What do you know about the modern Olympic Games? We've compiled a short history and pulled out a few fun facts that you can share with the kids. We've done the same for the Ancient Olympic Games if you want to start there!
The Modern Olympic Games
The modern Olympic games date from the end of the 19th Century - so they aren't that modern!
Who revived the idea of the Olympic Games?
A French nobleman, Pierre Fredy, the Baron de Coubertin, born in 1863, revived the Olympic Games.
When he was young, Coubertin was a very keen sportsman. As he grew older he developed a passionate belief that sport could encourage peace throughout the world and bring people from all over the world together.
Coubertin was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games and travelled around the world, spending his own money, trying to persuade people to revive them. Eventually he managed to bring together representatives of many different countries in Paris, in 1894, and the Olympic Movement was begun.
When and where were the first modern Olympic Games held?
The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.
Did women compete in this first modern Olympic Games?
No! Women began to compete in 1900. For many years there were problems for the women athletes about what to wear, because it was considered very rude to show any part of the body or even the shape of the body! Can you imagine trying to run and jump covered from head to foot in clothes?
Who supervises the Olympic Games?
When Baron de Coubertin founded the Olympic Movement he established the International Olympic Committee (the IOC) to supervise it, in 1894. He himself served as its president for 29 years, and there have been many presidents since then. There were originally 14 members but the Committee has now grown to over 130 members, all of whom must speak either French or English. Existing members elect new members as required. The IOC is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What is the aim of the Olympic Movement?
"The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
What is an Olympiad?
An Olympiad is the period of four years which starts with a summer Olympic Games. Each Olympiad is counted with Roman numerals, and the year of the Games cannot be changed (although Games have been skipped out, as in 1916 during the First World War), and Games have now been postponed due to extraordinary events, as in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic caused the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics for a year.
Who chooses the next host for the Olympic Games, and how?
Members of the IOC choose the next venue for the Olympic Games, which must be a city rather than a country. So, for example, hosts include London in 2012, Rio de Janerio in 2016, Tokyo in 2020 (2021) and Paris in 2024. Any city which wishes to host the Games can put their bid to the IOC. Only one city from each country can bid, and even putting forward a bid takes a huge amount of work and is very expensive. It usually takes many years to prepare, and of course only one city can be successful!
Who selects each country's team of athletes?
Each country has their own National Olympic Committee (NOC). The NOCs represent their countries at the Olympic Games and select their own national teams.
What is the Olympic torch?
Prior to each Games, the Olympic Torch or Flame is lit in Olympia, Greece and brought to the host city by runners carrying the torch in relay.
What is 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."
Who wins medals?
The athletes or teams who come first, second and third win medals: respectively gold, silver and bronze.
Are the gold medals real gold?
No! They were solid gold until 1912, but are now silver covered with a thin layer of gold.
Why do we have the Olympic rings as the emblem of the Olympic Games?
The five interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green, and red respectively) of the emblem were originally designed in 1913 by Pierre de Coubertin, to symbolise the five continents of the world taking part in the Olympic Games. The Americas are viewed as a single continent, and Antarctica is omitted.
What is the Olympic motto?
"Citius, Altius, Fortius.", which is Latin for "Swifter, Higher, Stronger"