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In its purest form, the Olympic Games are a time when the world stops fighting, gathers together, and proceeds to try to show up every other country by beating them at sports. Essentially, it is a chance for friendly competition between nations for the greater glory of one's homeland. In reality, however, it can get pretty political. Just ask the residents of Moscow and Los Angeles about when they hosted the Olympics.

Originally from Ancient Greece, the games were revived as a concept in 1896.

The Ancient Olympics

Held from 776 BC to AD 393 in (appropriately enough) Olympia, Greece. As with the modern Olympic Games, they were held every four years or Olympiad.

The Games were only open to free men who spoke Greek. (Although women could enter horses in the equestrian event.) Winners were given wreaths made of olive branches (Yay!) and became heroes to their hometowns (which often brought with it a considerable sum of money). Athletes competed in the nude. In fact, our word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek word "gymos," meaning "naked".

Back in the day, Olympics were very big deals indeed, during the Olympic period, all wars were put on hold, armies were forbidden to enter Olympia and the use of the death penalty is suspended. In contrast to the modern world, where the Olympics gets suspended in favour of warfare.

The Games were ultimately banned by Emperor Theodosius I, who established Christianity as the state religion of The Roman Empire and viewed the Olympics as a pagan festival.

The Modern Summer Olympics

Established by a group led by Pierre de Coubertin, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. Since then they have been held every four years, with the exception of 1916, 1940 and 1944, for fairly obvious reasons.

Originally a strictly amateur affair in the truest sense of the word, some early winners literally were just in town and decided to have a go and Jim Thorpe, who won two medals at the 1912 Stockholm Games, was actually stripped of them when it emerged he'd earlier played baseball semi-professionally. He got them back in 1983, thirty years after his death.

Events for the games have varied over the years, with some early events (like lacrosse and tug of war) not lasting and some more recent additions, like Badminton in 1992 and Rugby Sevens from 2016.

One unique event for the games is the modern pentathlon consisting of five events, purportedly based on the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines:

  • Show jumping
  • 200m freestyle swimming
  • Pistol shooting
  • Épée fencing
  • 3km cross-country running.

The host city for any given Summer Olympics is chosen about seven years in advance by the International Olympic Committee with cities submitting detailed bids, which are voted on in a fairly complex process. Hosting the Olympics is a very expensive thing, although it does give you a nice stadium or three and some vastly improved city infrastructure when you're done.

The Games so far

All Games are numbered as the "Games of the [Roman numeral] Olympiad", an Olympiad being a four-year cycle.

  • I -- 1896: Athens, Greece: The first games, whose main highlight was the triumph of Greek shepherd Spyridon Louis in the marathon, earning him a place in the Greek sporting pantheon.
  • II -- 1900: Paris, France: The first Games where women competed. Largely seen at the time as a sideshow to the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) that Paris was hosting that year. Pierre de Coubertin remarked afterward that he was surprised that the "Olympic Moment" survived these games.
  • III -- 1904: St. Louis, Missouri: A confusing, badly organized mess, with the Russo-Japanese War and the traveling keeping many Europeans away. Like Paris 1900, these were basically a sideshow for the big World's Fair that year -- the Louisiana Purchase Exposition -- and indeed, de Coubertin had been browbeaten into accepting St. Louis as the host city even after Chicago won the right to host the Games fair and square. The marathon was a farce and a half.[1]
  • A special games were held in Athens in 1906, with many firsts for the games, but this is not considered an Olympics now by the IOC. Still, a lot of things we now take for granted began here, including the Parade of the Athletes, an Olympic Village, and the Closing Ceremonies. Prince George was involved in the organizing and some of the judging, and ran the last lap of the Marathon alongside the winner, Canadian Billy Sherring.
  • IV -- 1908: London, England: Included some rows over national flags, a guy who won the marathon but was disqualified for going around the track the wrong way and also the marathon length being standardised at 42.195 km because of royal requests at this games.
  • V -- 1912: Stockholm, Sweden: Saw the first arts competitions, a tradition kept up until London 1948.
  • VI -- 1916: Berlin, Germany: Cancelled due to the First World War.
  • VII -- 1920: Antwerp, Belgium: First appearance of the Olympic Flag, the Oath and the doves. The losers of the First World War weren't invited.
  • VIII -- 1924: Paris, France: Not especially well known, except for the movie Chariots of Fire.
  • IX -- 1928: Amsterdam, Netherlands: First appearance of the Olympic flame.
  • X -- 1932: Los Angeles, California: First use of the victory podium.
  • XI -- 1936: Berlin, Germany: "The Nazi Games" and the first to be broadcast on television. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in a highly controversial games that saw a Spanish boycott, the first torch relay, and only "Aryans" being allowed to compete for Germany.
  • XII -- 1940: Tokyo, Japan: Taken from Tokyo when the Second Sino-Japanese War began, then moved to Helsinki, Finland, then definitely cancelled after the Second World War began. An unofficial POW games was held in Stalag XIII-A though.
  • XIII -- 1944: London, England: Cancelled. However, an unofficial POW games was held in Oflag II-C by the Polish prisoners with German permission.
  • XIV -- 1948: London, England: The "austerity games", with athletes housed in barracks. Germany and Japan, losers of World War Two, were banned.
  • XV -- 1952: Helsinki, Finland: The only appearance of Saar, then not part of West Germany. The USSR turned up for the first time.
  • XVI -- 1956: Melbourne, Australia: First games in the southern hemisphere. The equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden due to quarantine regulations.
  • XVII -- 1960: Rome, Italy: Having earlier suffered from polio, Wilma Rudolph won three sprint medals. The Games also marks the debut of nineteen-year-old Cassius Clay -- the boy who would become Muhammad Ali -- through a gold medal at light-heavyweight boxing.
  • XVIII -- 1964: Tokyo, Japan: First Games in Asia, the first broadcast live via satellite, and also the first in color for viewers in Japan and America. To emphasize Japan's message of postwar recovery, the Flame was lit by 19-year-old runner Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in 6 August 1945 -- the day the atomic bomb destroyed his native Hiroshima.
  • XIX -- 1968: Mexico City, Mexico: Two American athletes did a Black Power salute and got banned for life, while somebody got banned for drug use for the first time. The Games were also marred by student protests. On a lighter note, the Games feature the first woman to light the Olympic Flame, hurdler Enriqueta Basilio.
  • XX -- 1972: Munich, West Germany (now Germany): Tragically overshadowed by the murder of eleven Israeli athletes by terrorists. There was also some controversy about the men's basketball final. Particularly jarring since this edition of the Games had been designed as the "Serenity Games", with garlanded children and everything pastel-hued, and a stadium that looked as if it was about to take off and fly. The very security guards even wore robin's egg blue.
  • XXI -- 1976: Montreal, Quebec: Saw a 24-nation African boycott over New Zealand touring South Africa, a guy win a gymnastics medal with a broken knee and the first perfect score in a gymnastics event by fourteen-year-old Nadia Comăneci from Romania. The scoreboards couldn't handle it.
  • XXII -- 1980: Moscow, USSR (now Russia): The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan saw a large-scale (65 nations) Western boycott of these games, with some nations only parading under the Olympic Flag, so these Games were dominated by the USSR and East Germany. A lot of world records got broken, though. These were also the first games in which the opening and closing ceremonies became the expensive, full-blown, almost theatrical events we know today.
  • XXIII -- 1984: Los Angeles, California: A smaller Eastern boycott for this one, allowing America to earn its most medals since Saint Louis 1904. Also had a theme by John Williams that is still played by NBC to this day and a guy fly a jet-pack during the opening ceremonies, and the appearance of a fake UFO during the closing ceremonies. Widely considered the most financially successful Games, according to The Other Wiki.
  • XXIV -- 1988: Seoul, South Korea: The attention the Games brought helped make South Korea a democracy, in an event that saw a very controversial boxing judgment. Also Ben Johnson was caught doping after winning a few golds. During the opening ceremonies, a number of confused doves perched on the rim of the Olympic Cauldron just before it was lit, and were burned to death on worldwide television; that's why this was the last Games at which live doves were released (future editions of the Games would use replicas). On a side note, one gymnast who was infamously snubbed when participants were selected for this games despite winning the National Championship in her home country went on to become an action star in the James Bond parody Spitfire.
  • XXV -- 1992: Barcelona, Spain: Twelve of the states of the recently defunct USSR competed as a unified team and Yugoslav athletes compete as individuals. This marks the advent of USA Basketball's "Dream Team". Also best-known for having probably the most memorable lighting of the Olympic Flame in history, featuring Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo firing a flaming arrow into the cauldron.
  • XXVI -- 1996: Atlanta, Georgia: Touted as a commemoration of the centennial of the Games, though overshadowed by a bomb attack in the Olympic Park. Ruined the career and ultimately prematurely ended the life of the security guard who called in the threat. On the brighter side, the Games featured the lighting of the Flame by one of Atlanta's most famous locals: Muhammad Ali, then a 54-year-old with Parkinson's disease.
  • XXVII -- 2000: Sydney, Australia: Basketball fans probably remember that dunk by Vince Carter. These were the "Women's Games", celebrating 100 years of female participation. It was also the first Games to have women's weightlifting. More women than at any prior Games competed in Sydney, although the number was still only about 1/4 the number of men. The final torch relay was done entirely by women medalists from past Games. Aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman had the honor of becoming the first lighter of the Flame to win a gold medal at the same games. The Cauldron traveled up a manmade waterfall, delayed for about four minutes owing to a computer foulup, and continued to rise up the waterfall in a truly awesome moment.
  • XXVIII -- 2004: Athens, Greece: Touted as the "Homecoming Games", this marks Greece's best performance since the inception of the games. However, these games were notable by the low number of attendance at the events.
  • XXIX -- 2008: Beijing, China: A controversial Games, with more than one Torch runner getting attacked by pro-Tibet protesters and the Flame actually being deliberately put out three times in Paris by security. (Torch relay teams carry a backup lamp, also lit in Athens, for incidents like these.) The main event, though, passed without incident. The record for most medals in one Games was set by Michael Phelps, who won eight golds. Usain Bolt set a 100m sprint record while showboating for the last 20 meters. Live but Delayed. The dazzling ceremonies of these Games will possibly not be beaten for a long, long time. The opening culminated with Li Ning, 1984 six-time medal-winning gymnast (3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) and China's most successful Olympian, literally running through the sky with the Torch in hand across a giant scroll which unrolled to reveal the stylized cauldron as he lit the Flame.
  • XXX -- 2012: London, England: Soon to be held. This makes London the first city to host the Games thrice. So far, no word on David Tennant's involvement, but a different doctor will be running the torch instead.
  • XXXI -- 2016: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The first games in South America. These games will come just two years after Brazil hosts The World Cup in 2014, so preparations are already well underway--or would be, if they weren't tied up in red tape.
  • XXXII -- 2020: To be decided on 7 September 2013 on a meeting hosted by Buenos Aires, Argentina. Host cities are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.

The Modern Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Games consist of multiple winter sport events and are held every four years, also excepting 1940 and 1944. The first winter games were held in 1924. Varying sports have been added since, but cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been in every Olympics since 1924. Today's games also feature snowboarding and luge.

The Winter Games were initially held during the same year as the Summer Olympics -- and before World War Two, in the same country. Even now fewer countries tend to participate than do in the Summer Games. However, as the Winter Olympics have grown in popularity the International Olympic Committee decided in 1986 to off-set the Winter Games from the Summer ones. In 1992, both Summer and Winter Olympics were held, but in different nations. The next Winter Olympics were held in 1994, and the next Summer Olympics in 1996.

The Games so far

Unlike the Summer Olympics, which count the Olympiad whether the games occurred in them or not, the Roman numerals of the Winter Olympics count only the games.

  • I -- 1924: Chamonix, France
  • II -- 1928: St. Moritz, Switzerland
  • III -- 1932: Lake Placid, New York
  • IV -- 1936: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • V -- 1948: St. Moritz, Switzerland: The first Winter Games held in a different country from that year's Summer Games (although St. Moritz and London are geographically closer than Lake Placid and Los Angeles).
  • VI -- 1952: Oslo, Norway
  • VII -- 1956: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy: The 1944 Winter Games were originally awarded to the town, but were canceled due to World War Two. The city reentered the bidding process and was awarded the 1956 Games, whose venues were all in walking distance from each other. These Games were also the first to rely heavily on corporate sponsorship and were the first televised Winter Games.
  • VIII -- 1960: Squaw Valley, California
  • IX -- 1964: Innsbruck, Austria
  • X -- 1968: Grenoble, France
  • XI -- 1972: Sapporo, Japan: Sapporo won rights to the 1940 Winter Games but initially resigned after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The Games were later canceled altogether due to the war. These games were the first time Japan had ever won gold in any Winter Games.
  • XII -- 1976: Innsbruck, Austria: The Games were originally awarded to Denver, Colorado, but locals voted down a bond issue to fund necessary construction, and the IOC turned to the hosts of twelve years earlier.
  • XIII -- 1980: Lake Placid, New York: Famous for the "Miracle on Ice", in which the motley American ice hockey team defeated the heavily favored USSR team (which had beaten them 10-3 two weeks prior) en route to a gold medal.
  • XIV -- 1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina): British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skated to Bolero and promptly earned the only perfect set of marks ever given to anyone in any discipline of figure skating ever. They are now British national heroes.
  • XV -- 1988: Calgary, Alberta: Canadian figure skater Elizabeth Manley is best remembered for her performance in the long program. She won silver.
  • XVI -- 1992: Albertville, France: Last Winter Games held at the same year as the Summer Games. Most of the venues for these Games, including the ceremonies stadium, were temporary. The ceremonies were choreographed by Philip Decouffle and were very similar to that of Cirque du Solei, with acrobats performing on a very tall central mast along with many other dazzling feats.
  • XVII -- 1994: Lillehammer, Norway: First Winter Games held in a different year from the Summer Games. Widely considered the best Winter Games, featuring an opening ceremony on a ski jump venue, whose climax was skier Stein Gruben going downhill with the Torch before the Cauldron was lit by Crown Prince Haakon, whose father, King Harald V, and grandfather, Olav V, were themselves Olympians.
  • XVIII -- 1998: Nagano, Japan: The first Winter Games featuring women's ice hockey, curling and snowboarding. It was also the first time NHL players were allowed to play in men's ice hockey.
  • XIX -- 2002: Salt Lake City, Utah: Notable for a bribery controversy, the expose of which forced several IOC members to resign. These were the first Games under the current IOC President, Belgian ophthalmologist and former Olympian Jacques Rogge. The scores of a figure-skating judge were also thrown out, resulting in two couples being awarded gold medals for pairs skating. And Apolo Ohno's first Olympic gold medal was awarded after South Korea's Kim Dong-Sung was disqualified, resulting in over 16,000 threatening emails to the Olympic website, which shut the site down for almost nine hours. It was also the first time since 1952 that Canada won the gold medal in Men's ice hockey (the final was played against the USA). This also featured the lighting of the Olympic Flame by the members of the legendary 1980 American men's ice hockey team.
  • XX -- 2006: Turin, Italy: When you are about to win a gold medal, don't be showy.[2] This also marks the last public performance of legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who performed "Nessun Dorma" at the end of the opening ceremony -- a year before he died of pancreatic cancer.
  • XXI -- 2010: Vancouver, British Columbia: The Winter Games that ended Canada's dry spell when it comes to gold medals on home games, starting with Alexandre Bilodeau in men's moguls, followed by thirteen others, culminating in winning gold for two of Canada's most beloved sports -- men's curling and ice hockey. This broke the record for most golds at a single games, which had been previously shared by Norway and the Soviet Union.
  • XXII -- 2014: Sochi, Russia
  • XXIII -- 2018: Pyeongchang, South Korea: Also counts as a "Throw the Dog a Bone" moment for the South Korean ski resort dangerously close to the border with North Korea, after narrowly losing the 2010 and 2014 bids.

The Paralympic Games

Like the regular Olympics, but for blind and physically disabled athletes. Held after the main Olympics. The name means that they run parallel to the regular Games, not that it's for the paralysed. Do not confuse them with the Special Olympics, which is a competition for mentally handicapped athletes that's styled after the Olympics but unaffiliated.

In fiction

  • Million Dollar Legs, a largely forgotten W.C. Fields classic, is all about getting Ruritanian citizens to participate in the 1932 Olympics.
  • Chariots of Fire (technically not fiction, but they did take a few liberties ...)
  • Rainbow Six involves a plot to start a global plague via the air conditioning at the Sydney opening ceremony. Clancy failed to realise the games actually took place in the Australian winter.
  • Miranda Frost in Die Another Day won a gold medal at Sydney by default when her opponent died of a steroids overdose arranged by Gustav Graves.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Fear Her" is set around the 2012 Opening Ceremony.
  • Cool Runnings
  • Mario and Sonic At The Olympic Games
  • Asterix at the Olympic Games
  • Going For The Gold by Emma Lathen is set at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.
  • Pierre et Isa, a French animated series about Winter Olympics.
  • Animalypics a 1980 animation originally broadcast it's Winter Games segment on NBC TV, but the summer edition was canceled after the boycott. Latter reorganized into a film, but the summer half still suffered from the lack of completed animation.
  • A Young Justice storyline was set at the "Sydney World Games". The story involved the former Arrowette entering the archery competition, and Zandia (an island nation whose population consists entirely of supervillains taking advantage of its lack of extradition laws) entering, so Cassie was competing against Merlyn and Artemis.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has him invent the Greek Olympics, with the usual Anachronism Stew including a modern Olympic torch.

The Olympics provide examples of:

  • Accidental Athlete: In 1900, the Dutch rowers brought a French boy to replace their too-heavy coxswain. They won the gold medal, but to this day no one knows who the kid was.
  • All-Star Cast
    • Lighters of the Olympic Flame happen to be either accomplished Olympians or symbolic entities.

 Oslo 1952: Eigil Nansen, grandson of famous explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

Helsinki 1952: Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen, two of Finland's most successful Olympic runners.

Tokyo 1964: Yoshinori Sakai, 19-year-old runner born on the day the atomic bomb ravaged his native Hiroshima.

Mexico City 1968: Enriqueta Basilio, sprinter who had the honor of being the first woman to light the Flame.

Montreal 1976: Stéphane Préfontaine and Sandra Henderson, two teenagers symbolizing Canada's French and English legacies. The former was mistook by ABC's Jim McKay for the late champion distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who died a year before.

Moscow 1980: Sergei Belov, basketball player and part of the 1972 gold-winning team.

Los Angeles 1984: Rafer Johnson, 1960 decathlon gold medalist.

Albertville 1992: Michel Platini, football star and current president of UEFA, together with seven-year-old local Alpine skier François-Cyrille Grange, whose younger brother Jean-Baptiste would win the 2009 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup slalom event.

Lillehammer 1994: Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway.

Atlanta 1996: Muhammad Ali, 1960 boxing gold medalist and one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Nagano 1998: Midori Ito, 1992 skating silver medalist.

Sydney 2000: Cathy Freeman, 1996 athletics silver medalist who would win gold at these very Games.

Salt Lake City 2002: The 1980 American ice hockey team that pulled off a Dark Horse Victory over the heavily-favored USSR team en route to a gold.

Athens 2004: Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, 1996 windsurfing gold medalist who would win silver at these Games.

Turin 2006: Stefania Belmondo, ten-time medalist (two of which are gold) and one of Italy's most successful skiers.

Beijing 2008: Li Ning, 1984 six-time medal-winning gymnast and China's most successful Olympian.

Vancouver 2010: Catriona Le May Doan, three-time speedskating medalist; Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns point guard; Nancy Greene, 1968 alpine skier and 2-medal winner; and Wayne Gretzky, multiple-time ice hockey champion.

    • To a lesser extent, carriers of the Olympic Flag were also famous personalities. Most notable are...

 Sydney 2000: Bill Roycroft, 1960 equestrian champion; Murray Rose, four-time swimming champion; Liane Tooth, 1988 and 1996 hockey champion; Gillian Rolton, 1992 and 1996 equestrian champion; Marjorie Jackson, 1952 athletics champion; Lorraine Crapp, four-time swimming medalist; Michael Wenden, 1968 four-time swimming medalist; and Nick Green, 1992 and 1996 rowing champion.

Salt Lake 2002: John Glenn, American astronaut and former senator; Desmond Tutu, South African Anglican bishop and human rights activist; Kazuyoshi Funaki, Japanese skier and 1998 two-time gold medalist; Lech Walesa, former president of Poland; Cathy Freeman, Australian runner and 2000 gold medalist; Jean-Claude Killy, French skier and three-time 1964 gold medalist; Steven Spielberg, director; and Jean-Michel Cousteau, French environmentalist and son of legendary marine explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Torino 2006: Sophia Loren, Italian actress; Isabel Allende, Chilean novelist; Nawal el Moutawakel, Moroccan runner 1984 champion, the first Muslim woman with such a feat; Susan Sarandon, American actress and activist; Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist; Manuela Di Centa, Italian skier; Maria Mutola, Mozambiquan runner and 2000 gold medalist; and Somaly Mam, Cambodian activist.

Vancouver 2010: Bobby Orr, hockey superstar; Anne Murray, musician; Jacques Villeneuve, F1 racer; Betty Fox, mother of cancer research activist Terry Fox; Donald Sutherland, actor; Barbara Ann Scott, 1948 skiing gold medalist; Romeo Dallaire, leader of the ill-fated UN humanitarian mission to Rwanda; and Julie Payette, astronaut.

  • Always Male: Boxing (though a female tournament will be part of 2012), Greco-Roman wrestling. Women's weightlifting became a recognized Olympic event in 2000 and women have had their own Olympic marathon since 1984.
  • Always Female: Synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The medal ceremony is always excellent.
  • Best X Ever: Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had a tradition of saying "This was the best Olympics ever!" at the end of each closing ceremony.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: Nadia Comăneci scored the first 10.0 in gymnastics history. The electronic scoreboard didn't even have that -- you would've thought the poor girl kept scoring 1.0's. (To hammer this point home, no one had ever hit the elusive "perfect ten" in competition, ever. Out of eight routines, seven of Nadia's were scored as perfect tens. By the time she was through, the sport of gymnastics had been forever changed.)
  • Cold War: It's widely stated that the Olympics were a suitable replacement for the lack of actual battles between the capitalist West and the communist East. Bonus for boycotts in the Moscow and Los Angeles Games.
  • Completely Missing the Point / Serious Business: The Medal Count. Officially, the IOC does not recognize a ranking of participating countries at the Olympic Games; mainly because the games are supposed to be about the best athletes, not the best countries, although they publish medal tables for informational purposes, showing the total number of medals earned by athletes representing each country. Regardless, many still consider it official and take it very seriously.
    • Even worse, recently there is a medal count controversy about what medal count table to use. The IOC and most countries use gold first ranking system while the US and Canada use the total medal count. The difference in ranking system received scant notice, since in most Olympics, the country that led in total medals also led in the gold count. However in 2008, China and the U.S. bucked this trend, topping the gold and total medal tallies respectively. China largely sided with using the less common American standard to judge their performance from the start of the games onwards, and thus felt they came in second to the Americans despite winning a whopping 15 more gold medals. This happened again in 2010, although with Canada in place of China. Critics and Anti-Americanists (even some gloating Canadians when they won the gold medal count, even though they also use the total medal table) accused the US of spinning the medal count, even though the Americans have used the Overall Medal Count for years. Even Jacques Rogge had to step in say that the medal counts are unofficial.
    • Australians like to boast that their 1896 Olympic team was the most successful ever, with every team member winning two gold medals. This is true, in a Mathematician's Answer kind of way: Australia's team that year consisted of a runner named Edwin Flack.
  • Conspicuous CG: The Beijing opening ceremonies featured mostly computer-generated fireworks, since there were helicopters hovering above.
  • Continuity Nod: The Marathon event in the Athens 2004 Summer Games followed the same route as the 1896 event (starting at... Marathon, in reference to the legendary origin of said race).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive / Executive Meddling: The IOC frequently finds itself at the center of scandals. Most recently, the IOC has repeatedly barred women from competing in ski jumping, for reasons that seem more and more ridiculous the closer they are examined. (This fact is used as a key plotline in the manga Nononono, for instance.) However recent decisions have allowed women to do so in the next Winter Games.
  • Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: Somehow, a Polish newspaper stuck Pedobear in with the rest of the Vancouver mascots.
  • Crack Defeat: The 1988 games provided a former Trope Namer from boxing: Roy Jones, Jr. was controversially beaten by Si-Hun Park by decision in a gold medal bout that saw Jones dominate his South Korean opponent.
  • Determinator/Refuge in Audacity:
    • There's an American in Afghanistan who wants to build up a water polo team in time for the 2016 games. More here. There's also a women's boxing team preparing for 2012, but there's no problem because they can wear head coverings in the ring.
    • The Jamaican Bobsled Team.
    • The Japanese wanting Hiroshima and Nagasaki as co-host cities, even though it's not allowed. I believe they've reduced it to just Nagasaki.
      • However, Hiroshima did host the 1994 Asian Games.
    • The Swiss runner Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss nearly collapsed in the 1984 marathon, but finished the race refusing help.
    • Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto: he competed in the 1976 Olympics and helped his team winning the gold, with a broken knee. He injured himself during a floor exercise and fearing that the team would not win if he withdrew, hid his injury and competed his final two events of the day. On rings, Fujimoto scored a 9.7, after landing his full-twisting double back dismount onto a broken kneecap...
  • Dark Horse Victory: Plenty to choose from, but the 1992 Olympics provided the former Trope Namer in Robert Zmelik of Czechoslovakia, who won the decathlon...after American audiences had been treated to an ad campaign hyping "Dan (O'Brien, who eventually didn't qualify) vs. Dave (Johnson, who took the bronze)."
  • Diabolus Ex Machina/Downer Ending/Kill'Em All: "They're all gone..."
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Ice skating, gymnastics (at least the women's), synchronized swimming, opening and closing ceremonies.
  • Executive Meddling: Everyone thought the Centennial Games would be where the games originated, Athens. While Greece was lacking infrastructure at the time, the Atlanta bidding comittee won mostly from being... "helpful".
    • The Scapegoat: Coca-Cola, the IOC sponsor headquartered in Atlanta, denied helping the bid. The Greeks still retaliated by breaking bottles of Coke, draining it down the sewers, and stopping consumption in way it would take years to recover.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: When rival countries are on bad terms with one another, matches between the two fall under this. US vs. Soviets is the classic example.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Paraolympians, epecially medal winners, especially in combat sports like Judo and Fencing.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Kinda... Pierre de Coubertin left the IOC because he thought female athletes were a betrayal to the Olympic ideal (the Ancient Greece games had only men).
    • Take That: In Sydney 2000, the Olympic Torch ran its last stage by seven of Australia's most successful female athletes (also a tribute to a hundred years of women's participation in the Games)... four-time gold-medalist runner Betty Cuthbert (in a wheelchair pushed by fellow runner, three-time silver-medalist runner Raelene Boyle), eight-medal swimmer Dawn Fraser, seven-medal runner Shirley Strickland, 1972 five-time medalist swimmer Shane Gould and 1988 gold-winning hurdler Debbie Flintoff-King... before handing it off to 1996 silver-medal runner Cathy Freeman as a women's chorus sang. If there is such a thing as a Crowning Moment of Goddessness, this was it. Freeman herself would win her gold during these Games.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: The Paralympics, though some commentators are aware of this and try to avert it.
  • International Showdown by Proxy
  • Misplaced Nationalism: Nationalism is quite a serious matter when it comes to the Olympics. Rooting for your countrymen can be subject to you being trolled on the internet, especially if you root for a high medal nation like the United States or China.
  • Just for Pun: In the opening ceremonies, the Bermuda team traditionally wears Bermuda shorts.
    • Emil Zátopek, a great distance runner with an unusual, contorted style, was known as "the Bouncing Czech".
  • Multinational Team: American Olympians come from varied backgrounds and ethnicity.
    • The Europe and North American-dominated winter Olympics are slowly becoming this, with a skier from Africa (nicknamed "The Snow Leopard"), a French male figure skater who was born in South America, African-American speed skater Shani Davis, Japanese-American figure skater Mirai Nagasu, a Japanese pairs skater who defected to Russia (Japan is more focused on individual skaters, not pairs), a trio of half-Japanese-half-Caucasian siblings ice dancing for Japan and Georgia, Cheltzie Lee -- a half-Chinese-half-African-American female figure skater from Australia, and quite a few African-born Germans in the 2010 Vancouver games. Past games included the famous Jamaican Bobsled Team, a female African-American bobsledder, Japanese-American ice-skater (and fellow Dancing With The Stars champion, along with Anton Apolo Ohno)) Kristi Yamaguchi, Chinese-American ice skater Michelle Kwan, and French-African figure skater Surya Bonaly, who did impressive (but illegal and non-point-earning) one-legged back-flips in her performances.
  • No Fair Cheating: Use performance-enhancing drugs, and you lose your medals (even if the doping discovered many years later, as Marion Jones shows).
  • Old Media Playing Catch Up: NBC's Olympic Coverage is often Live but Delayed by many, many hours (around 16 hours for the Beijing opening ceremonies) until the American prime time where the most advertising dollars are. NBC has recently persuaded the International Olympic Committee to schedule more popular events live at times more acceptable to American primetime schedules to avoid spoilers, but even then, the network still screws the West Coast by delaying it by three hours anyway, with very few exceptions.
    • It's even worse for figure skating fans who live on the West Coast. They show the performances of those with lower ranks at 7:00, and don't show the medal contenders until a couple minutes before midnight. If you want to watch others skate, you have to stay in front of your television for 5 hours and HOPE that in between the commercials, other sports, and random garbage, NBC was nice enough to include non-American skaters. NOT. FUN.
  • Opposing Sports Team / Designated Villain: Team USA. While some of America's athletes are still rooted on and gain a fandom from other countries, not many become too pleased when the US wins the Gold Medal Count...but rejoice if they reach second or less in the gold medal count. And then there's the overall vs gold debate like was mentioned above. It is not uncommon; and pretty ironic, to see this hatedom root for another "superpower" like China or Russia just to see the US lose.
    • When Sidney Crosby scored the "Gold Medal Goal"...well let's just say that the cheers weren't just for Canada winning. Saying that And The Hatedom Rejoiced was something of an understatement.
  • Passing the Torch: The Ur Example, although virtually unrelated to the meaning, although it happens that some retired athletes who participate in the Torch Relay pass on the torch to younger athletes.
    • The closing ceremony centers around a handoff from the host city to the next one. Sometimes it's something of an inversion, particularly in 2000 - Sydney was still a frontier when the modern Olympics started and its' most famous landmark was a construction site during the lifetimes' of many of that year's athletes [3], while Athens was the birthplace of the Ancient Olympics and the Parthenon was already a ruin in the time of Christ.
  • Product Placement / Product Displacement: While the Olympics themselves are an increasingly commercial affair, athletes are forbidden from wearing any logos other then their own country's and the equipment manufacturers' trademark. In fact, until fairly recently you couldn't show the trademark, either. Jean-Claude Killy raised considerable controversy in 1968 by failing to hide the Head mark on his skis in post-competition photos. Some people still believe he was paid.
    • Several members of the USA Men's Basketball 1992 "Dream Team" (the first with all professional players) came out for the medal ceremony draped in American Flags. This was to cover up the Reebock sponsor's logo on their official Olympics warmup suits; they had exclusive contracts with Nike or Converse to only wear items with their logo on it, but couldn't not wear the official garments.
      • Similarly, the Brazilian Olympic comittee is sponsored by local brand Olympikus (yes), but the soccer confederation by Nike. Every time the soccer team needs deals to be able to use Nike apparel.
    • It gets a little weird with the snowboarders since the logos on the undersides of their board are gigantic compared to tiny Nike swooshes and adidas "leaves".
  • The Rival/Fandom Rivalry: Rivalries are huge in sports, and the Olympics are no exception. Some notables include USA vs. the Soviet Union, USA vs. Russia, USA vs. China, USA vs. Canada, Norway vs. Sweden, Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding, Maria Riesch vs. Lindsey Vonn, any Korean Speedskater vs. Apolo Anton Ohno, etc...
  • Turncoat: It's not rare to see someone abandoning its native country for an Olympic spot (e.g. the 2008 male beach volleyball bronze medal match was between a Brazilian team and a Georgian team... composed of Brazilians![4]).
  • Unnecessary Roughness: To keep in two examples, in 1996 the Cuban female volleyball team got in a fight with the Brazilian one; and in 2008 a Cuban taekwondo fighter kicked the referee after losing!
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: While not true of every country, many national teams will dress their athletes in very flag-like colors or motifs. Team USA wears a lot of stars, Team Canada wears a lot of maple leaves, etc., etc.
    • It can become a bit uncomfortable if you accidentally put your headband on upside-down and your country isn't Austria, Bangladesh, Botswana, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Latvia, Libya (well, for now anyway), Nigeria, or Thailand.
    • Averted by Australia: Australian athletes wear mostly green and gold, Australia's national colours, but these colours appear nowhere on the Australian flag (which is red, white and blue).

Notes

  1. To summarize: The day of the marathon was brutally hot, and athletes had to dodge oncoming traffic as they ran. The judges originally gave the gold medal to an athlete who has dropped out of the race nine miles earlier and was just jogging past the finish line to pick up his clothes and judges did not realize their mistake until after the podium ceremony. The actual winner, Thomas Hicks (U.S.), was doped with strychnine (the performance enhancer of the day) and had to be carried half dead past the finish line. The also race included Len Tau, the first African to participate in the Olympics, he placed 9th, but only because he was chased a mile off course by dogs (he worked as a sideshow freak in the off hours as a supposed "savage", he was actually a university student). Finally, there is Felix Carbajal, a Cuban postman running in homemade shorts, who, despite taking snack break at an orchard en route (the apples he ate gave him mild food poisoning, so he had to take a nap too), still came in fourth.
  2. Unless you're Usain Bolt, of course
  3. The Sydney Opera House opened in 1974
  4. using the names "Geor"/"Gia"
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