The modern Olympic Games

The modern Olympic Games

Baron Pierre de Coubertin dreamed of a revival of the Ancient Olympic Games. In 1839, he spoke with representatives of the biggest universities about the possibility of creating an international athletic council for the promotion of his idea.

The council met in Paris during the summer of 1894 and the most important issue that it dealt with was the amateurish spirit of the Games, as Coubertin was completely opposed with the professionalism of sports. The international athletic council created the International Olympic Committee (IOC), responsible for the organization and the supervision of the Games and Demetrius Vikelas, first president of IOC, insisted on the organization of the first Olympic Games of modern times should take place in Greece, regardless of the huge economic problems that the country was facing.
In 1895, a committee was created in Greece that decided the rules of the Games and went into searching for money for the stadium and the rest of the athletic installations. On April 6, 1896, Monday after Easter Sunday, King George A the First of Greece, announced the opening of the Games.
During the first modern Olympic Games, commemorative medals were awarded to all who participated. The winners, though, were given silver medals and the second winners were awarded bronze medals. The winner of each game also received a wreath of olive leaves and the second winner laurel wreath.


1896 - ATHENS, GREECE (241 athletes from 14 countries)

The first Olympic winner of the modern Games was James Connoly in the triple jump, but the game that offered the greatest thrills was meant to be the Marathon run, with which the Games closed and it was won by Greek Spyros Louis, an athlete who had no prior training. The route began at Marathona Lake and ended at the Kallimarmaro (Panathenian Stadium). There were 16 runners who participated in this Game, 12 of them were Greeks. During the bigger part of the run, foreign runners were ahead and only four kilometers before the finish line took the lead and entered the stadium causing a frenzy to the 100.000 spectators. The Games were declared successful and sparked off the continuity of the endeavor.

1900 - PARIS, FRANCE (1225 athletes from 24 countries)

Contrary to the Games of Athens, the Olympic Games of Paris were characterized as sloppy and unorganized. The Games lasted five months and were coupled with the festivities of the international exhibit but not reminiscent of the sense of euphoria and spiritual elevation of Athens. It was the first time that women participated, 19 in all, with first gold Olympic winner British Charlotte Cooper in tennis. New games such as soccer, rugby, golf, etc appear for the first time. American Alvin Kraenzlein was the star of the organization winning in four Olympic Games (110 meters hurdles, 200 meters hurdles, 60 meters, long jumping). The organization is considered to be the worst of modern Olympic Games.

1904 - ST. LOUIS, USA (689 athletes from 13 countries)

The Games were correctly organized as a whole, though they were scattered with the events of the international exhibit, lasting 4.5 months. Boxing and free-style wrestling made their first appearance during these Games, while the European athletes did not made an effort to make the transatlantic travel. For the first time the golden, silver and bronze medals were established for the first, second and third place respectively. As for the competitive part the Marathon runners Len Tau and Jan Mashiani were the first Africans who participated in Olympic Games, while distinct was the appearance of the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals with a wooden leg.

1908 - LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN (2035 athletes from 22 countries)

The British, with great experience in the organization of games, had the will and at the end succeeded to surpass the previous organization of the USA and to antagonize the American athletes that occupied the lead in high performances. The Americans doubted the British adjudicators and this resulted in the creation of a bad situation between the two countries. For the first time the athlete’s paraded by nation during the opening ceremony. A 60 year old Swede who was competing in Shooting became the oldest athlete to win a gold medal during the Olympic Games.

1912 - STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (2547 athletes from 28 countries)

The threat of war dominated all of Europe, until the very successful Games proved that the nations could cooperate under the universal athletic ideals. The Swedes did not allow the boxing games to take place on their land. The antagonism between the Americans and the British goes on, with the later to accuse the others for professionalizing the Games. The American athlete Jim Thorpe, Olympic winner of the games Pentathlon and Decathlon was forced to return the medals, when it was revealed that in the past he had participated in professional rugby games.

1916 - BERLIN, GERMANY (The Games were not conducted because of World War I.)

1920 - ANTWERP, BELGIUM (2669 athletes from 29 countries)

The Games of 1916 were programmed to take place in Berlin, but were canceled because of World War I. The Games of 1920 were assigned to Belgium and were characterized by frugality despite the exceptional efforts of the organizers. For the first time during the opening ceremony the Olympic Oath of the athletes is delivered and the Olympic Flag with the five rings appears, a symbol of unity of the five continents, causing Coubertin to declare during the speech that he gave at the closing ceremony that: ''These celebrations are above all celebrations of the human unity''.

1924 - PARIS, FRANCE (3092 athletes from 44 countries)

Coubertin, just before retiring from his rich athletic activities, wanted to give his country a second chance in order to erase the bad organization memories of 1900. After these Games, he relinquished the presidency of IOC, at the age of 61, but remained a member until his death. The Games were covered by 1000 reporters and for the first time during the opening ceremony fly the flags of IOC, the host country and the following organizing country. The game of Tennis takes place for the last time, which will appear again in 1988. The chant: ''Citius, Altius, Fortius'' (Faster, Higher, Stronger) was formulated by priest Didon for the first time during these Games.

1928 - AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (3014 athletes from 46 countries)

For the first time, during these Games, women participated in track events and gymnastics resulting increasing their participation to 290. The Olympic Flame is lit for the first time during these Games, while the Greek team opens the parade and the host country closes the parade, a practice that remains until today. Athletes from 28 countries win gold medals, a record that will remain for 40 years. Big star of the Games was the American Johnny Weissmuller, the most famous swimmer of all time who made lasting impressions with his appearances by winning gold medals in the 100 meters and the relay 4x200.

1932 - LOS ANGELES, USA (1408 athletes from 37 countries)

The Games were considered the most successful so far. Their duration is limited to 16 days, while all prior Olympic Games lasted at least 79 days. The festival of Fine Arts that was organized along with the literature and the painting competitions provide the Games with the character that Coubertin had dreamed of in the 19th Century. The 14 year old Japanese swimmer Kusuo Kitamura wins the gold medal in the free 1500 meters and becomes the youngest golden winner in the history of the Games. During these Games the winners' pedestal makes its first appearance, as well as the playing of the national anthem of the winner's country simultaneously with the hoisting of this country's flag right after the award of the medals.

1936 - BERLIN, GERMANY (4066 athletes from 49 countries)

Under the sounds of the military marching s and Hitler's propaganda, Jesse Owens, the African American athlete won the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the long jump, while he won a fourth gold medal in 4X100 relay, thwarted the racial discriminations that he was a victim off in his own country. And all these under the perplexed cold stare of Hitler and the apotheosis of even the German spectators. For the first time the Olympic Flame is carried by the Torch-race from Ancient Olympia. Basketball and handball are added to the program, while the 13 year old American diver Marjorie Gestring, wins the gold medal and becomes the youngest gold Olympic winner until today.

1940 - HELSINKI, FINLAND (The Games did not take place because of World War II.)

1944 - LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN (The Games did not take place because of World War II.)

1948 - LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN (4099 athletes from 59 countries)

Despite the frugality of the organization was characteristic of the whole war reform climate, the Olympic spirit managed to survive the war devastation. The London Games were the first to be broad casted on television, though very few people had television sets at that time. In Aquatics there were eight new Olympic records set and an international record, something that has never happened before. Finally, the Hungarian Ilona Elek in fencing and the Czech Jan Brzak in canoeing managed to defend the titles that they had won during the Berlin Olympic Games, 12 years earlier.

1952 - HELSINKI, FINLAND (4925 athletes from 69 countries)

They were declared unanimously as the best Games that had ever taken place. Great athletic figures, high records and a particularly enthusiastic public. The Soviets participate for the first time in the Games and they take the second place after the Americans in the general scoring. The Czech Emil Zatopek becomes the first athlete in the history of the Olympic Games to win the 5000 meters, 10000 meters and the Marathon run during the same Games, while the American Bob Mathias becomes the first athlete to win the Decathlon in two consecutive Olympics.

1956 MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA & STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (3184 athletes from 67 countries)

These were the first Olympic Games that took place in the southern hemisphere. But, because of the strict laws of importing foreign horses in the country, the Equestrian games were conducted in Stockholm in June. Worth mentioning is the IOC's achievement to convince the two Germanys (East and West) to participate with a mixed team under one flag with the German colors, and the Olympic rings as well, having as national anthem Beethoven's ''ode of joy''. In the Games department, the Hungarian Laszlo stood out, becoming the first boxer to win three gold medals, while the American basketball team dominated over all its opponents with a difference of at least 30 points! Finally, for the first time during the closing ceremony the athletes do not parade by country but they surged all together in the stadium as symbol of unity.

1960 - ROME, ITALY (5348 athletes from 83 countries)

Main concern of the Games was the marriage of the ancient with the modern athletic spirit, as the Wrestling games were conducted in the ancient Basilica of Maxentius and the Gymnastics in the Caravalla Baths, while the Marathon run started at the Capitol. The Soviets surpassed the USA in general standing. The Ethiop Abebe Bikila, running barefoot in the Marathon run, becomes the first black African gold medalist.

1964 - TOKYO, JAPAN (5140 athletes from 93 countries)

More viewers than ever watched these Games on television through the satellite Telestar. The amount of money that was spent to build new athletic installations were extraordinary and the Games were named ''Games of Joy''. The Japanese in a very sentimental moment presented the last torch runner Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima on the day that the city was destroyed by the atomic bomb. Judo and Volley ball were included in the athletic program while the Ethiopian Abebe Bakila becomes the first athlete to win two consecutive Marathon runs in Olympic Games. Finally, the Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina won six medals, reaching in total 18 medals in Olympic Games, 9 of them gold!

1968 - MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (5516 athletes from 112 countries)

The Games were carried out at an elevation of 2300 meters and the oxygen in the air was 30% less than it is at sea level. For the first time a woman, the Mexican Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo, a track athlete, lit the Olympic Flame. The American athlete Bob Beamon jumped 8.90 meters in the long jump, increasing by 0.55 meters the previous international record! His record will remain for 22 years. Finally, for the first time in summer Olympic Games sex control for the women is taking place.

1972 - MUNICH, WEST GERMANY (7123 athletes from 121 countries)

The Games were overshadowed by the terrible event of the 5th of September. A group of eight Arabs of the terrorist organization ''Black September'' armed with machine- guns held nine Israeli athletes hostages asking for the liberation of 200 Palestinians who were imprisoned in Israel. Two athletes who resisted were killed, while after a failed police police operation plan the rest of the athletes were killed along with one policeman and five terrorists. The Games were interrupted for 34 hours, but they continued normally. The Munich Games were the first Games that the Olympic mascot emerged, the dog Waldi.

1976 - MONTREAL, CANADA (6028 athletes from 92 countries)

The Games were marked by the boycott of the African countries, which protested for the tour that the national rugby team of New Zealand made in South Africa, a country that was banned from the Games because of racial discriminations. During the Games the star of 14 year old Romanian Nadia Comaneci was shone, as never before in the history of Gymnastics there was an athlete who had a perfect score (10), when she received seven tens!

1980 - MOSCOW, SOVJET UNION (5217 athletes from 80 countries)

The Games were boycotted by USA, West Germany and Japan drawing into other countries, which resulted in the participation of only 80 countries. Main figure of the Games was the Soviet Aleksandr Dityatin, who won many medals in Gymnastics, becoming the only athlete to win eight medals during the same Games. Unforgettable were the moments that the spectators formed huge mosaics from cardboard, with most characteristic the scene that the mascot of the Games, the little bear Misha had tears in its eyes during the closing ceremony.

1984 - LOS ANGELES, USA (6797 athletes from 140 countries)

Carl Lewis becomes the new big star of the international track winning four gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and the relay of 4X100 meters. The British Sebastian Coe became the first athlete to repeat his win in the 1500 meters. The Soviets, answering to the boycott of their own Olympic Games by the Americans in 1980, boycotted in return the Games of their adversaries.

1988 - SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (8465 athletes from 159 countries)

The television viewing of the Games reaches unbelievable heights, surpassing the previous ones of the USA. Tennis and Ping-pong are included in the official games for the first time. The American Florence Griffith – Joyner dominated the women sprints. However, the most important and the most shocking event of the Games was the taking away of the 100 meters gold medal from Canadian Ben Johnson, because of his use of banned substances.

1992 - BARCELONA, SPAIN (9367 athletes from 169 countries)

The victory of Greek Voula Patoulithou in the women 100 meters hurdle race is considered as one of the biggest surprises of all times. The first American professional basketball team ("Dream Team") with athletes such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, caused enthusiasm with its appearances, winning the gold medal in basketball with an average of 117 points in eight games and without the request of a time out.

1996 - ATLANTA, USA (10,318 athletes from 197 countries)

Uncontrollable commercialism characterized the climate of the Games, while television viewing rose steeply once again. The Games were marked by the death of one person and the injury of 110 more from the placement of a bomb. For the first time a track athlete, American Michael Johnson wins both the 200 meters and the 400 meters. His international record in the 200 meters with a time of 19.32 is historic. The Turk weightlifter Naim Suleimanoglu becomes the first weightlifter wins three gold Olympic medals.

2000 - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (10,651 athletes from 199 countries)

The Games in Sydney were marked by the impeccable work of the organizers and by the great athletic achievements of the national Australian team. It had the biggest number of athletes in all the history of the Games with 10,651 participants. 46,967 volunteers offered their services to the Games! The American, Marion Jones, was the leading lady of the Games since she won five medals in track (gold in the 100m, 200m and 4X400m relay race and bronze in the long jump and the 4X100m relay race).

2004 - ATHENS, GREECE (10,500 athletes from 202 countries)

The Olympic Games of Athens were, by general consensus, the best in modern athletic history. However, things did not start well, as the issue of the two top Greek athletes Kosta Kenteris and Katerina Thanou who tried to evade a doping check up temporarily threatened the joy of the return of the Games to their birthplace. Admittedly, the opening and closing ceremonies were exemplary, giving particular emphasis to the anthropocentric element that covers the athletic competition. The ''bow'' of the torch to the athlete made history, on 13 August. In the athletics, the Games of the 28th Olympics were held from 13 August to 29 August 2004, hosting about 10,500 athletes with 5,500 trainers and escorts from 202 countries. It was remarkable that for the first time since 1996 all the members of the International Olympic Council participated in the Olympic Games, during which the stars of American Michael Phelps in swimming and German Brigitte Fisher in Canoe Kayak shone brightly. Worth mentioning was the Olympic Soccer Tournament that took place in the cities of: Thessaloniki, Volos, Patra and Heraklio.

2008 - BEIJING, CHINA (11,000 athletes from 204 countries)

One more organization of the Olympic Games that started with bad omens, because of the international reactions for the violation of human rights in Nepal and concluded with expressions of gratitude and congratulation of the IOC to the organizers. The Chinese were highly successful entrusting the direction of the opening and closing ceremonies to the internationally famous director Zan Gi Mou, after Steven Spielberg's resignation in the middle of 2008 from the particular position. The ceremonies were characterized by splendor, variety of colors and events, spectacular display and grandeur. In reference to the Games, the 29th summer Olympics were conducted in Beijing the capital of the Republic of China from 8 to 24 August 2008. About 11,000 athletes participated along with 5,500 trainers and escorts from 204 countries. Worth mentioning is the fact that the opening ceremony begun at 8:00 pm local time, on 8 August (8th month) 2008, as for the Chinese the number 8 means prosperity. Big star of the Games was again the American swimmer Michael Phelps with a total of eight gold medals that he won, while the USA national basketball team returned to the highest pedestal, after many years.

2012 - LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN (10.768 athletes from 204 countries)

From 1896 to 2018 inclusive, Great Britain has won 851 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, and another 32 at the Winter Olympic Games. ... Sir Steve Redgrave is the only British Olympian to win a gold medal in 5 consecutive Olympic Games, winning his first in 1984 Los Angeles and last in 2000 Sydney.

2016 - RIO DE JANEIRO, BRASIL (11.238 athletes from 207 countries)

The Olympic Games Rio 2016 were iconic in so many ways. Over the course of 16 inspiring days, there were witnessed new records, personal bests, great emotions and inspiring sportsmanship that only the magic of the Olympic Games can create. Off the field of play too, Rio 2016 was a great success. Rio 2016 set new records for global visibility and awareness, it also set new standards for legacy planning.

(11,656 athletes from 205 countries)

These Games have gone down in history due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic into the lives of every human on the planet in 2020. This resulted in rolling lockdowns in order to save lives and the result of the first-ever one-year delay of the Olympic Games. With the Tokyo Olympics vision being "Striving for your personal best", on March 24th, 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that they would be postponed. Therefore, Tokyo welcomed their version of the Olympics in 2021, under very strict conditions that introduced the non-inclusion of fans in the stadiums - from the Opening through the Closing ceremonies. The Tokyo Olympics were therefore held from July 23rd to August 8th, 2021. Emperor Naruhito officially inaugurated the Games and the Olympic cauldron was ignited by Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka. Of historic note, for the first time in the Olympic Games, it was decided that one male and one female from each country would take turns holding flags and serving as one during the legendary Parade of Nations. IOC president Thomas Bach asserted that the purpose of the 2021 Games was to produce a "youthful" and "urban" appeal and to enhance the representation of female athletes. The Games presented 339 events in 33 distinct sports, comprising a total of 50 disciplines. Karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding made their Olympic introduction (the IOC introduced the latter to attract young fans). Baseball and softball also made a 1-off return since 2008. Also, 15 original events within existing sports were also added, including 3×3 basketball, freestyle BMX, and the return of madison cycling, as well as 9 new mixed events in diverse sports (table tennis, archery, judo, shooting (3), triathlon, 4 × 400 m relay running, and 4 × 100 m medley swimming). As of August 2021, the number of athletes participating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics amounted to 5,494 in the case of women and 5,982 in the case of men (11,656). Notably, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics had the lowest gender gap in terms of participants among preceding Olympics.


History of Olympic Games (Introduction)
The initial form of the Olympic Games
The athletic events
The evolution of the Olympic Games
The days of the Olympic Games
Some other versions about the origins of the Games
The Polynikes (multi-winners)
The meaning of the Olympic Games for Greece
The modern Olympic Games