|Olympic Games Posters|
compiled by John Jan Popovic
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first Olympic Games held in the Modern era. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, consequently Athens was perceived to be an appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games. It was unanimously chosen as the host city during a congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, in Paris, on June 23, 1894. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was also established during this congress.
No opening or closing ceremonies were held but competitions began on May 14 and ended on October 28. The Games were held as part of the 1900 World’s Fair. Over a thousand competitors took part in 19 different sports. Women took part in the games for the first time and Charlotte Cooper became the first female Olympic champion. The decision to hold competitions on a Sunday brought protests from many American athletes, who traveled as representatives of their colleges and were expected to withdraw rather than compete on the sabbath.
* Some unusual events were contested for the first and only time in the history of the Games. The equestrian high and long jumps, swimming obstacle race, two-day cricket and live pigeon shooting being foremost among them.
* First games at which gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded for first, second and third place.
* European tension caused by the Russo-Japanese War and the difficulty of getting to St. Louis kept many of the world’s top athletes away.
* In a number of sports, because there were no competitors from
other nations, the U.S. national championship was combined with the
Olympic championship (and other events such as a local YMCA swim
* The games were surrounded by controversy. On opening day, following the practice introduced at the Intercalated Games of 1906, teams paraded behind national flags.
* For the first time, competitors in the Games came from all five continents symbolized in the Olympic rings. Also for the first time since 1896, all athletic events were held within a reasonably short time span of about one month, from late June to late July (though the opening ceremony was still held much earlier). It was the last time that solid gold medals were awarded; modern medals are usually gold plated silver.
* A Greco-Roman Wrestling bout between Klein and Asikainen lasted 11
hours and forty minutes—the world’s longest wrestling match. After
Klein finally took the victory, he was too tired to compete in the
final. Thus Johansson, the other wrestler to make the final-three to
determine the medals, whose only loss in the elimination rounds had
been the double loss to Asikainen, became the gold medalist.
* The 1916 Summer Olympics, to be held in Berlin, capital of the German Empire, were canceled due to the war. The aftermath of the war and the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 affected the Olympic Games not only due to new states being created, but also by sanctions against the nations that lost the war and were blamed for starting it.
* Budapest had initially been selected to host the Games over
Amsterdam and Lyon, but as the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been a
German ally in the First World War, the Games were transferred to
Antwerp in April 1919. Hungary, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey
were also banned from competing in the Games. Germany remained banned
until 1925, and instead hosted a series of games called Deutsche
Kampfspiele, starting with the Winter edition of 1922 (which predated
the first Winter Olympics).
* The opening ceremony and several sporting events took place in the Olympic Stadium of Colombes which had a capacity of 45,000 in 1924.
* This VIII Olympiad was the last one organised under the presidency of Pierre de Coubertin.
* For the first time, the Olympic Flame was lit during the Olympics. The torch relay, however, would not occur until the 1936 Summer Olympics.
* For the first time, the parade of nations started with Greece,
which holds the origins of the Olympics, and ended with the host
country, a tradition which continues today.
* Held during the worldwide Great Depression, many nations and athletes were unable to pay for the trip to Los Angeles. Fewer than half the participants of the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam returned to compete in 1932. U.S. President Herbert Hoover did not attend the Games, becoming the first sitting head of government to not appear at an Olympics hosted in that country.
* An Olympic Village was built for the first time, in the Baldwin
Hills, occupied by the male athletes. Female athletes were housed at
the Chapman Park Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.
* German crowds adored Jessie Owens, and he
forged a long-term friendship with German competitor Luz Long.
Olympic pictograms were introduced for the first time. There were twenty of them — one for each Olympic sport and three separate pictograms for the arts competition, the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony. They were called “Olympic symbols” and intended for the use on tickets. The background of each pictogram resembled escutcheon. Olympic pictograms would appear again 16 years later and be featured at each Summer Olympics thereafter.
* To the enjoyment of the Finnish crowd, the Olympic Flame was lit by two Finnish heroes, runners Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen.
* For the first time, a team from the Soviet Union participated in
the Olympics. The first gold medal for the USSR was won by Nina
Romashkova in the women’s Discus Throwing event, and the Soviet women’s
gymnastics team won the first of its eight consecutive gold medals.
*Many members of the IOC were sceptical about Melbourne as an appropriate site. Its location in the Southern Hemisphere was a major concern, since the reversal of seasons would mean the Games were held during the northern winter. This was thought likely to inconvenience athletes from the Northern Hemisphere who were accustomed to resting during their winter.
* Melbourne was selected, in 1949, to host the 1956 Olympics by a one-vote margin. The first sign of trouble was the revelation that Australian equine quarantine would prevent the country from hosting the equestrian events. Stockholm was selected as the alternate site, so equestrian competition began on June 10, five and a half months before the rest of the Olympic games were to open, half the world away.
* Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the marathon bare-footed to become the first black African Olympic champion.
* Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, won boxing’s light-heavyweight gold medal.
* The 1964 Summer games marked the first time the Olympics were held by a non-Western nation. This was the first Olympics in which South Africa was barred from taking part due to its refusal to racially desegregate its sports.
* Yji Koseki composed the theme song of the opening ceremony.
* The Games were preceded by the Tlatelolco massacre, in which hundreds of students were killed by security forces ten days before the opening day. It is the only Games ever held in Latin America, and it was the second ever outside of Europe, Australia, or the USA.
* In the 200 m medal award ceremony, two African-American athletes
Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) raised their black-gloved
fists as a symbol of Black Power. Australian Peter Norman, who had run
second, wore a civil rights badge as support on the podium. As
punishment, the International Olympic Committee banned Smith and Carlos
from the Olympic Games for life, and Norman was left out of the
Australian 1972 Olympic team, possibly as backlash.
The Munich Olympics were intended to present a new, democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by its official motto, “the Happy Games”. The emblem of the Games was a blue solar logo (the “Bright Sun”). The Olympic mascot, the dachshund “Waldi”, was the first officially named Olympic mascot. The games also saw the introduction of the now universal sports pictograms designed by Otl Aicher. However, this joyful mood was ruined by the killings of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists in an event known as the Munich massacre.
* After a rainstorm doused the Olympic flame a few days after the games had opened, an official relit the flame using his cigarette lighter. Organizers quickly doused it again and relit it using a backup of the original flame.
* The Republic of China (Taiwan) team withdrew after Canada informed
it that it could not compete under the name “Republic of China”. This
was done because Canada officially recognized the People’s Republic of
China. Canada did try to compromise by saying that the people of the
Republic of China could retain their national flag and anthem, but they
* Although approximately half of the 24 countries which boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics participated in these, the Games were disrupted by another, even larger, boycott led by the United States followed by 60 other countries in protest of the 1979 Soviet war in Afghanistan.
* 21% of the competitors were female — a higher percentage than at any previous Olympics.
* Los Angeles was selected on May 18, 1978 on the 79th IOC session at Athens, Greece, without voting, because it was the only city that entered a bid to host the 1984 Summer Olympics.
* In view of the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in
Moscow, the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics caused 14
Eastern Bloc countries and allies including the Soviet Union, Cuba and
East Germany (but not Romania) to boycott these Olympics. For differing
reasons, Iran and Libya also boycotted.
* North Korea, still officially at war with South Korea, boycotted the event. Cuba, Ethiopia and Nicaragua joined the boycott. However, the much larger boycotts seen in the previous three Olympics were avoided, resulting in the largest ever number of participating nations to that date.
* Canadian Ben Johnson wins the 100 m in a new world record, but is
disqualified after he tested positive for stanozolol. In 2004, Johnson
accused the American sports authorities of protecting American athletes
at the expense of foreign ones. He still claims to this day that André
Jackson, “the Mystery Man” put the stanozolol in his food or his drink.
* In basketball, the admittance of professional players led to the American Dream Team, with players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Larry Bird.
* South Africa was allowed again to participate in the Olympics
after a 28 years suspension in the Olympic Games for its apartheid
policy. White South African runner Elana Meyer and black Ethiopian
runner Derartu Tulu fought out a great battle in the 10,000 m (won by
Tulu) and then ran their lap of honour hand in hand.
* At the age of 35, Carl Lewis takes his 4th long jump gold medal. Lewis, Paavo Nurmi, and Mark Spitz are now tied for second-most Olympic gold medals (9), only Michael Phelps (14) has more.
* Palestine was allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time.
* Athens 2004 marked the first time since the 1896 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance. It was also the first time since 1896 that the Olympics were to be hosted in the country the event originated from.
* For the first time, major broadcasters were allowed to serve video
coverage of the Olympics over the Internet, provided that they
restricted this service geographically, to protect broadcasting
contracts in other areas.
* The official logo of the games, titled “Dancing Beijing,” features a stylised calligraphic character jng ( meaning capital), referring to the host city. The mascots of Beijing 2008 are the five Fuwa, each representing both a colour of the Olympic rings and a symbol of Chinese culture. The Olympic slogan, One World, One Dream, calls upon the world to unite in the Olympic spirit. Several new NOCs have also been recognised by the IOC.
* The Chinese government has promoted the games to highlight China’s
emergence on the world stage and has invested heavily in new facilities
and transportation systems.
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