Olympic Games

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The Olympic Games, or Olympics, is an international multi-sport event taking place every two years and alternating between Summer and Winter Games. Originally held in ancient Greece, they were revived by a French nobleman, Pierre Frèdy, Baron de Coubertin in the late 19th century. The Games of the Olympiad, better known as the Summer Olympics, have been held every fourth year since 1896, with the exception of the years during the World Wars.

A special edition for winter sports, the Olympic Winter Games, was established in 1924. Originally these were held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, but starting with 1994 the Winter Games are in between, two years after the Games of the Olympiad.


Ancient Olympics

For months before the Olympic Games, runners relay the Olympic Flame from Olympia to the opening ceremony.
For months before the Olympic Games, runners relay the Olympic Flame from Olympia to the opening ceremony.
Athletes trained in this Olympia facility in its ancient heyday.
Athletes trained in this Olympia facility in its ancient heyday.

In detail: Ancient Olympic Games

The origin of the ancient Olympic Games has been lost, although there are many legends surrounding its origins. One of these legends associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of εκεχειρία (ekecheiria) or Olympic Truce. The first recorded celebration of the Games in Olympia was in 776 BC, although this was certainly not the first time they were held. The Games were then mostly a local affair, and only one event was contested, the stadion race.

From that moment on, the Games slowly became more important throughout ancient Greece, reaching their zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, contests alternating with sacrifices and ceremonies honouring both Zeus (whose colossal statue stood at Olympia), and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia famous for his legendary chariot race, in whose honour the games were held. The number of events increased to twenty, and the celebration was spread over several days. Winners of the events were broadly admired and were immortalised in poems and statues. The Games were held every four years, and the period between two celebrations became known as an Olympiad. The Greeks used Olympiads as one of their methods to count years. The most famous Olympic athlete lived in these times: The sixth century BC wrestler Milo of Croton is the only athlete in history to win a victory in six Olympics.

The Games gradually lost in importance as the Romans gained power in Greece. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Olympic Games were seen as a pagan festival threatening Christian influence, and in 393 the emperor Theodosius outlawed the Olympics, ending a thousand year period of Olympic Games.

During the ancient times normally only young men competed. Performers were usually naked, not only as the weather was appropriate but also as the festival was meant to be, in part, a celebration of the achievements of the human body. Upon winning the games, the victor would get not only the prestige of being in first place but also a crown of olive leaves.

During competition for some of the events, many of the participants would use oils to keep their skin smooth, as well as provide an appealing lustre to anyone who saw them.

Revival of the Olympic Games

Pierre de Coubertin wanted better physical education and foreign relations and so spurred the modern Olympic Games into existence.
Pierre de Coubertin wanted better physical education and foreign relations and so spurred the modern Olympic Games into existence.
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in an all-marble stadium.
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in an all-marble stadium.

The Olympic Games did not die in 393. Already in the 17th century a sports festival, the "Olympick Games" was held in England. Over the next few centuries, similar events were organised in France and Greece, but these were all small-scale and certainly not international. The interest in reviving the Olympics grew when the ruins of ancient Olympia were uncovered by German archaeologists in the mid-19th century.

At the same time, Pierre, Baron de Coubertin, founder of modern Olympics, searched for a reason for the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). He thought the reason was that the French had not received proper physical education, and sought to improve this. In 1890 he attended the Wenlock Olympian Society. Coubertin also thought of a way to bring nations closer together, to have the youth of the world compete in sports, rather than fight in war. In his eyes, the recovery of the Olympic Games would achieve both of these goals.

In a congress at the Sorbonne University, in Paris, held from June 16 to June 23, 1894 he presented his ideas to an international audience. On the last day of the congress, it had been decided that the first modern Olympic Games would take place in 1896 in Athens, in the country of their birth. To organise the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established, with the Greek Demetrius Vikelas as its first president.

The first modern Olympic Games were a success. Although the total number of athletes did not exceed 250, they had been the largest international sports event ever held. The Greek officials and public were also very enthusiastic, and they even proposed to be allowed to have the monopoly on organising the Olympics. The IOC decided differently, however, and the second Olympic Games took place in Paris, France.

Modern Olympics

Poster for the Paris 1924 Summer Olympic Games.
Poster for the Paris 1924 Summer Olympic Games.
Main article: Summer Olympics
Main article: Winter Olympics

After the initial success, the Olympics struggled. The celebrations in Paris (1900) and St. Louis (1904) were overshadowed by the world's fair exhibitions in which they were included. The so-called Intercalated Games (because of their off-year status, as 1906 is not divisible by four) were held in 1906 in Athens, as the first of an alternating series of Athens-held Olympics. Although originally the IOC recognised and supported these games, they are currently not recognised by the IOC as Olympic Games, which has given rise to the explanation that they were intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the Modern Olympics. Most contemporary Olympic historians, however, consider them to be official Olympic Games. Either way, the 1906 Games again attracted a broad international field of participants — in 1904, 80% had been American — and great public interest, thereby marking the beginning of a rise in popularity and size of the Games.


From the 245 participants from 15 nations in 1896, the Games grew to more than 10,500 competitors from 200 countries at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The number of competitors at the Winter Olympics is much smaller than at the summer edition; 2,400 athletes competed at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 78 events.

With over 16,000 broadcasters and journalists present in Sydney, the Olympics are one of the largest media events. In 2000, an estimated 3.8 billion viewers watched the Olympics on television. The growth of the Olympics is the largest problem the Olympics face today. Although allowing professional athletes and attracting sponsorships from major international companies solved financial problems in the 1980s, the large number of athletes, media and spectators makes it difficult and expensive for host cities to organise the Olympics.


Over 200 countries currently participate in the Olympics. This is a noticeably higher number than the number of countries recognised by the United Nations, which is only 192. This is because the International Olympic Committee allows nations to compete which do not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that many other international organisations demand. As a result, many colonies and dependencies are permitted to host their own Olympic teams and athletes even if such competitors hold the same citizenship as another member nation. Examples of this include territories such as Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Hong Kong, all of which compete as sovereign nations despite the fact that politically they are considered part of another country and their residents do not carry citizenship from that nation. Also, since 1980, Taiwan has competed under the name "Chinese Taipei", and under a flag specially prepared by the IOC as prior to that year the People's Republic of China refused to participate in the Games because Taiwan had been competing under the name "Republic of China".

Political interference


Despite what Coubertin had hoped for, the Olympics did not stop wars from happening. In fact, three Olympiads had to pass without Olympics because of war; due to World War I the 1916 Games were cancelled, and because of World War II the games of 1940 and 1944 were also skipped.


In 1972, when the Summer Games were held in Munich, West Germany, eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists. A failed liberation attempt led to the deaths of all of the abducted athletes and a policeman, with five of the terrorists also being killed. This event is known today as the Munich Massacre.

A bomb also exploded, killing two and injuring more than 100, at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, USA, during the Summer Olympics in 1996. The bomb was planted by Eric Robert Rudolph, who is an alleged adherent of the extremist group Christian Identity, a sect that holds that white Christians are God's chosen people, and that others will be condemned to hell.


Politics also interfered with the Olympics on several other occasions, the most well-known of which was the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin; the games were used as propaganda by the German Nazis.

Soviet Union did not participate in Olympic movement until 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Instead, the Soviets organized international sports event called Spartakiads from 1928 onwards. Many atheletes from associations organized by communists or close to them chose or were barred from participating in Olympic games and instead particitipated in Spartiakiads.

A political incident on a smaller scale occurred at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Two African American track-and-field athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, performed the Black Power salute on the victory stand of the 200-meter track and field race. As a result, the IOC told the USOC to either send the two athletes home, or to withdraw the complete track and field team. The USOC opted for the former.

n 1963, various newly independent nations set up a challenge to the IOC called GANEFO (Games of the New Emerging Forces), which openly espoused politics in sport. The IOC declared participants in GANEFO "personae non gratae" for the Olympic Games.

Between 1996 to 2002, Afghanistan's National Olympic Commitee was suspended from the IOC because of the Taliban regime´s ban on any kind of sports. Afghanistan returned to Olympic competition in 2004.


In 1956 the Games were boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, because of the withdrawal of the Hungarian Uprising by the Warsaw Pact - furthermore the Melbourne Games were boycotted by Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq and the Lebanon, because of the Suez Crisis.

In 1968, 1972, and 1976, a large number of African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott, to force them to ban respectively South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. The IOC conceded in the first 2 cases, but refused in 1976 because the boycott was prompted by a New Zealand rugby union tour to South Africa, and rugby was not an Olympic sport. The countries withdrew their teams after the games had started; some African athletes had already competed. A lot of sympathy was felt for the athletes forced by their governments to leave the Olympic Village; there was little sympathy outside Africa for the governments' attitude. 22 countries (Guyana was the only non-African nation) boycotted the Montreal Olympics, because New Zealand wasn't banned.

Also in 1976, Canada told the team from Taiwan that it could not compete at the Montreal Summer Olympics under the name 'Republic of China', despite a compromise that would have allowed Taiwan to use the ROC flag and anthem. Taiwan refused and did not participate as a result until 1984 when it returned under the moniker 'Chinese Taipei'.

In 1980 and 1984 the cold war opponents boycotted each other's games. The United States and 64 other Western nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, for reason of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but 16 other Western nations competed at the Moscow Olympics. The Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Bloc partners countered by skipping the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, arguing the safety of their athletes could not be guaranteed there.

In 1988, North Korea boycotted the Seoul Olympics to protest at not being made co-host with South Korea. Three other Communist nations, Cuba, Ethiopia and Nicaragua ( more for economic problems to send athletes to compete ) stayed away in solidarity, though it was not officially announced as a boycott so as to avoid IOC censure.

Iran's general sporting boycott of Israel is manifest not in explicit refusal to compete (which would attract sanctions) but in withdrawals due to "injuries" and similar reasons. During the 2004 Summer Games at Athens, Greece, judoka Arash Miresmaeili intentionally over-ate, exceeding the weight limit and forfeiting his match against Israeli Ehud Vaks, the first time this had happened at the Olympics.

Olympic Movement

A number of organisations are involved in organising the Olympic Games. Together they form the Olympic Movement. The rules and guidelines by which these organisations operate are outlined in the Olympic Charter.

At the heart of the Olympic Movement is the International Olympic Committee (IOC), currently headed by Jacques Rogge. It can be seen as the government of the Olympics, as it takes care of the daily problems and takes all important decisions, such as the host city of the Games and the programme of the Olympics.

Three groups of organisations operate on a more specialised level:

  • International Federations (IFs), the governing bodies of a sport (e.g. FIFA, the IF for football (soccer))
  • National Olympic Committees (NOCs), which regulates the Olympic Movement within one country (e.g. USOC, the NOC of the United States)
  • Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) which take care of the organisation of a specific celebration of the Olympics.

At present 202 NOCs and 35 IFs are part of the Olympic Movement. OCOGs are dissolved after the celebration of the Games, when all subsequent paperwork has been done.

More broadly speaking, the term Olympic Movement is sometimes also meant to include everybody and everything involved in the Olympics, such as national sport governing bodies, athletes, media and sponsors of the Olympic Games.


In the past, the IOC has often been criticised for being a monolithic organisation, with several members remaining a member at old age, or even until their deaths. Especially the leadership of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch has been strongly criticised. Under his presidency, the Olympic Movement made great progress, but has been seen as autocratic and corrupt. Samaranch's ties with the former fascist government in Spain, and his long term as a president (21 years), until he was 81 years old, have also been points of critique.

In 1998, it became known that several IOC members had taken bribes from the organising committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, in exchange for a vote on the city at the election of the host city. The IOC started an investigation, which led to four members resigning, and six being expelled.

The scandal set off further reforms, changing the way in which host cities are elected to avoid further bribes. Also, more active and former athletes were allowed in the IOC, and the membership terms have been limited.

A BBC documentary aired in August 2004 entitled Panorama: "Buying the Games" investigated the taking of bribes in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The documentary claimed it is possible to bribe IOC members into voting for a particular candidate city. In particular Bulgaria's member Ivan Slavkov and Muttaleb Ahmad from the Olympic Council of Asia were implicated. They denied the allegations.

Olympic symbols

The five Olympic rings were designed in 1913, adopted in 1914 and debuted at the Games at Antwerp, 1920.
The five Olympic rings were designed in 1913, adopted in 1914 and debuted at the Games at Antwerp, 1920.
Main article: Olympic symbols

The Olympic movement uses many symbols, most of them representing Coubertin's ideas and ideals. The best known symbol is probably that of the Olympic Rings. These five intertwined rings represent the unity of five continents. They appear in five colours on a white field on the Olympic Flag. These colours, white (for the field), red, blue, green, yellow, and black were chosen such that each nation had at least one of these colours in its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914, but the first Games it flew at was Antwerp, 1920. It is hoisted at each celebration of the Games.

The official Olympic Motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", a Latin phrase meaning "Swifter, Higher, Stronger". Coubertin's ideals are probably best illustrated by the Olympic Creed:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The Olympic Flame is lit in Olympia and brought to the host city by runners carrying the torch in relay. There it plays an important role in the opening ceremonies. Though torches have played a part historically, the relay was introduced in 1936.

Opening ceremonies

Opening ceremonies climax with the lighting of the Olympic Flame.  For lighting the torch, modern games feature elaborate mechanisms such as this cauldron-spiral-cauldron arrangement lit by the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Opening ceremonies climax with the lighting of the Olympic Flame. For lighting the torch, modern games feature elaborate mechanisms such as this cauldron-spiral-cauldron arrangement lit by the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Various traditional elements frame the opening ceremonies of a celebration of the Olympic Games. The ceremonies typically start with the performing of the host country's national anthem. The traditional part of the ceremonies starts with a parade of nations, during which most participating athletes march into the stadium country by country. One honoured athlete, typically a top competitor, from each country carries the flag of his or her nation leading the entourage of other athletes from that country. Traditionally (starting at the 1928 Summer Olympics) Greece marches first, because of their historical status as the origin of the Olympics, while the host nation marches last. (Exceptionally, in 2004 when the Games were held in Greece, Greece marched last as host nation rather than first, although the Flag of Greece was carried in first.) Between these two, all other participating nations march in alphabetical order of the dominant language of the host country, or in English alphabetical order if the host country does not write its dominant language using an alphabet. After all nations have entered, the president of the host country's Olympic Organising Committee makes a speech, followed by the IOC president, who at the end of his speech, introduces the organising country's head of state, who in turn formally opens the Olympics.

Next, the Olympic Anthem is played, and the Olympic Flag rises in the stadium. Then, the flag bearers of all countries circle around a rostrum, where one athlete (since the 1920 Summer Olympics) and one referee (since the 1972 Summer Olympics) speak the Olympic Oath, declaring they will compete and judge according to the rules. Finally, the penultimate runner in the Olympic Flame relay brings a torch into the stadium, passing the flame to the last carrier. The last carrier of the torch, often a well-known athlete from the host nation, then lights the fire in the stadium's cauldron. (The Olympic Flame has been lit since the 1928 Summer Olympics, but the torch relay didn't start until the 1936 Summer Olympics.) The lighting of the Olympic Flame is followed by the release of doves, symbolising peace; this was first done at the post–World War I 1920 Summer Olympics and discontinued after several doves were burned alive in the Olympic Flame during the 1988 Summer Olympics opening.

Apart from these traditional elements, the host nation ordinarily presents artistic displays of dance and theatre representative of that country.

Olympic sports

Main article: Olympic sports

At the 2004 Olympics, events were held in 28 sports, per the IOC count. If one splits up sports such as aquatics, there were 37 different sports. 9 sports were on the original Olympic programme in 1896: athletics (track and field), cycling, fencing, gymnastics, weightlifting, shooting, swimming, and wrestling. If the 1896 rowing events had not been cancelled due to bad weather, they would have been included in this list as well.

At the most recent Winter Olympics, 7 sports were conducted, or 15 if one splits up sports such as skiing and skating. Of these, cross country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating have featured on the programme at all Winter Olympics. In addition, figure skating and ice hockey have also been contested as part of the Summer Games before introduction of separate Winter Olympics.

In recent years, the IOC has added several new sports to the programme to attract attention from young spectators. Examples of such sports include snowboarding and beach volleyball. The growth of the Olympics also means that some less popular (modern pentathlon) or expensive (white water canoeing) sports have to fear for their place on the Olympic programme. The IOC decided to discontinue baseball and softball as of 2012.

Rule 48.1 of the Olympic Charter requires that there be a minimum of 15 Olympic sports on the programme of the Games of the Olympiad. Following its 114th Session (Mexico 2002), the IOC also decided to limit the programme of the Summer Games to a maximum of 28 sports, 301 events, and 10,500 athletes. The Olympic sports are defined as those governed by the International Federations listed in Rule 46 of the Olympic Charter. A two-thirds vote of the IOC is required to amend the Charter to promote a Recognised Federation to Olympic status and therefore make the sports it governs eligible for inclusion on the Olympic programme. Rule 47 of the Charter requires that only Olympic sports may be included in the programme.

The IOC reviews the Olympic programme at the first Session following each Olympiad. A simple majority is required for an Olympic sport to be included in the Olympic programme. Under the current rules, an Olympic sport not selected for inclusion in a particular games remains an Olympic sport and may be included again later with a simple majority. At the 117th IOC Session 26 sports were included in the programme for London 2012.

Until 1992, the Olympics often also featured demonstration sports. The objective was for these sports to reach a big audience through the Olympics; the winners of these events are not offical Olympic champions. These sports were sometimes sports only popular in the host nation, but also internationally known sports have been demonstrated. Some demonstration sports were eventually included as full-medal events.

Amateurism and professionalism

In Coubertin's vision, athletes should be gentlemen. As in most cases only amateurs were considered such, professional athletes were not allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. The exception to this were the fencing instructors, who were indeed expected to be gentlemen. This exclusion of professionals has caused several controversies throughout the history of the modern Olympics.

1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon champion Jim Thorpe was disqualified when it was discovered that he played semi-professional baseball prior to winning his medals. He was restored as champion on compassionate grounds by the IOC in 1983. Twenty-four years later, Swiss and Austrian skiers boycotted the 1936 Winter Olympics in support of their skiing teachers, who were not allowed to compete because they were considered to be professionals, earning money with their sport.

It gradually became clear to many that the amateurism rules had become outdated. For example, many athletes from Eastern European nations were officially employed by the government, but effectively given opportunity to train all day, thereby only being amateurs in name. Nevertheless, the IOC held on to amateurism.

In the 1980s, amateurism regulations were relaxed, and completely abolished in the 1990s. This switch was perhaps best exemplified by the American Dream Team, composed of well paid NBA stars, which won the Olympic gold medal in basketball in 1992. As of 2004, the only sport in which no professionals compete is boxing; in men's football the number of players over 23 years of age is limited to three per team.

Advertisement regulations are still very strict, at least on the actual playing field, although "Official Olympic Sponsors" are common. Athletes are only allowed to have the names of clothing and equipment manufacturers on their outfit. The sizes of these markings are limited.


One of the major problems facing the Olympics (and international sports in general) is doping, or performance enhancing drugs. In the early 20th century, many Olympic athletes used drugs to enhance their performance. For example, the winner of the marathon at the 1904 Games, Thomas Hicks, was given strychnine and brandy by his coach, even during the race.

As these methods became more extreme, gradually the awareness grew that this was no longer a matter of health through sports. The first and only olympic death caused by doping occurred in 1960. At the cycling road race in Rome the Danish Knut Enemark Jensen fell from his bicycle and later died. A coronial inquiry found that he was under the influence of amphetamines.

In the mid-1960s sports federations put a ban on doping, and the IOC followed suit in 1967. The first Olympic athlete to test positive for doping use was Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish pentathlete at the 1968 Summer Olympics, who lost his bronze medal for alcohol use. Seventy-three athletes followed him over the next 34 years, several medal winners among them. The most publicised doping-related disqualification was that of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who won the 100 m at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but tested positive for stanozolol.

Despite the tests, many athletes used doping without being caught. In 1990, documents were revealed that showed many East German female athletes had been unknowingly administered anabolic steroids and other drugs by their coaches and trainers as a government policy.

In the late 1990s, the IOC took initiative in a more organised battle against doping, leading to the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999. The 2000 and 2002 Winter Olympics showed that the battle is not nearly over, as several medallists in weightlifting and cross-country skiing were disqualified after doping offences.

Olympic champions and medallists

With 10 Olympic titles including those from Intercalated games, Ray Ewry may be considered the most successful Olympic athlete in the history of the modern Olympics.
With 10 Olympic titles including those from Intercalated games, Ray Ewry may be considered the most successful Olympic athlete in the history of the modern Olympics.
Larisa Latynina won 18 Olympic medals, including 9 gold ones, the highest IOC recognised gold and overall totals in the modern Olympics.
Larisa Latynina won 18 Olympic medals, including 9 gold ones, the highest IOC recognised gold and overall totals in the modern Olympics.
Main article: Olympic medalists

For all events held at the Olympic Games, a classification is made up. The athletes (or teams) who place first, second, or third receive medals. The winners receive what are called "gold medals". (Though they used to indeed be of solid gold, they are now actually gilted silver, making the description somewhat inaccurate.) The runners-up receive silver medals, and the third-place athletes bronze medals. In some events contested by a single-elimination tournament (most notably boxing), third place might not be determined, in which case both semi-final losers receive bronze medals. The practice of awarding medals to the top three competitors was introduced in 1904; at the 1896 Olympics only the first two received a medal, silver and bronze, while various prizes were awarded in 1900. However, the 1904 Olympics also awarded silver trophies for first place, which makes Athens 1906 the first games that awarded the three medals only. In addition, from 1948 onward athletes placing fourth, fifth and sixth have received certificates which became officially known as "victory diplomas;" since 1976 the medal winners have received these also, and in 1984 victory diplomas for seventh- and eighth-place finishers were added, presumably to ensure that all losing quarterfinalists in events using single-elimination formats would receive diplomas, thus obviating the need for consolation (or officially, "classification") matches to determine fifth through eighth places (though interestingly these latter are still contested in many elimination events anyway). Certificates were awarded also at the 1896 Olympics, but there they were awarded in addition to the medals to first and second place. Commemorative medals and diplomas — which differ in design from those referred to above — are also made available to participants finishing lower than third and eighth respectively. At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the first three were given wreaths as well as their medals.

Because the Olympics are held only once every four years, the public and athletes often consider them as more important and valuable than world championships and other international tournaments, which are often held annually. Many athletes have become celebrities or heroes in their own country, or even world-wide, after becoming Olympic champion.

The diversity of the sports, and the great differences between the Olympic Games in 1896 and today make it difficult to decide which athlete is the most successful Olympic athlete of all times. This is further complicated since the IOC no longer recognises the Intercalated Games which it originally organised and which most historians do consider as Olympic games. When measuring by the number of titles won at the Modern Olympic Games, the following athletes may be considered the most successful (Intercalated Games are included in Ray Ewry's scores)

Athlete (Nation) Sport Olympics 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Larissa Latynina (URS) Gymnastics 1956–1964 9 5 4 18
Paavo Nurmi (FIN) Athletics 1920–1928 9 3 0 12
Mark Spitz (USA) Swimming 1968–1972 9 1 1 11
Carl Lewis (USA) Athletics 1984–1996 9 1 0 10
Bjørn Dæhlie (NOR) Cross-country skiing 1992–1998 8 4 0 12
Birgit Fischer (Germany) Canoeing (flatwater) 1980–2004 8 4 0 12
Sawao Kato (JPN) Gymnastics 1968–1976 8 3 1 12
Jenny Thompson (USA) Swimming 1992–2004 8 3 1 12
Matt Biondi (USA) Swimming 1984–1992 8 2 1 11
Ray Ewry (USA) Athletics 1900–1908 10 0 0 10

Locations of Modern Olympic Games

The table below gives an overview of all host cities of both the Olympic Summer Games (Games of the Olympiad) and Winter Games. Only actual host cities are listed. Click on the Roman numeral to get details of the Games and the corresponding host city selection process. The Summer Games are numbered by Olympiad, so there are gaps for the World Wars; the Winter Games are numbered consecutively, so there are no gaps in the numbering.

  Games of Olympiad Olympic Winter Games
Year Games Host City Country Games Host City Country
1896 I Athens (1) Greece (1)
1900 II Paris (1) France (1)
1904 III St. Louis (1) United States (1)
1906 Intercalated Athens Greece
1908 IV London (1) United Kingdom (1)
1912 V Stockholm (1) Sweden (1)
1916 VI Berlin (cancelled) Germany (cancelled)
1920 VII Antwerp (1) Belgium (1)
1924 VIII Paris (2) France (2) I Chamonix (1) France (1)
1928 IX Amsterdam (1) Netherlands (1) II St Moritz (1) Switzerland (1)
1932 X Los Angeles (1) United States(2) III Lake Placid (1) United States (1)
1936 XI Berlin (1) Germany (1) IV Garmisch-Partenkirchen (1) Germany (1)
1940 XII Helsinki (cancelled) Finland (cancelled) (V) Garmisch-Partenkirchen (cancelled) Germany (cancelled)
1944 XIII London (cancelled) United Kingdom (cancelled) (V) Cortina d'Ampezzo (cancelled) Italy (cancelled)
1948 XIV London (2) United Kingdom (2) V St Moritz (2) Switzerland (2)
1952 XV Helsinki (1) Finland (1) VI Oslo (1) Norway (1)
1956 XVI Melbourne (1) + Stockholm Australia (1) + Sweden VII Cortina d'Ampezzo (1) Italy (1)
1960 XVII Rome (1) Italy (1) VIII Squaw Valley (1) United States (2)
1964 XVIII Tokyo (1) Japan (1) IX Innsbruck (1) Austria (1)
1968 XIX Mexico City (1) Mexico (1) X Grenoble (1) France (2)
1972 XX Munich (1) Germany (2) XI Sapporo (1) Japan (1)
1976 XXI Montreal (1) Canada (1) XII Innsbruck (2) Austria (2)
1980 XXII Moscow (1) Soviet Union (1) XIII Lake Placid (2) United States (3)
1984 XXIII Los Angeles (2) United States (3) XIV Sarajevo (1) Yugoslavia (1)
1988 XXIV Seoul (1) South Korea (1) XV Calgary (1) Canada(1)
1992 XXV Barcelona (1) Spain (1) XVI Albertville (1) France (3)
1994 XVII Lillehammer (1) Norway (2)
1996 XXVI Atlanta (1) United States (4)
1998 XVIII Nagano (1) Japan (2)
2000 XXVII Sydney (1) Australia (2)
2002 XIX Salt Lake City (1) United States (4)
2004 XXVIII Athens (2) Greece (2)
2006 XX Turin (1) Italy (2)
2008 XXIX Beijing (1) People's Republic of China (1)
2010 XXI Vancouver (1) Canada (2)
2012 XXX London (3) United Kingdom (3)
2014 XXII

See also


  • Buchanan, Ian & Mallon, Bill (2001). Historical dictionary of the Olympic movement. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-81084-054-5.
  • Wallechinsky, David (2000). The complete book of the Summer Olympics – Sydney 2000 edition. New York: Overlook Press. ISBN 1-58567-033-2.
  • Wallechinsky, David (2002). The complete book of the Winter Olympics – Salt Lake City 2002. New York: Overlook Press. ISBN 1-58567-195-9.
  • Kamper, Erich & Mallon, Bill (1992). The Golden Book of the Olympic Games. Milan, Italy: Vallardi & Associati. ISBN 8-88520-235-7.
  • Simson, Vyv & Jennings, Andrew (1992). Dishonored Games: Corruption, Money, and Greed at the Olympics. New Tork: S.P.I. Books. ISBN 1-56171-199-3
  • The Economics of staging the Olympics. A comparison of the Games 1972-2008. Edward Elgar Publishing, Glos 2005, ISBN 1843768933

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Olympic Games
Summer Olympic Games
1896 | 1900 | 1904 | 1906¹ | 1908 | 1912 | (1916)² | 1920 | 1924 | 1928 | 1932 | 1936 | (1940)² | (1944)² | 1948 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1964 | 1968 | 1972 | 1976 | 1980 | 1984 | 1988 | 1992 | 1996 | 2000 | 2004 | 2008 | 2012 | 2016 | 2020
Winter Olympic Games
1924 | 1928 | 1932 | 1936 | (1940)² | (1944)² | 1948 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1964 | 1968 | 1972 | 1976 | 1980 | 1984 | 1988 | 1992 | 1994 | 1998 | 2002 | 2006 | 2010 | 2014 | 2018
¹Not currently recognised as official by the IOC.     ²Cancelled due to war.

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