The 2012 Summer Olympics are being held in London from July 27 to August 12. More than 200 countries will send approximately 14,000 athletes to compete in a variety of competitions.
The modern Olympic Games are based off of the Greek tradition of games held in the city-states. In 1892, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat, introduced the idea of reviving the Olympic Games in modern times and the first games were held in Athens in 1896.
Below are some fun facts about the games, athletes, and Olympic tradition:
- Olympic Winter Games have been held separately from the Games of the Olympiad (Summer Games) since 1924 and were initially held in the same year. In 1986 the International Olympic Committee voted to alternate the Winter and Summer Games every two years, beginning in 1994. The Winter Games were held in 1992 and again in 1994 and thereafter every four years; the Summer Games maintained their original four-year cycle.
- The 1960 Summer Games in Rome were the first Olympics to be covered by U.S. television. They were covered by CBS.
- Every national flag in the world includes one of the five colors of the Olympic rings, which are blue, yellow, black, green, and red.
- Marjorie Gestring of the United States won the Springboard Diving event in 1936 when she was 13 and is the youngest female gold medalist.
- To date, Norway has won the maximum medals, numbering 263, at the Olympic Winter Games (263).
- The first opening ceremony of Olympic Games was held in London, England, when the country hosted the sporting event in the year 1908.
- The first Olympic Summer Games were held in Athens, in 1896. In those games, Greece won the most medals (47).
- Only four athletes have ever won medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games: Eddie Eagan (United States), Jacob Tullin Thams (Norway), Christa Luding-Rothenburger (East Germany), and Clara Hughes (Canada).
- There are a variety of competitions within each sport, but the main summer sports categories are Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Canoe Slalom, Canoe Sprint, Cycling – BMX, Cycling – Mountain Bike, Cycling – Road, Cycling – Track, Diving, Equestrian, Fencing, Football, Gymnastics – Artistic, Gymnastics – Rhythmic, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Modern Pentathlon, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Trampoline, Triathlon, Volleyball, Water Polo, Weightlifting, Wrestling.
- The five Olympic rings represent the five major regions of the world – Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceana.
- This year, equestrian rider Hiroshi Hoketsu will represent Japan. He is 71 years old and one of the oldest Olympian competitors.
- The oldest gold medalist was Oscar Swahn who won the gold medal for shooting at the 1912 Olympics when he was 64 years old. He went on to compete in 1920 and holds the title of the oldest male competitor at the age of 72.
- The oldest woman to compete in the Olympics was British rider Lorna Johnstone, who participated in Equestrian at the 1972 Olympic Games at 70 years old.
- In 1908, British archery winner Sybil “Queenie” Newall became the oldest woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal, she was 53 years old.
- The youngest male gold medalist in an individual event was Kusuo Kitamura of Japan who won the 1500-m Freestyle swimming event in 1952 at age 14.
- The second modern Olympic competition (Paris, France, 1900) was poorly organized and marketed. Events were conducted over a period of five months in venues that were often inadequate. The track-and-field events were held on a grass field that was uneven and often wet. Broken telephone poles were used to make hurdles, and hammer throwers occasionally found their efforts stuck in a tree. The swimming events were contested in the Seine River, whose strong current carried athletes to unrealistically fast times. There was such confusion about schedules that few spectators or journalists were present at the events. Officials and athletes often were unaware that they were participating in the Olympics.
These and other facts about the Olympics can be found at the links below: