Thursday, August 5, 2004

The 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.

Q: What is the significance of the five interlocking rings in the Olympic symbol?

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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 organizing committee.

Q: 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]

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