Olympic Fun Facts

  • The early Olympic Games were celebrated as a religious festival from 776 B.C. until 393 A.D., when the games were banned for being a pagan festival (the Olympics celebrated the Greek god Zeus). In 1894, a French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin, proposed a revival of the ancient tradition, and thus the modern-day Olympic Summer Games were born.

  • The Olympic rings cover every flag in the world. They picked yellow, green, red, black and blue because at least one of those five colors appears in every flag in the world. (The five rings also allegedly represent the five continents of the world. But wait, you’re saying, aren’t there seven continents? Yes. But the Olympic committee has spun things to try to appease everyone. The way they’ve condensed the world into five continents: America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania. Sorry, Antarctica. And apparently, we’re now continent mates with Uruguay and Colombia. Cool.)
  • There’s a 62-year age difference between the oldest and youngest Olympians ever. The youngest Olympian ever was Dimitrios Loundras, a Greek gymnast in the 1896 Athens Olympics. He was 10.
  • Athlete Edward Gourdin was the first man in history to break the long jump record, with a jump of 25-feet 3-inches. He later became the first African-American Superior Court judge in New England. 
  • Because of World War I and World War II, there were no Olympic Games in 1916, 1940, or 1944.
  • The oldest Olympian ever was Oscar Swahn, a Swedish shooter in the 1920 Antwerp, Belgium, Olympics. He was 72.
  • No white person in history has ever run the 100 in under 10 seconds. The closest was Marian Woronin of Poland, who ran it in 10 flat… 40 years ago. There’s no count on just how many black athletes have broken the 10 second mark, but it happened first in 1968, and seems to have happened (at least) several hundred times since.
  • China didn’t win its first medal until 1984. It’s hard to believe now, since China seems to be a medal-winning monolith (sure, they may be getting it done by making death threats to judges’ families and pets, but, hey, winning is winning). But China didn’t get its first Olympic medal until 1984. Xu Haifeng won gold in the 50 meter pistol event.
  • Host Greece won the most medals (47) at the first Olympic Summer Games in 1896.
  • The first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France in 1924.
  • Norway has won the most medals (263) at the Winter Games.

  • The first perfect ten routine in the history was performed by gymnast Nadia Comaneci during the team compulsories.
  • The United States has won more medals (2,189) at the Summer Games than any other country.
  • Up until 1994 the Olympics were held every four years. Since then, the Winter and Summer games have alternated every two years.
  • The first Olympics covered by U.S. television was the 1960 Summer Games in Rome by CBS.
  • No country in the Southern Hemisphere has ever hosted a Winter Games.
  • Three continents – Africa, South America, and Antarctica – have never hosted an Olympics.
  • A record 202 countries participated in the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens.
  • Only four athletes have ever won medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games: Eddie Eagan (United States), Jacob Tullin Thams (Norway), Christa Luding-Rothenburger (East Germany), and Clara Hughes (Canada).

  • Dominique Dawes became the first African-American Olympic gymnast to win a medal in any individual gymnastics event. She took home the bronze medal in Atlanta for her floor exercise and a team gold medal. The three-time medal winner is also the only American to win medals in three Olympic gymnast games. Dawes has a permanent place in the Olympic Committee Hall of Fame.
  • Nobody has won more medals at the Winter Games than cross-country skier Bjorn Dählie of Norway, who has 12.
  • Larrisa Latynina, a gymnast from the former Soviet Union, finished her Summer Olympic Games career with 18 total medals—the most in history.
  • The United States Olympic Committee established the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 to recognize outstanding American Olympic athletes, however, a plan to build a hall has been suspended due to lack of funding.
  • The Summer Olympic sports are archery, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, canoe / kayak, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, handball, judo, modern pentathlon (shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping, and running), mountain biking, rowing, sailing, shooting, soccer, swimming, synchronized swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, track and field, triathlon (swimming, biking, running), volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
  • The Winter Olympic sports are alpine skiing, biathlon (cross-country skiing and target shooting), bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country skiing), skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, and speed skating.
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