Every two years, the world joins in solidarity to participate in the most universal of activities: spending copious hours in front of a TV.
In the world’s defense, it’s what being broadcast that really matters: the Olympic Games, the ultimate test of strength, skill, and dedication. Competing is every athlete’s dream. Watching is every country’s chance to put aside individual differences and unite in national pride.
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While we all know the basics (like gold means first place), some specifics about these worldwide competitions are less known. The medals, for instance, are sometimes literally made of money. Sports that are no longer in the Olympics include live pigeon shooting and tug-of-war. Plus, there’s actually symbolism behind the five Olympic rings.
The iconic logo was designed by French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin, called the father of the modern Olympic Games, who held a congress in Paris to bring back the ancient Greek competitions that hadn’t been held for over 1,500 years. He succeeded, and the International Olympic Committee was born. The first modern games were held in Athens in 1896.
Coubertin was first inspired to draw the rings after the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden, the first Olympics that included athletes from all five inhabited parts of the world (Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia). He drew five interlocking rings atop a letter to a colleague, and they became the official Olympic symbol a year later.
The five rings represent those five “continents” (as Coubertin referred to them), and the six colors—blue, yellow, black, green, and red on a white background—are all found on the flags of each nation participating in the Olympics. No ring refers to a specific continent.
The symbol debuted at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. It was supposed to be used at the 1916 Games, but they were cancelled on account of World War I.
Can’t wait for the next Olympics? Get mentally and emotionally ready with these inspiring quotes from Olympic athletes.