40 Fascinating Facts About the Olympics

The Olympic Games are an international celebration of athleticism that draw athletes from around the globe together to compete. This collection of 40 captivating facts provides a fascinating overview of their history, milestones and cultural significance.

Ancient Greece observed the Olympic Games as a religious festival dedicated to Zeus. Up until 1912, first place medals were made of solid gold! Today’s Olympic flag features five rings representing each continent on Earth.


The Olympic Games date back over 2, 000 years. First held as part of a festival honoring Greek god Zeus in 776 BCE, these competitions eventually expanded into multiple sports and became known simply as The Olympics or Olympiads after their ancient location at Olympia in Greece. Over millennia later they were discontinued by Roman emperor Theodosius who abolished them completely in 393 CE.

Legend narrates the origins of the Olympic Games as being intriguing: Legend holds that King Oenomaus of Pisa had a daughter, Hippodamia, whom an oracle stated should not leave with any suitor due to an imminent threat by King Oenomaus’ charioteer Myrtilus’ bronze axle pins being replaced with wax ones during a race with Pelops persuading Myrtilus to use wax ones instead. As soon as this happened during said race it happened that his chariot fell off its wheels and speared him dead and named after its hero who first persuaded his fellow Myrtilus replaced bronze axle pins with wax ones which caused its wheels to drop and be speared to death, leaving behind only Pelops as organizer and named them after himself and hometown Olympia!

These early Games took place every four years in Greece’s Sanctuary of Olympia located on the western Peloponnese peninsula and featured wrestling, boxing, chariot racing as well as running and jumping events for athletes competing at these early Olympics. Wealthy individuals also used this platform to showcase their wealth and social status through these Games.

First-place Olympic medals used to be made of solid gold – hence their heavy weight! Nowadays, though, first-place medals feature 6 grams of silver and gold coating for extra weight relief.


Host cities spend billions in preparation for hosting an Olympics, spending on new facilities and renovating existing venues alike – from building sports facilities to public transport systems and hotels for millions of visitors. Unfortunately, this places a tremendous strain on cities during preparations; once the games have concluded many struggle to maintain these venues.

Olympic stadiums don’t simply disappear after each Olympic Games; many find new uses after their initial use for events. For instance, Berlin’s Olympiastadion built for the 1936 Summer Olympic now hosts concerts and other events; in Lake Placid (home of Miracle on Ice in 1980) Field House International Ice Rink hosts National Women’s Hockey League season!

At any Olympic event, the primary aim is to showcase world-class athletes in breathtaking environments. Venues must provide safe and comfortable conditions that enable spectators of all ages and abilities to watch safely. Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has placed increased emphasis on this concept by mandating that hosts provide year-round access for fans and recreational athletes.

Some Olympic venues from past Games have become legendary themselves, like the cauldron in which the Olympic flame burned during 1932 Los Angeles Games or Gustave Eiffel’s iconic Dame de Fer (Iron Lady) towering above Paris 100 years ago for Paris Olympic competitions.

Most Olympic events take place at specially constructed stadia; however, some unique or historic locations hold special meaning to Olympic spirit. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will include several such sites – among them is an arena shaped like an infinity symbol for climbing, karate and surfing competitions.


The Olympics draw the world’s top athletes together every two years for competition in 33 events across various sports and disciplines, featuring 10500 athletes representing 205 nations. Since their first running in 1896 with only 13 nations taking part and all competitors being men only, much has changed; eventually allowing women into certain sports was decided upon by the Olympic committee and summer and winter Games were divided evenly so as not to conflict with each other every four years.

At the modern Olympic Games, athletes compete in track and field, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis and weightlifting events. Athletes also must confront racism and other controversies that come up during competition – like when US runner Jesse Owens stunned Nazi Germany during 1936 by winning four gold medals in sprinting competition – while during the 1968 Mexico City Games USA runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists during national anthem to protest racial segregation and injustice during 1968 to protest segregated segregation and injustice during national anthem to protest racial segregation and injustice against black athletes and athletes from minority backgrounds – in both cases in public arenas and during competition.

At first, only athletes of Greek heritage were eligible to compete in the Olympic Games. To do so, competitors needed to present proof that they were descendants of ancient hero Pelops; to do this they brought a coin into the games and showed it to an official. Once this rule had been abolished however.

Artists such as painters, sculptors and writers once participated in the Olympic Games as competitors as well. They would create art that highlighted sporting events being hosted during these Games. Today these same artists don’t compete but instead contribute their skills towards designing stadiums, posters and medals – however until 1904 first place winners did not receive anything other than a laurel headband prize!


The medals presented at the Olympic games serve as symbols of victory, recalling ancient Olympian deities such as Zeus and Nike – especially Zeus as god of war and Nike as goddess of victory. Since 776 B.C. when the Olympic Games first started being held at Olympia, winners received olive branches from trees at this sacred site before later receiving silver and bronze medals as well as hero wreaths of laurel leaves as heroes wreaths for victory. Since 1904 when modern day medals began being given out – winning athlete receives gold, second-place finisher silver and third-place finisher bronze; when taking their podium step a banner bearing Olympic flag is also displayed when taking their podium step for victory!

Early Olympic medals were composed of pure silver with six grams of gold plating, designed by French sculptor Jules-Clement Chaplain with an ancient Greek theme in mind; depicting Nike on one side and Athens’ Acropolis on the other, Chaplain designed medals for the inaugural modern Olympics held in 1896 – which marked a new era in Olympic Games history.

Each Olympic medal features the five rings symbol and silhouette of Zeus holding Nike; also listed is the name and numeral for its host city. While its reverse has remained constant since 1984, each Olympic Games edition brings with it changes which can include host city names or numerals being added or removed as necessary.

American swimmer Michael Phelps holds the record for Olympic medals won at four Olympics with 28, followed by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina of Russia with 18. Additionally, these games often serve as platforms for political activism; an iconic example being during 1968 Olympics when gold medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists as part of their 200 meter race victory podium ceremony to symbolize Black Power activism.


The Olympic Charter contains several rules that guide the Olympics, from their legal status and role of National Olympic Committees, through World Anti-Doping Code enforcement and flag, emblem, motto and flame design; to any kind of cheating including competition manipulation – and requires athletes to abide by sport-specific regulations.

The Olympic Games are an inclusive sporting event open to people of all races, genders and age groups without discrimination or prejudice. All race groups, genders and age groups may compete fairly and without prejudice in each sport – except where specific restrictions or age limits exist for certain sports. Athletes may use drugs or substances that improve performance but must adhere to World Anti-Doping Agency rules in taking such substances in order to increase their odds of victory.

Athletes must abide by the Olympic Code, which stipulates that they must be citizens of their nation in order to compete at the Games. This rule ensures that the Olympics remain an inclusive global competition while also preventing it from degenerating into an event exclusively featuring professional athletes.

Human rights are under attack daily and wars rage, yet the Olympic Games offer athletes an escape from daily life and provide a sanctuary of competition and celebration of humanity. Though competition takes place here, so too do people from various races, genders and religions come together in sport celebration. But any restrictions to fundamental rights must be proportionate with legitimate goals pursued at each Olympics competition.

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