The Olympic Games are a multi-sport event taking place every fourth year. Originally held in ancient Greece, they were revived by French Baron Pierre 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 Winter Olympic Games, started in 1924; since 1994 these are no longer held in the same year as the Games of the Olympiad.

Table of contents
1 Ancient History
2 Modern History
3 Related Topics
4 External links

Ancient History

A Greek legend tells of the great Heracles (or Hercules, in Latin) who won a race at Olympia and then decreed that the race should be re-enacted every four years. Another legend says that Zeus had instated the festival after his defeat of Cronus. According to yet another legend, King Iphitos of Elidos consulted the Pythia (oracle of Delphi) to try and save his people from war in the 9th century BC. The prophetess advised him to organise games in honour of the gods. The Spartan adversary of Ipitos then decided to stop the war during these games, which were called Olympic, after Mount Olympus, the mountain on which the Greek gods were said to live. The last version is probably the most accurate, although the Games likely originated from locally held games. Another possible source of the Games is the legend of Oenomaus, who challenged his daughter's suitors to a chariot race and killed the losers. The fourteenth suitor, Pelops, cheated by bribing Oenomaus' charioteer, Myrtilus, who loosened a lynchpin, killing Oenomaus. Pelops married the princess, Hippodamia.

The Games were held in Olympia, a worshipping place for the Greek gods near the town of Elis. Located in Olympia was a 12 m high statue in ivory and gold of Zeus, the main god, created by Phidias. The statue was one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World.

The first written accounts of the Olympic Games date from 776 BC, although it is sure that these Games were not the first ones to be held. The only competiton held then was the stadion race, a race over about 190 meters, measured after the feet of Hercules. The word stadium is derived from this foot race. The Olympic Games were held in four year intervals, and later the Greek method of counting the years even referred to these Games, using the term Olympiad for the period between two Games.

Over the years, other events were added: boxing, wrestling, pankration (combination of boxing and wrestling), chariot racing, several other running events (the diaulos, hippios, dolichos, and hoplitodromos), as well as a pentathlon, consisting of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw and discus throw (the latter three were not separate events). The addition of these events meant the festival grew from 1 day to 5 days, 3 of which were used for competition. The other 2 days were dedicated to religious rituals. On the final day, there was a banquet for all of the participants, consisting of 100 oxen that had been sacrificed to Zeus on the first day.

The winners of an Olympic event were awarded an olive branch, and was often received with much honour in his home town (and outside). (See Milo of Croton.) Sculptors would create statues of Olympic victors (see Ageladas).

The ancient Olympic Games were abandoned in AD 394 by the Roman emperor Theodosius I, who considered the Games to be a savage celebration.

It is often said that wars were halted during the Games, but this is not true; however, athletes, who were often soldiers, were permitted to leave the army to participate in the Games, and were guaranteed safe passage through enemy territory.

The Olympic Games were part of the Panhellenic Games, four separate games held at two- or four-year intervals but arranged so that there was one set of games every year. The Olympic Games were the most important and most prestigious of these.


  • specific winner
  • better details
  • customs
  • Roman influence

Modern History


De Coubertin, founding of IOC

Games of the Olympiad

See Summer Olympic Games for a global history, or the articles for the individual celebrations: (The candidates are Rio de Janeiro, Moscow; New York; London; Paris; Madrid, Spain; Havana, Cuba; Leipzig, Germany; and Istanbul, Turkey. The IOC vote is in 2005).

Olympic Winter Games

See Olympic Winter Games for a global history, or the articles for the individual celebrations:


A large number of sports have been conducted at the Olympic Games. The following sports are currently on the program of the Games of the Olympiad.
The following sports have been on the program, but are no longer held:
  • Cricket (1900)
  • Croquet (1900)
  • Golf (1900-1904)
  • Jeu de Paume (1908)
  • Lacrosse (1904-190, demonstrated in 1928, 1932 and 1948)
  • Motorboating (1908)
  • Pelota (1900, demonstrated in 1924, 1968 and 1992)
  • Polo (1900, 1908, 1920-1924, 1936)
  • Racquets (1908)
  • Rugby (1900, 1908, 1920-1924)
  • Tug of war (1900-1920)

Sports held as a demonstration, or of which the Olympic status is disputable (d): The following sports are on the program of the Winter Olympic Games: The following sports have been held as a demonstration, but have never made it as an Olympic winter sport:
  • Bandy (1952)
  • Eisstockschießen (1936, 1964)
  • Military patrol (1924, 1928, 1936, 1948)
  • Skijöring (1928)
  • Sled-dog racing (1932)
  • Speed skiing (1992)
  • Winter pentathlon (1948)

Related Topics

External links

Olympic is also the name the public sometimes uses for the Greek national airline, Olympic Airways. Olympic uses varous types or airplanes, like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A340 for international routes, and the Boeing 727 and Boeing 737 for domestic routes.