What Do the Five Olympic Signs on the Flag Symbolize?


It is widely believed that the five-ring Olympic symbol was created by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin in 1914. As the founder of the modern Olympic games, he wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the games and chose a design of five rings representing the five continents participating in the games. The rings became the official Olympic symbol at the 1920 games in Belgium, where they were emblazoned on a flag.

Original Meaning

  • Pierre de Coubertin intended the Olympic banner to act as an "international emblem." He felt the five interlocking rings signified a union of the five participating continents and the meeting of their athletes at the Olympic games. The traditional flag consists of a white background composed of five rings colored blue, yellow, black, green and red. The colors were chosen because the flags of each participating country included at least one of the colors.


  • Every aspect of the modern Olympic symbol and flag are representative of the main purpose of the games, in a particular way. The white background represents the ideals of peace and truth. While Pierre de Coubertin never intended the colors of the rings to represent specific continents, up until 1951 each continent adopted a color of its own. Blue represented Europe, black represented Africa, red represented America, yellow represented Asia and green represented Oceania (Australia and New Zealand).


  • The Olympic flag, with its familiar rings, is used as an international symbol of peace, unity and solidarity. While some symbols such as the Olympic flame and theme are used only during the Olympics, the flag is often flown throughout the year. The flag has been used to allow participants from unrepresented countries to take part in the Olympics as independent athletes.


  • At the end of each Olympic games, the mayor of the current host city passes the Olympic flag to the mayor of the next host city, where it remains for four years, until the next Olympics. During this ceremony, the flag of ancient Greece is raised to symbolize the history of the Olympics games. Beginning in Belgium in 1920, the original flag was passed along from Olympic city to Olympic city for 68 years, until 1988. It now rests in the Olympic museum in Switzerland.

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