The 2012 Games will feature 26 Olympic and 10 Paralympic sports.
The first Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece 776 BC. Their modern revival took place in Athens, Greece 1896.
Pierre de Coubertin, a Frenchman born in 1863 Paris, is credited as the ‘father’ of the modern Olympic Games. A talented sportsman himself, he initially worked in education and then strove to relay the morals of sporting education by reviving the Ancient Olympic Games.
The UK is the only country to have been awarded the Olympic Games three times: London 1908, 1948 and 2012. During the opening ceremony of the 1908 Games, athletes marched onto the stadium for the first time. This has since become a staple of the Games.
The word ‘Olympic’ comes from mount Olympus in Greece; the place where the first Olympic Games were held and, according to ancient legends, the home of the God Zeus.
Socrates, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Hippocrates and Plato all participated in the ancient Olympic Games. The philosopher Plato even became a double medalist in pankration (now a world heritage martial art).
London’s 2012 Games will welcome over 14,000 athletes from 203 countries.
The Olympic Rings were designed in 1913 and they represent the unity of the competing athletes and the five major continents which come together for the Games: Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Europe.
There were no team sports in the Ancient Olympic Games – just individual events, where the winner would be crowned with a wreath of olive leaves, receive some material rewards and potentially, have a statue sculpted of themselves and displayed in their home town.
The “Olympic Truce” or “Ekecheiria,” literally means ‘holding back one’s hands’. It is traditionally a period of 7 days before and after the Games that encourages world peace and ceasefire to ensure the safe travels of Olympic athletes from around the world.
The next Olympics will take place in Sochi, Russia (2014, Winter Games) and Rio, Brazil (2016 Summer Games).
Australia, Switzerland and the UK are the only countries to have been to every modern Olympic Games since their inception in 1896.
Rugby and golf will be added to the list of Olympic sports in the 2016 Games.
Women were not permitted to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games and married women were also banned from attending the events under the penalty of death although there were separate Ancient Heraean Games, which were designed for female athletes only. It was not until 1900 that women could officially compete in the Olympics.
The Olympic motto is ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ is Latin for ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’.