt's continued domination of sprint events, and Michael Phelps surpassing Latynina's record with four golds and two silvers, marking a new world record of 22 medals (eighteen gold and two each of silver and bronze). The Opening Ceremonies, directed by Danny Boyle, will probably also go down in history as "the one where the Queen parachuted into the arena with James Bond". Mention should also be made of the original cauldron design, comprising a loose assembly of 204 copper "petals" (one carried in by a member of each participating nation's team) with thin copper gas pipes as "stalks". Once lit these rose up to form a tight cluster so that the flames merged, symbolizing unity.
  • XXXI — 2016: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Motto: "A New World"
    Duration: August 5-21
    Participating Athletes: 11,544 from 207 NOCsnote 
    Number of sports: 28
    Mascot: Vinicius, a combination of Brazil's native animals who primarily looks like a monkey-cat. His counterpart Paralympic mascot is Tom, a similar mash-up of Brazil's plant life.
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Emanuel Regonote , Rosa Celia Pimentel Barbosanote , Sandra Piresnote , Torben Graelnote , Joaquim Cruznote , Martanote , Ellen Gracie Northfleet note  and Oscar Schmidtnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Robert Scheidtnote  (athletes) / Martinho Nobre (judges)
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Gustavo "Guga" Kuertennote  / Hortência Marcarinote  / Vanderlei Cordeiro de Limanote 
    The first Games in South America, held two years after Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Despite concerns over the Zika virus, alarming pollution on the city waters, infrastructure problems, inadequate security and some pre-Games violence, and a massive doping scandal that shaved off almost the entire Russian athletics teamnote , the Games are best remembered for an environmentally-themed opening ceremony (culminating in a small, low-emission cauldron accented by a wind-powered kinetic sculpture), the final performances of Michael Phelps, who finishes with five gold and one silver, and Usain Bolt, who completed a "triple-triple" (gold at the 100m, 200m and 4×100m on all three Games he attended), American gymnast Simone Biles adding four gold and one silver to her ten gold and two each of silver and bronze from the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, Somali-born British runner Mo Farah becoming the second athlete to successfully defend his 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals after Finland's Lasse Virén in 1972 and 1976, and hosts Brazil finally winning its first football gold, in some ways gaining both redemption for its fourth-place disappointment at said World Cup, as well as some measure of vengeance for its 1-7 semifinals humiliation from Cup winner Germany through penalty kicks (5-4, 1-1 after 120 minutes).
  • XXXII — 2020: Tokyo, Japan
    Motto: "Discover Tomorrow"
    Duration: July 24 — August 9
    Number of sports: 33
    This will mark the second time the Games are held in Tokyo, the first time an Asian city hosts the Games twice, and the fifth in a list of such repeats overall, after Athens (1896, 2004), Paris (1900, 1924), London (1908, 1948, 2012), and Los Angeles (1932, 1984).
  • XXXIII — 2024: (TBA)
    To be decided between Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris in a 2017 meeting hosted by Lima, Peru. Budapest is a multiple-time candidate, while the other two could be repeaters should either one win, with either potentially becoming the second three-time host after London. Boston was originally meant to be the USA's bidding city, until they decided against hosting the Games and were replaced by Los Angeles. Rome also entered a bid for the Games, until their mayor Virginia Raggi - a staunch opponent of the bid - withdrew their candidacy in September 2016, saying it would be "irresponsible" for the Eternal City to be a candidate. The German city of Hamburg also entered a bid, but withdrew it in November 2015 following a referendum in which 51.6% voted against hosting the Games.

The Modern Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Games consist of multiple winter sport events and are held every four years, also excepting 1940 and 1944. The first winter games were held in 1924. Varying sports have been added since, but cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been in every Olympics since 1924. Today's games also feature snowboarding and luge.

The Winter Games were initially held during the same year as the Summer Olympics — and before World War II, in the same country. While there still tend to be fewer countries participating than in the Summer Games, the Winter Olympics have grown in popularity, and the International Olympic Committee decided in 1986 to off-set the Winter Games from the Summer ones. In 1992, both Summer and Winter Olympics were held, but in different nations. The next Winter Olympics were held in 1994, and the next Summer Olympics in 1996. This means that Winter Olympics are now held in the same years as soccer World Cups.

    The Winter Games 
Unlike the Summer Olympics, which count the Olympiad whether the games occurred in them or not, the Roman numerals of the Winter Olympics count only the games.

  • I — 1924: Chamonix, France
    Duration: January 25 — February 5
    Participating Athletes: 258 from 16 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Paul Camille Mandrillonnote 
    Originally called the "International Winter Sports Week" (and a part of Paris 1924), these Games were successful enough that the IOC decided to make the Winter Olympics more or less regular.
  • II — 1928: Saint Moritz, Switzerland
    Duration: February 11-19
    Participating Athletes: 464 (438 men, 26 women) from 25 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Hans Eidenbenznote 
    The first true Winter Olympics. The Games were also notorious for fluctuating weather — a blizzard at the opening ceremony, followed by warm weather for the rest of the tournament.
  • III — 1932: Lake Placid, New York, USA
    Duration: February 4-15
    Participating Athletes: 252 (231 men, 21 women) from 17 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Jack Sheanote 
    The first Winter Games outside Europe, and the first time the host team beat perennial Winter Games board-leader Norway.
  • IV — 1936: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
    Duration: February 6-16
    Participating Athletes: 646 (566 men, 80 women) from 28 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Willy Bogner, Sr.note 
    Not as Nazi-ridden as the summer version, held in Berlin later that year, but the Germans still manage to come behind Norway in the medals table. These Games featured the debut of alpine skiing, and featured Britain's upset of Canada in men's ice hockey (a sport traditionally associated with the latter).
  • 1940: Sapporo, Japan
    Supposed to be the first Winter Games in Asia, only for Japan to resign from hosting duties due to the Second Sino-Japanese War, and ultimately cancelled due to World War II. The same city would later be awarded the 1972 edition.
  • 1944: Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy
    Also cancelled due to World War II. The same town would later be awarded the 1956 edition.
  • V — 1948: Saint Moritz, Switzerland
    Duration: January 30 — February 8
    Participating Athletes: 669 (592 men, 77 women) from 28 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Bibi Torrianinote 
    The first Winter Games to be held in a previous host city. These Games featured Barbara Ann Scott, the only Canadian woman to win gold in figure skating, as well as Dick Button, American figure skater and the first to successfully pull off a double axel en route to a gold, and Henri Oreiller, French alpine skier and first to win a downhill event by a wide margin (4 seconds). Like London 1948, Japan and Germany, losers of World War II, were not invited.
  • VI — 1952: Oslo, Norway
    Duration: February 14-25
    Participating Athletes: 694 (585 men, 109 women) from 30 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Torbjørn Falkangernote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Eigil Nansennote 
    As expected, Norway dominated these Games, among which is its most decorated athlete, trucker and speed skater Hjalmar Andersen, who won three of his four events. Emulating the summer versions, these Winter Games also introduced the passing of an Olympic flag from the mayor of the current host to that of the next host through the IOC president at the closing ceremonies (though recent Winter Games use replicas of the "Oslo flag"). These Games also featured the first Winter Olympic torch relay.
  • VII — 1956: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
    Duration: January 26 — February 5
    Participating Athletes: 821 (687 men, 134 women) from 32 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Giuliana Minuzzonote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Guido Carolinote 
    Regaining hosting rights to the Games after the town lost the 1944 Games to World War II, these games were the first televised Winter Games, as well as the first to rely on corporate sponsorship. These Games marked the debut of Soviet winter athletes, who would tear through the medals table, particularly men's ice hockey, which they would dominate for the next three decades. Austrian alpine skier Toni Sailer also became the first athlete to sweep all three skiing events — downhill, slalom and giant slalom.
  • VIII — 1960: Squaw (now Olympic) Valley, California, USA
    Duration: February 18-28
    Participating Athletes: 665 (521 men, 144 women) from 30 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Carol Heissnote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Ken Henrynote 
    The "austerity games" of the Winter Olympics, bobsledding and luge were omitted as it was considered too expensive to build a track. The opening ceremonies was directed by Walt Disney himself. Predating the "Miracle on Ice" 20 years later, the American ice hockey team win their first ice hockey gold medal at the expense of Canada and the Soviet Union, breaking the latter's dominion over the sport for the first time in many years. Soviet speed skater Lidiya Skoblikova also debuted with two gold medals, making her the most successful athlete of the Games, together with compatriot Yevgeny Grishin, who also won two golds in 1956.
  • IX — 1964: Innsbruck, Austria
    Duration: January 29 — February 9
    Participating Athletes: 1,091 (892 men, 199 women) from 36 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oath: Paul Astenote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Josef Riedernote 
    Due to a dry spell earlier that year, the Austrian Army had to literally carve out the ice from high up the Alps. These Games marked the first time East and West Germany marched as one, and featured Lidiya Skoblikova adding four more golds (on all her events) to her collection.
  • X — 1968: Grenoble, France
    Duration: February 6-18
    Participating Athletes: 1,158 (947 men, 211 women) from 37 NOCsnote 
    Mascot: Schuss, an abstract skier; the first mascot of any Games'.
    Olympic Oath: Léo Lacroixnote 
    Lighter of the Flame: Alain Calmatnote 
    The edition that made the Winter Olympics a household word in American media, not the least because of extensive coverage from ABC and the popularity of such figures as French alpine skier Jean-Claude Killy, who won all three of his events, and figure skater Peggy Fleming, the only American gold medalist in these Games (who also heralded the renaissance of the sport in the USA following a plane crash seven years earlier that killed the entire US team en route to the World Championships in Prague). These Games were also the first time the IOC ordered drug and gender testing for athletes.
  • XI — 1972: Sapporo, Japan
    Duration: February 3-13
    Participating Athletes: 1,006 (801 men, 205 women) from 35 NOCsnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Keiichi Suzukinote  [Athletes] / Fumio Asakinote  [Judges]
    Lighter of the Flame: Hideki Takada
    Like Cortina D'Ampezzo, Sapporo regained hosting rights after surrendering the 1940 edition due to the Sino-Japanese War (which was ultimately cancelled). These Games were the first in Asia, as well as the first time Japan had ever won gold in any Winter Games, with a podium sweep by Yukio Kasaya (gold), Akitsugu Konno (silver) and Seiji Aochi (bronze) on the 70m ski jump as their only medals.
  • XII — 1976: Innsbruck, Austria
    Duration: February 4-15
    Participating Athletes: 1,123 (892 men, 231 women) from 37 NOCsnote 
    Mascot: Schneeman the snowman
    Olympic Oaths: Werner Delle Karthnote  [Athletes] / Willy Köstingernote  [Judges]
    Lighters of the Flame: Christl Haasnote  and Josef Feistmantlnote 
    The Games were originally awarded to Denver, Colorado, but locals voted down a bond issue to fund necessary construction, and the IOC turned initially to runner-up candidate (and eventual host-city come 2010) Vancouver, BC, which declined due to short notice, and then to the hosts of twelve years earlier. To this day, Denver remains the only city to decline hosting the Games. Given the financial effect of the Games being hosted in Montreal that same year, one could hardly blame them. The main highlight of these Games was the dramatic victory of Austrian alpine skier Franz Klammer over his Swiss rival Bernhard Russi.
  • XIII — 1980: Lake Placid, New York, USA
    Duration: February 14-23
    Participating Athletes: 1,072 (840 men, 232 women) from 37 NOCsnote 
    Mascot: Roni the raccoon
    Olympic Oaths: Eric Heidennote  [Athletes] / Terry McDermottnote  [Judges]
    Lighter of the Flame: Charles Gugino
    Famous for the "Miracle on Ice", in which the motley American ice hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet team (which had beaten them 10-3 two weeks prior), 4-3, en route to a gold medal finish against Finland. Other highlights include Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark winning two gold medals on the slalom and giant slalom and American speed skater Eric Heiden winning all five events, making him the most successful Olympian in both these Games and perhaps in the history of the Winter Olympics.
  • XIV — 1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina)
    Duration: February 8-19
    Participating Athletes: 1,272 (998 men, 274 women) from 49 NOCsnote 
    Mascot: Vucko the wolf
    Olympic Oaths: Bojan Križajnote  (Athletes) / Dragan Perovićnote  (Judges)
    Lighter of the Flame: Sanda Dubravčićnote 
    British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skated to Bolero and promptly earned the only perfect set of marks ever given to anyone in the sport, and featured the first black African winter Olympian in the form of Senegalese skier Lamine Guèye. These Games had a tragic postscript years later when Yugoslavia broke up violently, and images of tanks parked in the rink where Torvill and Dean danced became iconic images of the conflict.
  • XV — 1988: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    Motto: "Can You Feel It?"
    Duration: February 13-28
    Participating Athletes: 1,423 (1,122 men, 301 women) from 57 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: Hidy and Howdy the polar bears
    Olympic Oaths: Pierre Harveynote  (Athletes) / Suzanne Morrownote  (Judges)
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Cathy Priestnernote  and Ken Readnote  (with cameo by Rick Hansennote ) / Robyn Perrynote 
    Canadian figure skater Elizabeth Manley is best remembered for her silver-winning performance in the long program. Also famous for Jamaica participating in the bobsled, where it was seen as unusual for a tropical country to be competing in a winter sport (the theory was that having sprinters on the team would get the sled off to a fast start, providing a competitive edge down the rest of the track). The highlights of the Games, though, were the triple-gold performances of Finnish ski jumper Matti Nykänen and Dutch speed-skater Yvonne van Gennip, as well as two from Italian alpine skier Alberto Tomba, en route to becoming the first in his sport to win medals on three consecutive Winter Games, and one from American speed skater Bonnie Blair. While Canada remained without (official) gold on its home Games (other than two on demonstration sports, including that by short-track speed-skater Sylvie Daigle), surplus revenue from viewers and sponsors, which more than compensated for these Games being the costliest to run (at C$829 million) at the time, helped turn Calgary into Canada's premier winter sports center — and helped break its dry spell come Vancouver 2010. These are the last Winter Olympics - and Olympics, period - to be telecast in the United States by ABC. CBS - in partnership with Turner Sports - would televise the next three Winter Games.
  • XVI — 1992: Albertville, France
    Motto: "At the Peak of Performance"
    Duration: February 8-23
    Participating Athletes: 1,801 (1,313 men, 488 women) from 64 NOCsnote 
    Mascot: Magique the star-shaped imp
    Olympic Oaths: Surya Bonalynote  [Athletes] / Pierre Bornatnote 
    Lighters of the Flame: Michel Platininote  and François-Cyrille Grangenote 
    Last Winter Games held at the same year as the Summer Games. Most of the venues for these Games, including the ceremonies stadium, were temporary. The Games featured the Norwegians' domination of male cross-country skiing events, Alberto Tomba's second giant slalom gold, Bonnie Blair's two-gold-medal performance, and breakthrough medal finishes of the USA's Kristi Yamaguchi (gold), Japan's Midori Ito (silver), and New Zealand's Annelise Coberger (silver). Yamaguchi and Ito became the first figure skaters of Asian descent to win medals, while alpine skier Coberger became the first medalist from the Southern Hemisphere. The ceremonies were choreographed by Philip Decouffle and were very similar to that of Cirque du Soleil, with acrobats performing on a very tall central mast along with many other dazzling feats. TBS and TNT supplemented CBS's coverage of these Games, making them the first American cable networks to broadcast Olympic events.
  • XVII — 1994: Lillehammer, Norway
    Motto: "From The Heart — Together With Love"
    —>Duration: February 12-27
    Participating Athletes: 1,737 (1,215 men, 522 women) from 67 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: children Hakon and Kristin
    Olympic Oaths: Vegard Ulvangnote  [Athletes] / Kari Kåringnote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Reidar Liaklevnote  / Brit Pettersen Tofte note  / Stein Grubennote  / Catherine Nottingnesnote  / Haakon, Crown Prince of Norwaynote 
    First Winter Games held in a different year from the Summer Games. Widely considered the best Winter Games, featuring an opening ceremony on a ski jump venue, whose climax was skier Stein Gruben going downhill with the Torch before the Cauldron was lit by Crown Prince Haakon, whose father, King Harald V, and grandfather, Olav V, were themselves Olympians. The Games featured the domination of women's cross-country events by Italy's Manuela Di Centa and Russia's Lyubov Yegorova, with 5 and 4 medals, respectively, a heartstopping victory of Italy over Norway in the men's 4×10km cross-country event by just 0.4 second, and American speed skater Dan Jansen, long considered a favorite but beleaguered by failure ever since 1988, when he had to compete even as he was mourning his older sister Jane, who died of leukemia hours before his first event, finally winning the 1000m event. A tabloid-friendly scandal involving rival American figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding provided fodder for comedians and sketch comedy shows for months; Harding never lived it down. A Norwegian-English mockumentary can be seen here, even though it has a "For all ages" rating in Norway is it NSFW.
  • XVIII — 1998: Nagano, Japan
    Motto: "Coexistence with Nature"
    Duration: February 7-22
    Participating Athletes: 2,176 (1,389 men, 787 women) from 72 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: The Snowlets: Sukki, Nokki, Likki, and Tsukki the snowy owls
    Olympic Oaths: Kenji Ogiwaranote  [Athletes] / Junko Hiramatsunote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Chris Moonnote , accompanied by children representing the participating nations / Masako Chibanote  / Reiichi Mikata, Takanori Kono and Kenji Ogiwaranote  / Hiromi Suzukinote  / Midori Itonote 
    The first Winter Games featuring women's ice hockey, curling and snowboarding. It was also the first time NHL players were allowed to play in men's ice hockey. The bobsled track used for these games was notable for having a portion that sloped uphill. The Games featured 15-year-old American figure skater Tara Lipinski beating compatriot Michelle Kwan to become the youngest individual champion in the history of the Winter Olympics and Austrian skier Hermann Maier, who survived a hard fall days before the Games, winning the Super-G and giant slalom events. These are, to date, the last Winter Olympics - as well as Olympics, period - to be televised in the United States by a network other than NBC (in this case, CBS, in partnership with Turner Sports).
  • XIX — 2002: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
    Motto: "Light the Fire Within"
    Duration: February 8-24
    Participating Athletes: 2,399 (1,513 men, 886 women) from 78 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: Powder the hare, Copper the coyote, and Coal the black bear
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: John Glennnote  (Americas), Desmond Tutunote  (Africa), Kazuyoshi Funakinote  (Asia), Lech Walesanote  (Europe), Cathy Freeman (Oceania), Jean-Claude Killynote  (Sport), Steven Spielberg (Culture) and Jean-Michel Cousteaunote  (Environment)
    Olympic Oaths: Jimmy Sheanote  [Athletes] / Allen Churchnote 
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighters of the Flame: Dick Buttonnote  and Dorothy Hamillnote  (Outside) / Peggy Flemingnote  and Scott Hamiltonnote  / Phil Mahrenote  and Bill Johnsonnote  / Bonnie Blairnote  and Dan Jansennote  / Jimmy Shea and his father Jim Sr., in honor of Jack Shea, who died days earlier / Picabo Streetnote  and Cammi Granatonote  / The gold-winning 1980 US Olympic ice hockey team, led by team captain Mike Eruzione
    Notable for a bribery controversy, the disclosure of which forced several IOC members to resign; the same scandal led to the appointment of a certain Boston-based financier named Mitt Romney to head the Organizing Committee, which he leveraged into his run for Governor of Massachusetts and later the Presidency. The scores of a figure-skating judge were also thrown out, resulting in two couples being awarded gold medals for pairs skating. And American short track speed skater Apolo Ohno's first gold was awarded after South Korea's Kim Dong-sung was disqualified, resulting in over 16,000 threatening emails to the IOC's website, which shut the site down for almost nine hours (it also didn't help that Ohno is half-Japanese). Nevertheless, from a financial and sporting perspective, these Games were one of the most successful. These Games featured Canada's first men's ice hockey gold since 1952, Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen winning all four men's events, and short track speed skating providing the first gold medals for China, courtesy of Yang Yang (A) in women's competitions, and Australia (and, for that matter, the entire southern hemisphere), courtesy of Steven Bradbury's unlikely come-from-dead-last finish after everybody else crashed out on the final turn Also noteworthy for being the first games (outside of St. Moritz) to feature Skeleton, a sliding sport described as being "Like luge, but face-down and head-first". Also the first ever Olympics to feature Skeleton competing on the same track as bobsled and luge (St. Moritz had a separate skeleton track) US Men's Skeleton athlete Jimmy Shea took gold, being America's first ever third-generation Olympian.
  • XX — 2006: Turin, Italynote 
    Motto: "Passion Lives Here"
    Duration: February 10-26
    Participating Athletes: 2,508 (1,548 men, 960 women) from 80 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: Neve the snowball and Gliz the ice cube. The Paralympic mascot, Aster the snowflake, was later specifically designed to complement them.
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Sophia Lorennote , Isabel Allendenote , Nawal el Moutawakelnote , Susan Sarandonnote , Wangari Maathainote , Manuela Di Centanote  and Somaly Mamnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Giorgio Roccanote  [Athletes] / Fabio Bianchettinote  [Judges]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighter of the Flame: Alberto Tombanote  / Marco Albarello, Giorgio Vanzetta, Maurilio De Zolt and Silvio Faunernote  / Piero Grosnote  / Deborah Compagnoninote  / Stefania Belmondonote 
    The Games featured Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko setting a world record for the largest margin of victory in his event (10 points), Apollo Ohno winning his second short track speed skating event (and this time without much controversy), and Italian cross-country skier Giorgio Di Centa, younger brother of Manuela, winning both the 4×10km and 50km events (the latter which held its medals ceremony at the closing ceremony, in the presence of his sister). This also marks the last public performance of legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who performed "Nessun Dorma" at the end of the opening ceremony, less than a year before he died of pancreatic cancer.
  • XXI — 2010: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Motto: "With Glowing Hearts"
    Duration: February 12-28
    Participating Athletes: 2,566 (1,522 men, 1,044 women) from 82 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: Miga the "sea bear" and Quatchi the sasquatch. They're joined by the Paralympic mascot Sumi the guardian spirit and the group's sidekick Mukmuk the marmot; the first time both Games' mascots were presented as a single group instead of having separate, unrelated mascots.
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Betty Foxnote , Donald Sutherlandnote , Jacques Villeneuvenote , Barbara Ann Scottnote , Anne Murraynote , Roméo Dallairenote , Bobby Orrnote  and Julie Payettenote 
    Olympic Oaths: Hayley Wickenheisernote  [Athletes] / Michel Verraultnote  [Judges]
    Carrier of the Torch and Lighters of the Flame: Rick Hansen / Catriona LeMay Doannote , Steve Nashnote , Nancy Greenenote  and Wayne Gretzkynote 
    The Winter Games that ended Canada's dry spell when it comes to gold medals on Games it hosts, starting with Alexandre Bilodeau in men's moguls, followed by thirteen others, culminating in a heart-stopping overtime victory of the Canadian men's ice hockey team over the USA. This broke the record for most golds at a single games, which had been previously shared by Norway and the Soviet Union. Other notable events include USA winning its first bobsled gold since 1948, American skier Lindsey Vonn shrugging off injury to win gold at the women's downhill, and another American, Evan Lyscaek, pipping out Plushenko for the men's figure skating gold.
  • XXII — 2014: Sochi, Russia
    Motto: "Hot. Cool. Yours."
    Duration: February 7-23
    Participating Athletes: 2,873 from 88 NOCsnote 
    Mascots: Mischa the polar bear, Snow Leopard, and Hare. Although not presented together with the Paralympics mascots (an unnamed snowflake and ray of light) as in previous Games, all five were chosen in a single public vote.
    Bearers of the Olympic Flag: Chulpan Kamapovanote , Lidiya Skoblikovanote , Anastasia Popovanote , Valentina Tereshkovanote , Viacheslav Fetisovnote , Valery Gergievnote , Alan Enileevnote  and Nikita Mikhalkovnote 
    Olympic Oaths: Ruslan Zakharovnote  [Athletes] / Vyacheslav Vedeninnote  [Judges] / Anastasia Popkova [Coaches]
    Carriers of the Torch and Lighters of the Flame: Maria Sharapovanote  / Yelena Isinbayevanote  / Aleksandr Karelinnote  / Alina Kabaevanote  / Irina Rodninanote  and Vladislav Tretiaknote 
    An unusual choice for Winter Olympic host city, being both a winter and summer resort town. Also the first Games under current IOC president, 1976 fencing gold medalist Thomas Bach. While the runoff was fraught with controversy, due to allegations of corruption, outrage over anti-gay laws, and a staggering $51B cost (far surpassing Beijing 2008's $44B, which, as a summer edition, had more events and, all things said, is not terribly over-expensive), the main event itself went without a hitch. The Games featured a near-total domination of speed skating events by the Dutch, Canada becoming the first back-to-back men's ice hockey champion since the Soviet Union, childhood friends Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning the USA's first ice dancing gold, and Ole Einar Bjørndalen winning the 10km sprint and mixed relay, becoming the most decorated Winter Olympian ever with 8 golds, 4 silvers and 1 bronze.
  • XXIII — 2018: Pyeongchang County, South Koreanote 
    Motto: "Passion. Connected."
    Duration: February 9-25
    The first Winter Olympics in Asia outside Japan. Also counts as a "Throw the Dog a Bone" moment for the South Korean ski resort after coming up short at the 2010 and 2014 bids.
  • XXIV — 2022: Beijing, China
    Motto: "A Passion for Ice and Snow"
    Duration: February 4-20
    Beijing becomes the very first Olympic city to host both summer and winter editions (at least, on ice events, with Yanqing County suburb and the winter resort city of Zhangjiakou in Hebei province to host snow events), after a two-horse race with Almaty, Kazakhstan. Already nicknamed "the Olympics nobody wants" because every candidate city in a democracy withdrew after voters demanded, and got, a referendum (Oslo, Norway made it the farthest) leaving only the two above. This led to the IOC creating a list of reforms called Olympic Agenda 2020 around Christmas 2014.

The Paralympic Games

"Mind, Body, Spirit" / "Spirit In Motion"

Like the Olympics, but for athletes with disabilities. Held after the Olympics, in the same venues. It is not, however, organized by the IOC but by the International Paralympic committee, founded 1989, and has its own logo - three arcs rather than five rings. The name means that they run parallel to the Olympic Games, not that it's for the paralysed. Do not confuse them with the Special Olympics, which is a competition for mentally handicapped athletes that's styled after the Olympics but unaffiliated. Also does not include either parachuting or paragliding which are events in the World Games, which tries to be like the Olympics for non-Olympic sports. Most of the sports are about the same as the Olympics but there are a few that are exclusive to the Paralympics, such as boccia, wheelchair rugby, and goalball. Now has its own page!

Presidents of the International Olympic Committee

  • Demetrius Vikelas (1835-1908; presided 1894-1896), Greek businessman appointed by De Coubertin to preside over the revival of the Games.
  • Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937; presided 1896-1925), French teacher and founder of the modern Olympic Games.
  • Godefroy de Blonay (1869-1937; presided 1916-1919), Swiss nobleman who presided over the IOC in lieu of De Coubertin, who was away on conscription during World War I.
  • Henri de Baillet-Latour (1876-1942; presided 1925-1942), Belgian aristocrat.
  • Sigfrid Edström (1870-1964; presided 1942-1952), Swedish industrialist who helped the IOC weather through World War II, which saw the 1940 and 1944 Games cancelled.
  • Avery Brundage (1887-1975; presided 1952-1972), American engineer and the only non-European to become IOC president, known for his advocacy of amateurism. And much more controversially, for his overt racism.
  • Michael Morris, 3rd Baron Killanin (1914-1999; presided 1972-1980), British journalist and nobleman.
  • Juan Antonio Samaranch (1920-2010; presided 1980-2001), Spanish businessman under whose administration the Games saw increased commercial funding.
  • Jacques Rogge (b. 1942; presided 2001-2013), Belgian opthalmologist and former Olympic rower from 1968 to 1976, becoming the first actual Olympian to hold the post. His administration featured stricter anti-doping regulations and increased closeness to the athletes.
  • Thomas Bach (b. 1953; presided 2013-present), German lawyer, former Olympic fencer and member of the gold-winning 1976 men's foil team, and head of the German Olympic Committee until his election to this post, making him the first Olympic medalist (and a gold medalist) to hold this position.

    The Olympics in Fiction 
  • Features the Ancient Olympics:
  • Features fictional or nonspecific installments of the Modern Olympics:
    • Pierre et Isa, a French animated series about Winter Olympics.
    • Laff-A-Lympics, a '70s Saturday Morning Cartoon show pitting three teams of Hanna-Barbera characters in mock-Olympic events.
    • Animalympics a 1980 animation originally broadcast it's Winter Games segment on NBC TV, but the summer edition was canceled after the boycott. Latter reorganized into a film, but the summer half still suffered from the lack of completed animation.
    • QWOP has you playing as an athlete for a small nation striving to compete in the Olympics. "Ideally you will run 100 metres...but our training program was under-funded." By "under-funded", the game means that the titular athlete struggles with basic walking.
    • The Simpsons had an episode where Springfield made a bid to host the Games. Years later a sign gag read "SPRINGFIELD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Built For the Olympics We Didn't Get".
    • AKIRA takes place during the run-up to the Neo-Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, with the Olympic Stadium built directly above the site where Akira was stored as a Human Popsicle. (By coincidence, Tokyo was later selected as the site of the 2020 Games in real life.)
    • Nononono features a woman trying to become an Olympic ski-jumper... back when the event was still males-only.
    • An episode of Totally Spies! had the main characters investigating a very unusual cheating scandal at the Winter Olympics, where one nation's athletes had unknowingly been given cybernetic brain implants that enhanced their performance.
    • Also see Pseudolympics for when works make references to silly Olympic-like events.
  • Features the 1896 Athens Games:
    • 1962's It Happened in Athens is a completely fictional (but filmed entirely in Greece) depiction of Spyridon Louis' 1896 victory, complete with Jayne Mansfield offering herself in marriage to whomever wins, and an adorable Canine Companion.
  • Features the 1904 St. Louis Games:
    • Notably, not featured in Meet Me in St. Louis, despite it taking place in St. Louis in 1903-04. Instead, the movie is centered around the 1904 World's Fair, which overshadowed the 1904 Olympics in Real Life as well.
  • Features the 1924 Paris Games:
    • Chariots of Fire (technically not fiction, but they did take a few liberties ...)
  • Features the 1932 Los Angeles Games:
    • Million Dollar Legs, a largely forgotten W.C. Fields classic, is all about getting Ruritanian citizens to participate in the 1932 Olympics.
  • Features the 1936 Berlin Games:
    • The 1937 Charlie Chan film Charlie Chan at the Olympics
    • Race, a 2016 Jesse Owens Biopic
    • Champions, a 2008 Hong Kong film about China's first Olympic team
  • Features the 1948 London Games:
    • The Rivers of London short story "Home Crowd Advantage" is set during London 2012, with an extended flashback to London 1948.
  • Features the 1952 Helsinki Games:
    • A sixth-season M*A*S*H episode has the 4077th staff celebrating the '52 Helsinki Games (and getting in shape) by holding their own "Olympics" competition.
  • Features the 1964 Tokyo Games:
    • The 1966 comedy film Walk, Don't Run is set at the '64 Tokyo Games and features Cary Grant in his last film role.
  • Features the 1972 Munich Games:
    • Steven Spielberg's Munich depicts the Munich 1972 massacre and the retaliation by the Israeli secret services.
  • Features the 1980 Lake Placid Games:
    • Miracle.
    • Going For The Gold by Emma Lathen is set at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.
  • Features the 1988 Calgary Games:
    • Cool Runnings: A highly fictionalized account of the first Jamaican bobsled team.
    • Eddie The Eagle: About the eponymous British ski jumper.
  • Features the 1988 Seoul Games:
  • Features the 2000 Sydney Games:
    • Rainbow Six involves a plot to start a global plague via the air conditioning at the Sydney opening ceremony. Clancy failed to realise the games actually took place in the late winter/early spring of Australia.
    • Miranda Frost in Die Another Day won a gold medal at Sydney by default when her opponent died of a steroids overdose arranged by Gustav Graves.
    • A Young Justice storyline was set at the "Sydney World Games". The story involved the former Arrowette entering the archery competition, and Zandia (an island nation whose population consists entirely of supervillains taking advantage of its lack of extradition laws) entering, so Cassie was competing against Merlyn and Artemis.
  • Features the 2008 Beijing Games:
    • Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
    • The second-season finale of 30 Rock included a storyline in which Kenneth tries to become a page at the Beijing Olympics. In the second episode of the third season, it's revealed that NBC's coverage of the same Olympics invented some fictional events, including "synchronized running" and "octuples tennis", so that Americans could win more medals.
  • Features the 2010 Vancouver Games:
  • Features the 2012 London Games:
  • Features the 2014 Sochi Games:
  • Features the 2016 Rio Games:
    • Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
    • A storyline in the comic Safe Havens involves Dave competing for Team USA on the basketball team-which causes him some consternation as he made his career in Italy, and Team Italy is made of his former teammates who are familiar with his unusual play style. It was a close match, but thanks to Dave making more...let's go with mundane passes, Team USA beat team Italy, and went on to win gold.
    • Superstore had an Olympic-themed episode that aired during the Rio Games.

Because there are so many trope examples in the Olympics, it has been split into two pages.