August 5, 2004
Olympic tradition is steeped in a plethora of rich symbols, meaning and
heritage. So much so, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with
some of the basic Olympic trivia and factoids. See how many of these questions
you're able to answer before reading the answers.
What is the significance of the five interlocking rings in the Olympic
A: The Olympic symbol, five interlocked rings, represents the union of
the five original major continents (Africa, America, Asia, Australia and
Europe) which competed in the Olympic Games and the meeting of the athletes
from all over the world who compete at the Games. The five colors of the
rings, which always appear in the same order, are, from top to bottom
and left to right: blue, black, red, yellow and green. The colors, chosen
by the International Olympic Committee, do not have a special significance,
although, at one time, at least one of the five colors was found in the
national flag of every nation within the Olympic Movement. The Olympic
flag features the Olympic symbol in color in the center of a white background.
What is the Olympic motto and what does it mean?
A: The Olympic motto -- "Citius, Altius, Fortius" -- is Latin
and means "Faster, Higher, Braver" in Latin, but the universally
accepted meaning is "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The motto is
believed to have been conceived by Father Henri Didon, headmaster of the
Arceuil School near Paris, to express the aspirations of all the athletes
in the Olympic Movement.
What is the Olympic creed?
A: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but
to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph
but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to
have fought well." These words, referred to as the Olympic creed,
are commonly attributed to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the
modern Olympic Games, although there is some question as to whether or
not he was the actual author. De Coubertin is believed to have first delivered
the Olympic creed following the Congress of Paris in 1894.
What is the Olympic oath?
A: The Olympic oath is a symbolic gesture of sportsmanship that traces
its origins to the 1920 Olympic Games. One athlete from the host country
takes an oath at Opening Ceremonies on behalf of all the athletes. The
oath is "In the name of all 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 honor of our teams." A similar oath is also taken by a coach
or team official at each Games.
What do the terms "Olympiad" and "quadrennium" mean?
A: The term "Olympiad" designates the period of four consecutive
years which begins with Games of the Olympiad and ends with the opening
of the following Games of the Olympiad. The Olympiads are numbered consecutively
from the first Olympic Games (or Ist Games of the Olympiad), held in Athens,
Greece, in 1896. Even when the Games of the Olympiad are not celebrated
or held (as in 1916, 1940 and 1944, due to war), the Olympiad expires
four years from the day of its beginning, upon which date a new Olympiad
begins. The term Olympiad is not used in conjunction with the Olympic
Winter Games, which are numbered only when they are actually held. The
U.S. Olympic Committee often refers to this same four-year cycle as the
"quadrennium." The USOC is currently in the 2001-2004 quadrennium.
Why are the Olympic Winter Games now in a different cycle than the Games
of the Olympiad?
A: On Oct. 14, 1986, at the 91st IOC Session in Lausanne, Switzerland,
the IOC voted to move the Olympic Winter Games into their own distinct,
four-year cycle, to be held in the second calendar year following that
in which the Games of the Olympiad are held. One reason the IOC cited
for making the change was to lessen the time and financial burdens on
the NOCs for preparing for the two Games in one year. In 1992, the Olympic
Winter Games (in Albertville, France) were held for the last time in the
same year as the Games of the Olympiad (held in Barcelona, Spain, that
year). The XVIIth Olympic Winter Games in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway,
marked the beginning of the separate, four-year cycle for the Winter Games.
What is the history of the Olympic torch?
A: The idea of lighting an Olympic flame for the duration of the Games
derives from the ancient Greeks, who used a flame lit by the sun’s
rays at Olympia. The concept was revived in 1928 in Amsterdam. The Olympic
Torch Relay has been a tradition since 1952, when it was adopted from
an idea proposed by a chairman of the 1936 Berlin Games. Symbolizing spirit,
knowledge and life, this event delivers the Olympic flame from Greece
to the host country.
What is an Olympic medal made of?
A: Olympic medals must be at least 60 millimeters in diameter and at least
three millimeters thick. Gold and silver medals must be made of 92.5 percent
pure silver; the gold medal must be gilded with at least six grams of
gold. The design of the medal is the responsibility of the host city's
How many times have the Olympic Games (winter or summer) been held in
the United States?
A: Including the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the United
States has served as the host country more than any other country -- a
total of eight times -- four times each for the winter and summer Olympic
Games. St. Louis, Mo., was the first U.S. city to host the modern Olympic
Games in 1904. In 1932, the U.S. hosted both the IIIrd Olympic Winter
Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Games of the Xth Olympiad in Los Angeles.
Squaw Valley, Calif., and Lake Placid were the host cities for the 1960
and 1980 Olympic Winter Games, respectively, while the 1984 Olympic Games
were held in Los Angeles, where a record-setting profit was realized,
and the 1996 Olympic Games were held in Atlanta. France and Germany are
the only other countries to have ever hosted two Olympic Games in one
year. After the USA, France has hosted the most Olympic Games -- five,
including the 1992 Olympic Winter Games. [Note: This trivia question was
written before 2002. Since that time, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games were
held in Salt Lake City, UT, bring the grand total to nine Games the United
States has hosted]