The Olympic Games (French: les Jeux olympiques, JO), is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered to be the world’s foremost sports competition and more than 200 nations participate. The Games are currently held biennially, with Summer and Winter Olympic Games alternating, meaning they occur every four years within their respective seasonal games. Originally, the ancient Olympic Games were 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. The IOC has since become the governing body of the Olympic Movement, whose structure and actions are defined by the Olympic Charter.
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 Games for ice and winter sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with a physical disability, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes. The IOC has had to adapt to the varying economic, political, and technological realities of the 20th century. As a result, the Olympics shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allow participation of professional athletes. The growing importance of the mass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialization of the Games. World Wars led to the cancellation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Games. Large boycotts during the Cold War limited participation in the 1980 and 1984 Games.
The Olympic Movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and organizing committees for each specific Olympic Games. As the decision-making body, the IOC is responsible for choosing the host city for each Olympic Games. The host city is responsible for organizing and funding a celebration of the Games consistent with the Olympic Charter. The Olympic program, consisting of the sports to be contested at the Games, is also determined by the IOC. The celebration of the Games encompasses many rituals and symbols, such as the Olympic flag and torch, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Over 13,000 athletes compete at the Summer and Winter Olympics in 33 different sports and nearly 400 events. The first, second, and third place finishers in each event receive Olympic medals: gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.
The Games have grown in scale to the point that nearly every nation is represented. Such growth has created numerous challenges, including boycotts, doping, bribery, and terrorism. Every two years, the Olympics and its media exposure provide unknown athletes with the chance to attain national, and in some cases, international fame. The Games also constitute a major opportunity for the host city and country to showcase themselves to the world.
The Ancient Olympic Games were a series of competitions held between representatives of several city-states and kingdoms in Ancient Greece. These games featured mainly athletic but also combat and chariot racing events. During the games, all conflicts among the participating city-states were postponed until the games were finished. The origin of these Olympics is shrouded in mystery and legend, and one of the most popular myths identifies Heracles and his father Zeus as the progenitors of the Games. According to legend, it was Heracles who first called the Games "Olympic" and established the custom of holding them every four years. A legend persists that after Heracles completed his twelve labors, he built the Olympic stadium as an honor to Zeus. Following its completion, he walked in a straight line for 200 steps and called this distance a "stadion" (Greek: στάδιον, Latin: stadium, "stage"), which later became a unit of distance. Another myth associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of Olympic truce (ἐκεχειρία, ekecheiria). The most widely accepted date for the inception of the Ancient Olympics is 776 BC; this is based on inscriptions, found at Olympia, listing the winners of a footrace held every four years starting in 776 BC. The Ancient Games featured running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race, and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, pankration, and equestrian events. Tradition has it that Coroebus, a cook from the city of Elis, was the first Olympic champion.
The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honoring both Zeus (whose famous statue by Phidias stood in his temple at Olympia) and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia. Pelops was famous for his chariot race with King Oenomaus of Pisatis. The winners of the events were admired and immortalized in poems and statues. The Games were held every four years, and this period, known as an Olympiad, was used by Greeks as one of their units of time measurement. The Games were part of a cycle known as the Panhellenic Games, which included the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games, and the Isthmian Games.
The Olympic Games reached their zenith in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece. While there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Games officially ended, the most commonly held date is 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I decreed that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated. Another date commonly cited is 426 AD, when his successor, Theodosius II, ordered the destruction of all Greek temples. After the demise of the Olympics, they were not held again until the late 19th century.
The first significant attempt to emulate the ancient Olympic Games was the L'Olympiade de la République, a national Olympic festival held annually from 1796 to 1798 in Revolutionary France.The competition included several disciplines from the ancient Greek Olympics. The 1796 Games also marked the introduction of the metric system into sport.
In 1850 an Olympian Class was started by Dr William Penny Brookes at Much Wenlock, in Shropshire, England. In 1859, Dr Brookes changed the name to Wenlock Olympian Games. This annual sports festival continues to this day. The Wenlock Olympian Society was founded by Dr. Brookes on 15 November 1860.
Between 1862 and 1867, Liverpool held an annual Grand Olympic Festival. Devised by John Hulley and Charles Melly, these games were the first to be wholly amateur in nature and international in outlook, although only 'gentlemen amateurs' could compete.] The programme of the first modern Olympiad in Athens in 1896 was almost identical to that of the Liverpool Olympics. In 1865 Hulley, Dr. Brookes and E.G. Ravenstein founded the National Olympian Association in Liverpool, a forerunner of the British Olympic Association. Its articles of foundation provided the framework for the International Olympic Charter. In 1866, a national Olympic Games in Great Britain was organized at London's Crystal Palace.
A postage stamp from the first Greek Olympic stamp set.
Greek interest in reviving the Olympic Games began with the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. It was first proposed by poet and newspaper editor Panagiotis Soutsos in his poem "Dialogue of the Dead", published in 1833. Evangelis Zappas, a wealthy Greek-Romanian philanthropist, first wrote to King Otto of Greece, in 1856, offering to fund a permanent revival of the Olympic Games. Zappas sponsored the first Olympic Games in 1859, which was held in an Athens city square. Athletes participated from Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Zappas funded the restoration of the ancient Panathenaic stadium so that it could host all future Olympic GamesThe Panathinaiko Stadium hosted Olympics in 1870 and 1875.:2, 13–23, 81 Thirty thousand spectators attended that Games in 1870, though no official attendance records are available for the 1875 Games.:44 In 1890, after attending the Olympian Games of the Wenlock Olympian Society, Baron Pierre de Coubertin was inspired to found the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Coubertin built on the ideas and work of Brookes and Zappas with the aim of establishing internationally rotating Olympic Games that would occur every four years. He presented these ideas during the first Olympic Congress of the newly created International Olympic Committee. This meeting was held from 16 to 23 June 1894, at the Sorbonne University in Paris. On the last day of the Congress, it was decided that the first Olympic Games, to come under the auspices of the IOC, would take place in Athens in 1896. The IOC elected the Greek writer Demetrius Vikelas as its first president.:100–105
1896 Summer Olympics
The opening ceremony in the Panathinaiko Stadium.
The first Games held under the auspices of the IOC was hosted in the Panathenaic stadium in Athens in 1896. These Games brought together 14 nations and 241 athletes who competed in 43 events. Zappas and his cousin Konstantinos Zappas had left the Greek government a trust to fund future Olympic Games. This trust was used to help finance the 1896 Games.:117 George Averoff contributed generously for the refurbishment of the stadium in preparation for the Games.:128 The Greek government also provided funding, which was expected to be recouped through the sale of tickets to the Games and from the sale of the first Olympic commemorative stamp set.:128
The Greek officials and public were enthusiastic about the experience of hosting these Games. This feeling was shared by many of the athletes, who even demanded that Athens be the host of the Olympic Games on a permanent basis. The IOC did not approve this request. The committee planned that the modern Olympics would rotate internationally. They consequently decided to hold the second Games in Paris.
Changes and adaptations
Summer Olympic Games
After the success of the 1896 Games, the Olympics entered a period of stagnation that threatened their survival. The Olympic Games held at the Paris Exposition in 1900 and the World's Fair at St. Louis in 1904 were side-shows. The Games at Paris did not have a stadium; however, this was the first time women took part in the games. The St. Louis Games hosted 650 athletes, but 580 were from the United States. The homogeneous nature of these celebrations was a low point for the Olympic Movement. The Games rebounded when the 1906 Intercalated Games (so-called because they were the second Games held within the third Olympiad) were held in Athens. These Games are not officially recognized by the IOC and no Intercalated Games have been held since. These Games, which were hosted at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, attracted a broad international field of participants and generated great public interest. This marked the beginning of a rise in both the popularity and the size of the Olympics.
Winter Olympic Games
An ice hockey game during the 1928 Winter Olympics at St. Moritz.
The Winter Olympics were created to feature snow and ice sports that were logistically impossible to hold during the Summer Games. Figure skating (in 1908 and 1920) and ice hockey (in 1920) were featured as Olympic events at the Summer Olympics. The IOC desired to expand this list of sports to encompass other winter activities. At the 1921 Olympic Congress, in Lausanne, it was decided to hold a winter version of the Olympic Games. A winter sports week (it was actually 11 days) was held in 1924 in Chamonix, France; this event became the first Winter Olympic Games. The IOC mandated that the Winter Games be celebrated every four years on the same year as their summer counterpart. This tradition was upheld until the 1992 Games in Albertville, France; after that, beginning with the 1994 Games, the Winter Olympics were held on the third year of each Olympiad.
In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, determined to promote the rehabilitation of soldiers after World War II, organized a multi-sport event between several hospitals to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics. Guttmann's event, known then as the Stoke Mandeville Games, became an annual sports festival. Over the next twelve years, Guttmann and others continued their efforts to use sports as an avenue to healing. For the 1960 Olympic Games, in Rome, Guttmann brought 400 athletes to compete in the "Parallel Olympics", which became known as the first Paralympics. Since then, the Paralympics have been held in every Olympic year. Since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the host city for the Olympics has also played host to the Paralympics. In 2001 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) signed an agreement guaranteeing that host cities would be contracted to manage both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The agreement came into effect at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Chairman of the London organising committee, Lord Coe, said about the 2012 Summer Paralympics and Olympics in London, England that,
“ We want to change public attitudes towards disability, celebrate the excellence of Paralympic sport and to enshrine from the very outset that the two Games are an integrated whole. ”
Youth Olympic Games
In 2010, the Olympic Games were complemented by the Youth Games, which gives athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 the chance to compete. The Youth Olympic Games were conceived by IOC president Jacques Rogge in 2001 and approved during the 119th Congress of the IOC. The first Summer Youth Games were held in Singapore from 14–26 August 2010, while the inaugural Winter Games will be hosted in Innsbruck, Austria, two years later. These Games will be shorter than the senior Games; the summer version will last twelve days, while the winter version will last nine days. The IOC allows 3,500 athletes and 875 officials to participate at the Summer Youth Games, and 970 athletes and 580 officials at the Winter Youth Games. The sports to be contested will coincide with those scheduled for the senior Games, however there will be variations on the sports including mixed NOC and mixed gender teams as well as a reduced number of disciplines and events.
From 241 participants representing 14 nations in 1896, the Games have grown to about 10,500 competitors from 204 countries at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The scope and scale of the Winter Olympics is smaller. For example, Turin hosted 2,508 athletes from 80 countries competing in 84 events during the 2006 Winter Olympics. During the Games most athletes and officials are housed in the Olympic Village. This village is intended to be a self-contained home for all the Olympic participants, and is furnished with cafeterias, health clinics, and locations for religious expression.
The IOC allowed the formation of National Olympic Committees representing countries that did not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that other international organizations demand. As a result, colonies and dependencies are permitted to compete at Olympic Games. Examples of this include territories such as Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Hong Kong, all of which compete as separate nations despite being legally a part of another country. The current version of the Charter allows for the establishment of new National Olympic Committees to represent nation which qualify as "an independent State recognised by the international community". Therefore, it did not allow the formation of National Olympic Committees for Sint Maarten and Curaçao when they gained the same constitutional status as Aruba in 2010, although the IOC had recognized the Aruban Olympic Committee in 1986.
International Olympic Committee
The I.O.C. headquarters at Lausanne.
The Olympic Movement encompasses a large number of national and international sporting organizations and federations, recognized media partners, as well as athletes, officials, judges, and every other person and institution that agrees to abide by the rules of the Olympic Charter. As the umbrella organization of the Olympic Movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is responsible for selecting the host city, overseeing the planning of the Olympic Games, updating and approving the sports program, and negotiating sponsorship and broadcasting rights. The Olympic Movement is made of three major elements:
• International Federations (IFs) are the governing bodies that supervise a sport at an international level. For example, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is the IF for football (soccer), and the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) is the international governing body for volleyball. There are currently 35 IFs in the Olympic Movement, representing each of the Olympic sports.
• National Olympic Committees (NOCs) represent and regulate the Olympic Movement within each country. For example, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is the NOC of the United States. There are currently 205 NOCs recognized by the IOC.
• Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) constitute the temporary committees responsible for the organization of a specific celebration of the Olympics. OCOGs are dissolved after each Games, once the final report is delivered to the IOC.
French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Movement. The other language used at each Olympic Games is the language of the host country (or languages, if a country has more than one official language apart from French or English). Every proclamation (such as the announcement of each country during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony) is spoken in these three (or more) languages, or the main two depending on whether the host country is an English or French speaking country.
The IOC has often been criticized for being an intractable organization, with several members on the committee for life. The leadership of IOC presidents Avery Brundage and Juan Antonio Samaranch was especially controversial. Brundage was president for over 20 years, and during his tenure he protected the Olympics from political involvement. He was accused of both racism, for his handling of the apartheid issue with the South African delegation, and antisemitism. Under the Samaranch presidency, the office was accused of both nepotism and corruption. Samaranch's ties with the Franco regime in Spain were also a source of criticism.
In 1998, it was uncovered that several IOC members had taken bribes from members of the Salt Lake City bid committee for the hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics, to ensure their votes were cast in favor of the American bid. The IOC pursued an investigation which led to the resignation of four members and expulsion of six others. The scandal set off further reforms that would change the way host cities are selected, to avoid similar cases in the future.
A BBC documentary entitled Panorama: Buying the Games, aired in August 2004, investigated the taking of bribes in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The documentary claimed it was possible to bribe IOC members into voting for a particular candidate city. After being narrowly defeated in their bid for the 2012 Summer Games, Parisian Mayor Bertrand Delanoë specifically accused the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the London Bid Committee (headed by former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe) of breaking the bid rules. He cited French President Jacques Chirac as a witness; Chirac gave guarded interviews regarding his involvement. The allegation was never fully explored. The Turin bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics was also shrouded in controversy. A prominent IOC member, Marc Hodler, strongly connected with the rival bid of Sion, Switzerland, alleged bribery of IOC officials by members of the Turin Organizing Committee. These accusations led to a wide-ranging investigation. The allegations also served to sour many IOC members against Sion's bid and potentially helped Turin to capture the host city nomination.
Cost of the Olympic Games
The IOC originally resisted funding by corporate sponsors. It was not until the retirement of IOC president Avery Brundage, in 1972, that the IOC began to explore the potential of the television medium and the lucrative advertising markets available to them. Under the leadership of Juan Antonio Samaranch the Games began to shift toward international sponsors who sought to link their products to the Olympic brand.
During the first half of the 20th century the IOC ran on a small budget. As president of the IOC from 1952 to 1972, Avery Brundage rejected all attempts to link the Olympics with commercial interest. Brundage believed the lobby of corporate interests would unduly impact the IOC's decision-making. Brundage's resistance to this revenue stream meant the IOC left organizing committees to negotiate their own sponsorship contracts and use the Olympic symbols. When Brundage retired the IOC had US$2 million in assets; eight years later the IOC coffers had swelled to US$45 million. This was primarily due to a shift in ideology toward expansion of the Games through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights. When Juan Antonio Samaranch was elected IOC president in 1980 his desire was to make the IOC financially independent.
The 1984 Summer Olympics became a watershed moment in Olympic history. The Los Angeles-based organizing committee, led by Peter Ueberroth, was able to generate a surplus of US$225 million, which was an unprecedented amount at that time. The organizing committee had been able to create such a surplus in part by selling exclusive sponsorship rights to select companies. The IOC sought to gain control of these sponsorship rights. Samaranch helped to establish The Olympic Program (TOP) in 1985, in order to create an Olympic brand. Membership in TOP was, and is, very exclusive and expensive. Fees cost US$50 million for a four year membership. Members of TOP received exclusive global advertising rights for their product category, and use of the Olympic symbol, the interlocking rings, in their publications and advertisements.
Effect of television
A cartoon from the 1936 Berlin Olympics imagines the year 2000 when spectators will have been replaced by television and radio.
The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin were the first Games to be broadcast on television, though only to local audiences. The 1956 Winter Olympics were the first internationally televised Olympic Games, and the following Winter Games had their broadcasting rights sold for the first time to specialized television broadcasting networks—CBS paid US$394,000 for the American rights, and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) allocated US$660,000. In the following decades the Olympics became one of the ideological fronts of the Cold War. Superpowers jockeyed for political supremacy, and the IOC wanted to take advantage of this heightened interest via the broadcast medium. The sale of broadcast rights enabled the IOC to increase the exposure of the Olympic Games, thereby generating more interest, which in turn created more appeal to advertisers time on television. This cycle allowed the IOC to charge ever-increasing fees for those rights. For example, CBS paid US$375 million for the rights of the 1998 Nagano Games, while NBC spent US$3.5 billion for the broadcast rights of all the Olympic Games from 2000 to 2012.
Viewership increased exponentially from the 1960s until the end of the century. This was due to the use of satellites to broadcast live television worldwide in 1964, and the introduction of color television in 1968. Global audience estimates for the 1968 Mexico City Games was 600 million, whereas at the Los Angeles Games of 1984, the audience numbers had increased to 900 million; that number swelled to 3.5 billion by the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. However, at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, NBC drew the lowest ratings for any Summer or Winter Olympics since 1968. This was attributed to two factors: one was the increased competition from cable channels, the second was the internet, which was able to display results and video in real time. Television companies were still relying on tape-delayed content, which was becoming outdated in the information era. A drop in ratings meant that television studios had to give away free advertising time. With such high costs charged to broadcast the Games, the added pressure of the internet, and increased competition from cable, the television lobby demanded concessions from the IOC to boost ratings. The IOC responded by making a number of changes to the Olympic program. At the Summer Games, the gymnastics competition was expanded from seven to nine nights, and a Champions Gala was added to draw greater interest. The IOC also expanded the swimming and diving programs, both popular sports with a broad base of television viewers. Finally, the American television lobby was able to dictate when certain events were held so that they could be broadcast live during prime time in the United States. The result of these efforts was mixed: the ratings for the 2006 Winter Games, held in Torino, Italy, were significantly lower than those for the 2002 Games, while there was a sharp increase in viewership for the 2008 Summer Olympics, staged in Beijing.
The sale of the Olympic brand has been controversial. The argument is that the Games have become indistinguishable from any other commercialized sporting spectacle. Specific criticism was levelled at the IOC for market saturation during the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Games. The cities were awash in corporations and merchants attempting to sell Olympic-related wares. The IOC indicated that they would address this to prevent spectacles of over-marketing at future Games. Another criticism is that the Games are funded by host cities and national governments; the IOC incurs none of the cost, yet controls all the rights and profits from the Olympic symbols. The IOC also takes a percentage of all sponsorship and broadcast income. Host cities continue to compete ardently for the right to host the Games, even though there is no certainty that they will earn back their investments.
The cost of the Olympic Games (Summer and Winter) have been studied by Oxford scholars Bent Flyvbjerg and Allison Stewart. They found that over the past 50 years the most costly Games have been London 2012 (USD14.8 billion), Barcelona 1992 (USD11.4 billion), and Montreal 1976 (USD6 billion). Beijing 2008 may have been more costly or not; the Chinese authorities have not released the data that would allow verification of either position. Cost here includes only sports-related costs and thus does not include other public costs, such as road, rail, or airport infrastructure, or private costs, such as hotel upgrades or other business investments incurred in preparation of the Games, which are typically substantial but which vary drastically from city to city and are difficult to compare consistently. 
Flyvbjerg and Stewart further found that cost overrun is a persistent problem for the Olympic Games:
• The Games overrun with 100% consistency. No other type of megaproject is this predictable regarding cost overrun. Other megaprojects – in construction, infrastructure, dams, ICT – are typically on budget from time to time, but not the Olympics.
• With an average cost overrun in real terms of 179% – and 324% in nominal terms – overruns in the Games have historically been significantly larger than for other types of megaprojects.
• The largest cost overruns have been incurred by Montreal 1976 (796%), Barcelona 1992 (417%), and Lake Placid 1980 (321%), all in real terms.
• The data show that for a city and nation to decide to host the Olympic Games is to take on one of the most financially risky type of megaproject that exists, something that many cities and nations have learned to their peril. For example, cost overrun and debt from Athens 2004 substantially worsened Greece's financial and economic crises 2008–12. Montreal took 30 years to pay off the debt from the 1976 Games.
Finally, Flyvbjerg and Stewart found that over the past decade, cost overrun for the Games has come down to more common levels for megaprojects. For the period 2000–2010 average cost overrun was 47%, whereas before that average overrun was 258%. However, London 2012 has reversed this trend with a cost overrun that, at 101% in real terms, is back in the three-digit territory. Going forward, the challenge for planners and managers of the Games will be to get cost overrun and costs back under control, and to reduce them further, conclude Flyvbjerg and Stewart.
The Olympic flag.
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 (America, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe). The colored version of the rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—over a white field forms the Olympic flag. These colors 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 is Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning "Faster, Higher, Stronger". Coubertin's ideals are further 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 in Olympia in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals. A female performer, acting as a priestess, 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 introduced at the 1936 Summer Games, as part of the German government's attempt to promote its National Socialist ideology.
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 on the Games identity promotion since the 1980 Summer Olympics, when the Russian bear cub Misha reached international stardom. The mascots of the most recent Summer Olympics, in Beijing, were the Fuwa, five creatures that represent the five fengshui elements important in Chinese culture.
Olympic Games ceremony
A scene from the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
As mandated by the Olympic Charter, various elements frame the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Most of these rituals were established at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. The ceremony typically starts with the hoisting of the host country's flag and a performance of its national anthem. The host nation then presents artistic displays of music, singing, dance, and theater representative of its culture. The artistic presentations have grown in scale and complexity as successive hosts attempt to provide a ceremony that outlasts its predecessor's in terms of memorability. The opening ceremony of the Beijing Games reportedly cost $100 million, with much of the cost incurred in the artistic segment.
After the artistic portion of the ceremony, the athletes parade into the stadium grouped by nation. Greece is traditionally the first nation to enter in order to honor the origins of the Olympics. Nations then enter the stadium alphabetically according to the host country's chosen language, with the host country's athletes being the last to enter. During the 2004 Summer Olympics, which was hosted in Athens, Greece, the Greek flag entered the stadium first, while the Greek delegation entered last. Speeches are given, formally opening the Games. Finally, the Olympic torch is brought into the stadium and passed on until it reaches the final torch carrier—often a well-known and successful Olympic athlete from the host nation—who lights the Olympic flame in the stadium's cauldron.
Athletes gather in the stadium during the closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The closing ceremony of the Olympic Games takes place after all sporting events have concluded. Flag-bearers from each participating country enter the stadium, followed by the athletes who enter together, without any national distinction. Three national flags are hoisted while the corresponding national anthems are played: the flag of Greece, to honor the birthplace of the Olympic Games; the flag of the current host country, and the flag of the country hosting the next Summer or Winter Olympic Games. The president of the organizing committee and the IOC president make their closing speeches, the Games are officially closed, and the Olympic flame is extinguished. In what is known as the Antwerp Ceremony, the mayor of the city that organized the Games transfers a special Olympic flag to the president of the IOC, who then passes it on to the mayor of the city hosting the next Olympic Games. After these compulsory elements, the next host nation briefly introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theater representative of its culture.
A medal ceremony during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
A medal ceremony is held after each Olympic event is concluded. The winner, second and third-place competitors or teams stand on top of a three-tiered rostrum to be awarded their respective medals. After the medals are given out by an IOC member, the national flags of the three medalists are raised while the national anthem of the gold medalist's country plays. Volunteering citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies, as they aid the officials who present the medals and act as flag-bearers. For every Olympic event, the respective medal ceremony is held, at most, one day after the event's final. For the men's marathon, the competition is usually held early in the morning on the last day of Olympic competition and its medal ceremony is then held in the evening during the closing ceremony.
The Olympic Games program consists of 35 sports, 30 disciplines and nearly 400 events. For example, wrestling is a Summer Olympic sport, comprising two disciplines: Greco-Roman and Freestyle. It is further broken down into fourteen events for men and four events for women, each representing a different weight class. The Summer Olympics program includes 26 sports, while the Winter Olympics program features 15 sports. Athletics, swimming, fencing, and artistic gymnastics are the only summer sports that have never been absent from the Olympic program. Cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been featured at every Winter Olympics program since its inception in 1924. Current Olympic sports, like badminton, basketball, and volleyball, first appeared on the program as demonstration sports, and were later promoted to full Olympic sports. Some sports that were featured in earlier Games were later dropped from the program.
Olympic sports are governed by international sports federations (IFs) recognized by the IOC as the global supervisors of those sports. There are 35 federations represented at the IOC. There are sports recognized by the IOC that are not included on the Olympic program. These sports are not considered Olympic sports, but they can be promoted to this status during a program revision that occurs in the first IOC session following a celebration of the Olympic Games. During such revisions, sports can be excluded or included in the program on the basis of a two-thirds majority vote of the members of the IOC. There are recognized sports that have never been on an Olympic program in any capacity, including chess and surfing.
In October and
November 2004, the IOC established an Olympic Programme
- Scary Maze Games
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- Total Games: 1018
- Total Members: 3885
- Total Categories: 14
- Game Plays:61352