How Have the Olympics Changed?

Posted: 22 June 2016

How Have the Olympics Changed?

With just one month to go until the 2016 Summer Olympic Games kick off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, excitement is really starting to build. 120 years after the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, we wondered how much the games have changed since then…

1. Number of countries participating

In the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, just 14 countries were represented. At the 2012 London Olympics, 204 countries were represented and this year, with Kosovo and South Sudan entering for the first time, a total of 206 countries will take part.

However, the idea of national representation is a relatively early one. In Ancient Greece, only male Greek citizens could take part. At the first modern Games in 1896 competitors of several nationalities were able to take part, but the idea of national team representation was only introduced at the Intercalated Games (a secondary competition held in Athens) a decade later.

2. The Olympic Torch

The Olympic flame represents the theft of fire from Zeus by Prometheus. The modern flame is now lit by the sun’s rays (using a parabolic mirror) at the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece. But while the Olympic flame was a prominent symbol for the ancient Olympics, it wasn’t introduced to the modern games until 1928. And the torch relay, now an important event in the build-up to the games, was an even later addition, introduced at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

3. Olympic Oath

The Olympic Oath is integral to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. One athlete and one official make the oaths as representatives of their fellow competitors and officials, while holding a corner of the Olympic flag.

The athletes’ oath is as follows: In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.

And the officials’ oath is as follows: In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

The father of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, suggested the introduction of an oath in 1906, to promote the ideas of fairness and impartiality. However, one was only introduced in 1920 and this was just for the athletes. The officials’ version was not introduced until 1972.

4. Number of events

In 1896 there were just 43 events encompassing 9 sports. At London 2012 there were 302 events and in Rio this summer, 306 events will be contested, representing 28 sports (and 41 disciplines) – the newest additions being rugby sevens and golf. Football and field hockey will again feature. And, like London 2012, over 10,000 athletes are expected to compete in Rio this summer, compared to just 241 in Athens in 1896.

5. Female athletes

The ancient Olympics were open only to male athletes and women were also not allowed to participate in the first modern Olympic Games. Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games thought it would be inappropriate to invite female athletes to take part. You might be surprised to learn that it actually wasn't until London 2012 that women competed in all sports included in the Olympic programme. It was also the very first Games in which every single country fielded female athletes.

Which events are you most looking forward to watching? Join us on Twitter throughout the Games to discuss all the latest news!

Want to capitalise on your students’ enthusiasm for sport this summer? Why not plan a school sports tour? Our friendly team of specialists are on-hand to help you throughout the process, so contact us today to get the ball rolling!

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