The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (French: Jeux olympiques)are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered the world’s foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating.The Olympic Games are normally held every four years, alternating between the Summer and Winter Olympics every two years in the four-year period.
Their creation was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games (Ancient Greek: Ὀλυμπιακοί Ἀγῶνες), held in Olympia, Greece from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, leading to the first modern Games in Athens in 1896. The IOC is the governing body of the Olympic Movement,[definition needed] with the Olympic Charter defining its structure and authority.
The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in several changes to the Olympic Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Winter Olympic Games for snow and ice sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with disabilities, the Youth Olympic Games for athletes aged 14 to 18, the five Continental games (Pan American, African, Asian, European, and Pacific), and the World Games for sports that are not contested in the Olympic Games. The IOC also endorses the Deaflympics and the Special Olympics. The IOC has needed to adapt to a variety of economic, political, and technological advancements. The abuse of amateur rules by the Eastern Bloc nations prompted the IOC to shift away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to the acceptance of professional athletes participating at the Games. The growing importance of mass media has created the issue of corporate sponsorship and general commercialisation of the Games. World wars led to the cancellation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympics; large-scale boycotts during the Cold War limited participation in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics; and the 2020 Olympics were postponed until 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Olympic Movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and organising committees for each specific Olympic Games. As the decision-making body, the IOC is responsible for choosing the host city for each Games, and organises and funds the Games according to the Olympic Charter. The IOC also determines the Olympic programme, consisting of the sports to be contested at the Games. There are several Olympic rituals and symbols, such as the Olympic flag and torch, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Over 14,000 athletes competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics and 2018 Winter Olympics combined, in 35 different sports and over 400 events.The first, second, and third-place finishers in each event receive Olympic medals: gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.
The Games have grown so much that nearly every nation is now represented. This growth has created numerous challenges and controversies, including boycotts, doping, bribery, and a terrorist attack in 1972. Every two years the Olympics and its media exposure provide athletes with the chance to attain national and sometimes international fame. The Games also provide an opportunity for the host city and country to showcase themselves to the world
The Olympic Movement uses symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic symbol, better known as the Olympic rings, consists of five intertwined rings and represents the unity of the five inhabited continents (Africa, The Americas (is considered one continent), Asia, Europe, and Oceania). The coloured version of the rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—over a white field forms the Olympic flag. These colours were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914 but flown for the first time only at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. It has since been hoisted during each celebration of the Games.
The Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger” was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894 and has been official since 1924. The motto was coined by Coubertin’s friend, the Dominican priest Henri Didon OP, for a Paris youth gathering of 1891.
Coubertin’s Olympic ideals are expressed in the Olympic creed:
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
Months before each Games, the Olympic Flame is lit at the Temple of Hera in Olympia in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals. A female performer, acting as a priestess joined by ten female performers as Vestal Virgins, ignites a torch by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun’s rays; she then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that will carry the flame to the host city’s Olympic stadium, where it plays an important role in the opening ceremony. Though the flame has been an Olympic symbol since 1928, the torch relay was only introduced at the 1936 Summer Games to promote the Third Reich.
The Olympic mascot, an animal or human figure representing the cultural heritage of the host country, was introduced in 1968. It has played an important part of the Games’ identity promotion since the 1980 Summer Olympics, when the Soviet bear cub Misha reached international stardom. The mascot of the Summer Olympics in London was named Wenlock after the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. Much Wenlock still hosts the Wenlock Olympian Games, which were an inspiration to Pierre de Coubertin for the Olympic Games.
The Ancient Olympic Games
The history of the Olympics began some 2,300 years ago. Their origin lays in the Olympian Games, which were held in the Olympia area of ancient Greece. Although there are some theories on its initial purposes, the Games have been said to have started as a festival of art and sport, to worship gods. The ancient Olympic Games, however, ended in 393 because of the outbreaks of wars in the region in which they were held.
The Modern Olympic Games
After a 1,500 year absence of the ancient Olympic Games, the event was resumed in the late nineteenth century, thanks to the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator. In 1894, his proposal to revive the Olympic Games was unanimously approved at the International Congress in Paris, and the first Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece, two years later. He also devised the five-ring emblem that is familiar to most people as the Games’ symbol, which represents the unity of the five continents.
The Olympic Games in Japan
The “Father of the Olympic Movement” in Japan is Jigoro Kano – a man who also contributed to the propagation of judo – who was the president of the Tokyo Higher Normal School (the present day University of Tsukuba). In 1909, he was appointed a member of the International Olympic Committee for the first time as an Asian and established the Japan Amateur Athletic Association (today’s Japan Sports Association) to realize the participation of Japanese athletes in the Olympics. The selection of athletes for the Olympics was carried out in 1911, when Yahiko Mishima, a track athlete, and Shiso Kanaguri, a marathon runner, were chosen to represent Japan. Japanese athletes participated in the Olympic Games (the V Olympic Games) for the first time in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912.