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The Modern Olympic Games

The modern Olympic Games, as can be seen with the London Olympics held this year, have become one of the largest special sporting events on the international calendar. But what do we know about these games from a historical point of view?

With more than 200 countries now competing in the Olympics (both summer and winter games) are held biennially, with the Summer and Winter Olympic Games alternating every two years, but each event (either the summer or winter Olympics) occurs only every four years.

The Creation of the Modern Olympic Games

Stream Olympics BBC iPlayer Games were held in 1896 and were inspired by the ancient Olympic sporting events held in Olympia, Greece, from the eights century BC to the fourth century AD. The first modern games were organized by Baron Pierre de Coubertin who also founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

However leading up to the establishment of the modern Olympic Games there were a number of short lived attempts to establish the games before 1896, with the most well-known being:


  • The Cotswold Olimpick Games established in 1612 in England
  • L’Olympiade de la République established in 1796 in Revolutionary France
  • Grand Olympic Festival in 1862 in the United Kingdom


Did you know? There are actually 4 Olympics held, the summer Olympics, the winter Olympics, the Paralympics (held for athletes with physical disabilities) and the Youth Olympics (held for the world’s top teenage athletes).

The Rituals and Symbols of the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games is a celebration of sporting prowess and encompass many rituals and symbols that have become well known in everyday modern life. Take for example the ringed symbol of the Olympics which represents each one of the world’s continents in unity, or the iconic Olympic torch that is used to fan the flames of sporting passion and daring-do. Both play an important part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, which themselves have become an integral and symbolic ceremony that represents everything the Modern Olympics stands for.

Did you know? Although the International Olympic Committee is responsible for choosing the host city for the Olympics, it is entirely up to that city to both fund and organize the games. This has to be done is compliance with the Olympic Charter as set out by the IOC.

The modern Olympics have now grown to a scale that far exceeded their original founder’s expectations. They have become part of the world’s sporting ethos and represent all that is good and honorable in modern day sport.