The Olympic Games are the world's number one sports event. For athletes they mean a chance to win gold and glory. For all people they are a symbol of peace, hope, friendly cooperation between nations, fairness, high moral and physical standards.
There have been two Olympic eras - ancient and modern.
The Olympic Games were first held at Olympia in Greece in 776 BC. Athlets travelled long distances to compete in them every four years and the winners became civic heroes. This went on until the Roman Empire conquered Greece. The games were stopped in AD 393 by Theodosius I. The City of Olympia remained deserted until it was destroyed by two earthquakes in the 6th century AD.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin who was fascinated by the Ancient Olympics brought the classical games back to life. He organized an international conference in 1894 at Sorbonne University in Paris. During this conference the international Olympic Committee was set up.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. The Greeks built a new stadium. 295 athletes from 13 countries took part. There were nine sports represented: cycling, tennis, gymnastics, swimming, athletics, weightlifting, rowing, wrestling and shooting. Since 1894 there have been seven IOC presidents. Juan Antonio Samaranch is the current President of the IOC.
Each country has its own Olympic Committee which is in charge of national teams.
The International Olympic Committee meets once a year. Its members come from 5 continents -Africa, North America, Eurasia and Australia. They choose Olympic host cities. All the Olympic movement's rules are contained in a book called «The Olympic Charter». It says that the games must have at least 15 events and they cannot last more than 16 days.
The first Winter Games were held in 1924, in ChamonixFrance. 294 competitors took part. Winter sports are now more popular than ever before. Nowadays winter events include: the biathlon, the bobsleigh, the luge,
ice-hockey, skating (figure skating, singles, pairs, icedancing, speed skating), skiing (Alpine or downhill, Nordic or cross-country).
Summer events include: tennis, table tennis, archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, baseball, softball, football, handball, modern pentathlon, rowing, canoeing, yachting, wrestling, weightlifting, swimming (synhronized diving, water-polo), cycling, judo, boxing, shooting.
In Lausanne the Olympic Museum and Studies Centre has been founded. It contains posters, documents, medals, books, photos and sculptures.
The International Olympic Academy is a special centre at Olympia in Greece. People involved in sport go there to study the Olympic movement's history, ideas, future.
The five circles on the Olympic flag stand for the five continents. Each circle is in different colour - blue, black, red, yellow and green. Every national flag in the world contains one or more of these colours.
The Olympic flame is a symbol of the search for perfection and victory. It's lit at Olympia from the rays of the sun. Then it's carried to the games by a series of runners. It burns in the stadium from start to finish at every Olympics.
The Olympic Ceremony is usually a huge show of song, dance and music by people from the host country. The flame is lit and the Olympic flag is raised during the opening ceremony. The games are officially opened by the host country's monarch or political leader.