Are you ready for an epic journey? If you want to know everything interesting about the modern Olympic Games, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will dive deep into history and throw light on some of the most enthralling and interesting facts about the Olympics. Starting from the first-ever modern Olympics held in 1896 to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this comprehensive list will cruise you through them all, highlighting some star players and fascinating events. A list of all the 29 Summer Olympic Games will be followed by some miscellaneous facts for your perusal. Trust me, you ain’t finding anything like this anywhere else. Here are some of the most interesting facts about the Olympics. Let’s go!
1896 Athens Olympics
Resurrected after almost 1500 years, the first modern Olympic games took place in Athens and it was organized by the International Olympic Committee headed by French aristocrat, Pierre de Coubertin. 14 nations competed in the games, all participants were men, 245 in total. Hermann Weingartner won the most medals in the games, 3 golds, 2 silvers, and a bronze in gymnastics.
Image Source: Flickr.com
1900 Paris Olympics
Women participated for the first time in the Olympics. Hélène de Pourtalès (in image), a swiss sailor, became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Overshadowed by the Great Exhibition, these games suffered from a poor organization with no proper infrastructure for the smooth conduct of the various events. Some participants weren’t even aware that they were competing in the Olympic Games. Swimming events took place in the River Seine and most swimmers clocked record times due to the fast currents of the river.
Image Source: Picryl.com
1904 St. Louis Olympics
525 out of the nearly 700 participants were Americans and the rest were from 12 other countries. For the first time ever, the Olympics were held outside Europe. George Eyser, an American gymnast with a wooden leg, won 6 medals. Anton Heida, another gymnast from the USA won 5 gold and a silver medal in men’s gymnastics.
1908 London Olympics
The most interesting thing about this Olympics was the marathon event during which Dorando Pietri, a sweetshop owner from Italy, collapsed 4 times before he was helped by his fellow participants to the finish line. Even though he was disqualified, this stands as one of the warmest moments in sports history. Another highlight of these games was the accusation that the British judges were being biased, to the point that the American team threatened to withdraw from the games.
1912 Stockholm Olympics
In this version of the Olympics, electronic timing devices were used for the very first time. More than 2500 participants competed in various sports, gymnastics being the most popular event of them all. Swimming and modern pentathlon were introduced in these games.
Due to the ongoing First World War, the Olympics were cancelled in the year 1916.
1920 Antwerp Olympics
Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey were not invited to the 1920 Olympics. It was held in the Belgian city of Antwerp to honour the people of the nation who had lived under enemy occupation for four long years during the First World War. It was the last Olympics for Swedish shooter, Oscar Swahn, who is the oldest Olympic medallist ever. He was 72 at that time and had 6 Olympic medals to his name.
1924 Paris Olympics
The Olympic Motto, “citius, altius, fortius” was coined for the first time in these games. It means faster, higher, stronger. Johnny Weissmuller, the Hollywood actor who had starred in 12 Tarzan movies, won 3 gold medals in this Olympics. He later went on to win 2 more gold medals in the 1928 Olympics. It was also the first time that the Winter Olympics were held.
1928 Amsterdam Olympics
The Indian hockey domination in the Olympics started in the 1928 Olympics. The team led by Major Dhyan Chand won gold for 3 subsequent Olympics, and in those three years, the team scored 102 goals and conceded just 3 goals! India has won a total of 8 Olympic gold in hockey to date. Women participated in the athletics events for the first time. Germany was invited to participate after being barred from the 1920 and 1924 Olympics.
Image Source: Picryl.com
1932 Los Angeles Olympics
Only 1408 participants from 37 countries took part in the games as a result of the crippling Great Depression. Podiums were used for the first time during the award ceremony, and it was also the first time when the winner’s national anthems were played. Photo-finish cameras and automatic timing devices were also introduced. Walking as an Olympic sport was recognized with the introduction of the 50 km walk. Mildred Didrikson of the USA became the most talked-about athlete of the event as she won gold medals in the javelin and 80 meters hurdles, and a silver in the high jump.
1936 Berlin Olympics
It is one of the most historical events in history for so many reasons. It was the first Olympics ever to be televised and the first games to be preceded by the torch relay. While the Germans tried to turn the event into Nazi propaganda, the success of non-Aryan athletes thwarted their intentions. America’s Jesse Owens, an African-American man, won the most number of golds, in 100 m, 200 m, long jump, and sprint relay.
Image Source: Flickr.com
The 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to the Second World War.
1948 London Olympics
The first Olympics to be held after the Second World War, the 1948 London Olympics sent a message of peace and solidarity around the world. Germany and Japan were not invited to the games while USSR refused to send a team. The most iconic thing about this Olympics was that a 30-year-old mother of 2, Fanny Blankers-Koen, won the most medals. The Dutch woman, better known as “the flying housewife”, won 4 gold medals and became the most successful athlete of the 1948 Olympics.
Image source: Picryl.com
1952 Helsinki Olympics
One of the most well-organized Olympics of all time, the 1952 Helsinki Olympics was a huge success. The ongoing Cold War between the USA and the USSR was not reflected upon the games which stood as an example of sheer grace. The most interesting happening at these games was that a Czech couple Emil Zatopek won three gold medals in athletic events while his wife bagged a gold in the javelin.
1956 Melbourne Olympics
It was the first time that the Olympics were held in Australia and hence the Southern Hemisphere. Due to some quarantine laws, the equestrian events were held in Stockholm, 5 months later. 72 counties and 3314 participants competed in 151 events. The Indian National Field Hockey team won its 6th consecutive gold in these games. It was the first Olympics to have live broadcasting.
1960 Rome Olympics
It was the first time that the Paralympics were held. This was the last time that South Africa was invited to the Olympics as the country did not declare its opposition to the apartheid. The next time that the country attended the Olympics was in 1992 after the apartheid ended. The events were held both in ancient stadiums that dated back thousands of years and also modern ones. Cassius Clay a.k.a Muhammad Ali won his first Olympic gold medal at the tender age of 18.
1964 Tokyo Olympics
This was the first time that the Olympics were held in Asia. The Olympic flame was lit by a student, Yoshinori Sakai, who was born near Hiroshima the day the atomic bomb fell. It stood as a symbol of peace and redemption. Even though the South African athletes were not allowed to participate in the Summer Olympics, but the para-athletes competed in the Paralympic Games.
1968 Mexico City Olympics
The Olympics were held for the first time in the continent of South America. The traditional cinder tracks were replaced by all-weather tracks for the track and field events. North Koreans did not participate in these games. The winners of the 200-meter running event made history by wearing human rights batches while on the podium. The gold and bronze medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their black-gloved fists up in the air while the national anthem of the US played in the background. It is famously known in history as the ‘Black power salute of 1968‘.
1972 Munich Olympics
The most controversial Olympics of all time, this event saw the Munich Massacres unfold. Members of a Palestinian militant group named Black September infiltrated the Olympic village and attacked the members of the Israeli team. Such unfortunate events that too in Germany! Ahem. Who would have thought? Ahem. It was in this Olympics that Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals in swimming. The record was later broken by Micheal Phelps. We’ll talk about that later in the article.
1976 Montreal Olympics
Remember the 1900 Paris Olympics? A disaster, right? This one was worse than that. Rampant corruption and mismanagement led to a lot of chaos. Also, 29 nations boycotted the Olympics that year because the International Olympics Committee refused to ban New Zealand over a breach of the UN sporting embargo.
1980 Moscow Olympics
The USA, Japan, Canada, and West Germany boycotted these games in protest of the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan. The women athletes of East Germany set seven world records in total and won 11 golds in their respective events. Aleksandr Dityani, a gymnast from the USSR, won 8 individual medals that included 3 gold medals.
1984 Los Angeles Olympics
The USSR boycotted these games in response to the 1980 boycott by several countries. 140 countries sent their contingents with 6797 athletes in total as the American land hosted the games for the second time. Sports for women in India came to a highlight as P.T. Usha fell short of the bronze medal by one-hundredth of a second, but still managed to set an Asian record.
1988 Seoul Olympics
It was the second time that the games were held in Asia. North Korea had pitched to co-host the games but to no success. More than 8500 athletes from 159 nations participated in these games. Kristin Otto, a swimmer from East Germany, won six golds in these games, which set the record for the most number of gold medals for a woman in a single Olympics.
1992 Barcelona Olympics
The Olympics came to Spain for the first time. It was 1992, world politics had changed, and how! The athletes from all of the Soviet Republics participated under the banner of the Unified Team and ended up at the top of the medal board. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany participated as a united nation in these games. South African returned to the Olympics with a racially integrated team after the ending of the apartheid.
1996 Atlanta Olympics
It is also known as the Centennial Olympic Games as the modern Olympics had started 100 years ago i.e. 1896. This event featured more than ten thousand athletes from 197 countries and a bomb! Yes, a bomb went off in the Centennial Olympics Park. Due to the prompt response of the security personnel, there was just one casualty although several people were wounded.
2000 Sydney Olympics
The Olympics return to Australia after almost 45 years with the first Olympics of the 21st century. It is considered one of the most well-organized Olympics of recent time. The triathlon was included as an event and taekwondo was no longer a demonstration sport. Cathy Freeman, an aboriginal first Australian, made a mark for herself and her community by winning the 400 meters event. Steve Redgrave, a British rower, won his fifth consecutive gold medal in these games.
Image Source: Flickr.com
2004 Athens Olympics
Olympics returned to the city where it was born, rather reborn! 201 National Olympic Committees participated in 301 sporting events. Argentina won gold at the men’s football event without conceding a single goal! The Micheal Phelps glory started in these games as he won 6 gold medals! German Kayaker, Brigit Fischer, stunned the world by becoming the first athlete to win two gold medals in each of her 5 Olympic appearances.
2008 Beijing Olympics
130 Olympic records and more than 40 world records were broken in these games. 204 National Olympic Committees participated in the event and 87 countries managed to get at least one medal. Countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Togo, and Mauritius won their first Olympic medals ever. Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra brought glory to the country by winning the first-ever individual Olympic Gold medal for an Indian. The Micheal Phelps and Usain Bolt magic started in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
2012 London Olympics
Paul Macartney (The Beatles) and Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) performed in the opening ceremony. How cool was that! This was the first time that each participating nation had at least one female athlete in its midst. Women’s boxing was introduced for the first time. The Usain Bolt and Micheal Phelps dominance prevailed in this Olympics too, as Bolt displayed his second consecutive track victory spree and Phelps won his 22nd Olympic medal.
2016 Rio de Jenario Olympics
Both the Summer and Winter Olympics were held for the first time in the continent of South America. More than eleven thousand athletes participated despite the fear of Rio being a crime-riddled city and the outbreak of the Zika Virus. These games featured the Refugee Olympics Team for the first time. Usain Bolt won the 100 and 200 meters race for the third consecutive Olympics and became the greatest sprinter in Olympic history! Simone Manuel became the first African-American ever to win an individual Olympic gold medal while Simone Biles won 4 gold medals in the gymnastic events. Brazil won its first-ever gold in men’s football!
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
2020 Tokyo Olympics
The most iconic Olympics of all time and the only Olympics ever to be postponed, Tokyo 2020 will stand in history as a symbol of hope! Held during the trying time of the Covid pandemic, Japan made every effort possible for the smooth conduct of the event. The Olympics Motto was changed from faster, higher, stronger to faster, higher, stronger, together. Emma Mckeon, Australia, tied the record of having the most individual golds for a woman and also became the only woman to have won 7 medals in a single Olympics. Events such as surfing, skateboarding, sports climbing, and karate were held for the first time with many young athletes winning medals!
The third time’s a charm
Paris will become the host city of the Olympic Games for the 3rd time in 2024 after hundred years. Before this Paris had hosted the 1900 and 1924 Olympics respectively. Los Angeles will be hosting Olympics for the 3rd time in 2028. Apart from these two cities, London has also hosted three Olympic Games in 1908, 1948, and 2012.
Artists in Olympics
From 1912 to 1948, art inspired by sports (architecture, music, sculpture, literature, and painting) was awarded medals in the Olympics.
Tom Daley and LGBTQI+ representation
Tom Daley, an openly gay diver from Great Britain, won everybody’s hearts by knitting his way through his first Olympics gold. During his interview, Daley expressed his struggles of coming out and extended his support to the community by saying, “You are not alone!” From just one openly gay athlete in the 1932 Summer Olympics to at least 180 individuals proudly waving the rainbow colours in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the representation of the LGBTQI+ community in the Olympics has come a long way. The world has finally begun to celebrate individuality!
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Let’s share it!
In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Japanese pole vaulter Shuhei Nashida and his friend Sueo Oe decided to cut their respective silver and bronze medals in half and have them welded to be shared by them both. The medals are hailed in history as the “Medals of Friendship”. In Tokyo 2020, Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy decided to share their men’s high jump gold victory with 2 gold medals and the sheer joy on their faces was indeed heartwarming.
Design of the Olympic rings
The Olympics Rings were designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympic Games; blue, yellow, black, green, red, and the white background – were chosen because every nation’s flag contains at least one of them.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Olympics have always been an event celebrating diversity, peace, and hope. Over the years they have managed to bring people all over the world together and participate in a festival celebrating sports in all its glory. Each and every individual participating in these games is a symbol of inspiration for so many people and they will continue to do so. With this, we have come to the end of the list of some of the most interesting facts about the Olympics set out in a comprehensive manner. Which is your favourite moment from the Olympics? Do let us know in the comments section.