Originated by the ancient Greeks, the Olympic Games are a unifying force. The event brings together athletes from around the world in the same city and is watched by millions of viewers around the world. The games were revived by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, and the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, with the Winter Games being introduced in 1924. Every four years, athletes participate in the Olympics.
The Olympic Games date back to 776 B.C. The ancient games were held in the sanctuary of Olympia in Greece as a way to honor the Greek gods. The ancient Olympics were discontinued in 393 AD. The first Olympics were just a footrace. Eventually other sports were added, including the long jump, javelin, boxing and equestrian events. At the ancient Olympics, only males were allowed to participate. If a woman was married, she was forbidden from viewing the ancient Olympics. Winners of events were not given medals but rather were awarded an olive leaf wreath, which symbolized hope and peace.
One of the most well-known symbols of the Olympics is the five rings. Designed by de Coubertin, the interlocking rings are represented by the colors blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The rings signify the major continents that participate in the Olympics. North and South America are combined as one ring, and the continent of Antarctica is not represented. The interlocking rings are a sign of admiration that nations from around the world can unite without prejudice. The rings appear on the Olympic flag, which has a white background. The six colors on the Olympic flag correspond with all the colors that appear on national flags spanning the globe. The rings first appeared at the 1920 Olympics.
De Coubertin suggested the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” This trio of Latin words translates to “faster, higher, and stronger.” The motto is intended athletes to inspire to do their best. Coubertin gained the inspiration for the motto from a friend who served as a Dominican priest and teacher. The Olympic motto first appeared in 1894.
One of the most decorated Olympians of all time is American swimmer Michael Phelps. Phelps began taking part in the Summer Games when he was just 15 years old. He turned in a performance for the ages at the 2008 Olympics, winning eight medals, six of which were gold. He holds the record as the first athlete to earn eight medals at a nonboycotted Olympics. As of 2010, Phelps has won 16 medals, 14 of which are gold.
Olympic mascots help express the spirit of the world event. Mascots often display unique characteristics and traits of the city that hosts the Olympics. The first Olympic mascot, a dachshund named Waldi, appeared at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany. This type of dog is a popular pet in Germany and also contains the traits of tenacity and agility. When Los Angeles hosted the Summer Games in 1984, Sam the Eagle served as the Olympic mascot. Created by the Walt Disney Co., Sam sported the American colors of red, white and blue. The eagle carried the Olympic torch in one hand, and his top hat was adorned with the Olympic rings.