10 Interesting Facts About the Olympics (5 minute read)

(Last Updated On: November 1, 2022)

29 July 2021. The Tokyo Olympics are in full swing, albeit a year late and without crowds in the stadia. With everything that has happened in the world since March 2020, it has been incredibly uplifting to watch the world’s greatest sporting spectacle finally get underway in Japan. Whether you love the diving, cycling, tennis, gymnastics or track events, the Games have brought smiles to faces around the world at a difficult time. And after all, that is what sport is all about. In a normal year, the Olympics also mean big things for travel, as fans flock to the host country to fill the stadiums and other venues where Olympic events take place. Tokyo is different this year, with empty stadiums a reminder of the pandemic. To honour this quadrennial event, we thought we’d share with you 10 interesting facts about the Olympics.


10 facts about the Olympics

1. Kicking off our facts about the Olympics is the meaning behind the iconic Olympic rings. Have you ever wondered what they symbolize? The five rings represent the five continents which are inhabited by humans: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania (North and South America are combined for this purpose). And the colours of blue, green, yellow, black and red were chosen specifically because at least one of them appears on every single national flag in the world.

2. The Olympics have been around for a long time. Coined by the ancient Greeks, it is thought that the first Olympics took place in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC. The games were performed in honour of Zeus and the ruins of Olympia can still be visited to this day. Running, combat, discus and long jump were some of the events held, and strangely, all events were performed in the nude! The modern Olympic Games was founded in 1894 and the first Games was held in Athens in 1896.

The ancient Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece - facts about the Olympics
The original ancient Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece – you can still visit the ruins of the site today

Links with the past

3. The modern Games maintain a link with the ancient Olympics. The Olympic Flame is always lit in Olympia and then travels to the host city. It is carried by foot, boat, aeroplane, and many other modes of transport. In 1992, it even travelled to France by Concorde! The flame isn’t extinguished until the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics.

4. Since 1896, the Games have been held every four years. The exceptions to this are the Games of 1916, 1940 and 1944, which were cancelled because of war. And as we know, the 2020 Games were postponed until 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. London is the only city to have hosted the Olympics three times. The English capital held the Games in 1908, 1948 and 2012.


The everchanging games

6. Some Olympic events, such as running and swimming, have been mainstays on the schedule. But some events have come and gone. For example, the Paris Olympics of 1900 were the only Games where hot air ballooning was an Olympic event. Pistol duelling was scrapped after the 1908 Olympics in London and tug of war was discontinued after 1920. Clay pigeon shooting has always been an Olympic event. But in one of our more disturbing facts about the Olympics, we can reveal that in 1900 the sport actually featured live pigeons. This was changed for obvious reasons…

7. Many host cities spend millions of dollars getting ready for the games, by building grand stadiums and other infrastructure. What happens to this when the Olympics have moved on? Well, some are simply abandoned. Olympic infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro and Beijing has fallen into disrepair. Other host cities are more innovative. London’s Olympic Stadium is now the home football stadium for West Ham United. Atlanta’s Olympic Park was repurposed into a public park and Sydney transformed its Olympic infrastructure into a business park, which now hosts all manner of trade shows and conferences.

The Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016
Rio de Janeiro hosted the 2016 Olympics, but much of the infrastructure has since fallen into disrepair

The best of the best

8. Winning one Olympic medal is an incredible achievement. But some athletes go above and beyond. The most successful Olympian ever is American swimmer Michael Phelps, who won an incredible 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze) between 2004 – 2016. The most successful female Olympian is Larisa Latynina, a Russian gymnast who won 18 medals (9 gold, 5 silver, 4 bronze) between 1956 – 1964.

9. With so many Olympic Games having taken place, and so many medals up for grabs, every country has won at least one medal, right? Nope! There are more than 70 countries which are yet to taste success at the Olympics. Some of the higher profile nations include Bangladesh, Nicaragua, and Nepal.

10. At the other end of the spectrum, the United States has won more than 2,500 medals… and counting! Russia and Germany have also tasted a lot of success, whilst China has seen a surge in medals in recent Games.

We hope you enjoyed reading our facts about the Olympics. Whilst we can’t offer you a gold medal, we can show you around some of the world’s most inspiring destinations. Check out some of our most popular group tours from around the world and get in touch with our team for more information.

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