Olympic games

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Olympic flag with the five rings; first used at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp

Olympic Games (from ancient Greek τὰ Ὀλύμπια ta Olýmpia "the Olympic Games", modern Greek ολυμπιακοί αγώνες olymbiakí agónes "Olympic competitions") is the collective name for regularly held sporting events, the "Olympic Games" and "Olympic Winter Games". Here athletes and teams compete against each other in different sports. They are organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The period between the games is known as the " Olympiad " (from ολυμπιάδα ).

The introduction of the modern Olympic Games was decided in 1894 as the re-establishment of the ancient festival in Olympia at the suggestion of Pierre de Coubertin . As a “meeting of the youth of the world”, they should serve for comparison in sport and international understanding; they replace the Olympics that have been taking place since 1856 . The Olympic Games have been held every four years since 1896 and the Winter Olympic Games since 1924 . Since 1994, winter and summer games have alternated every two years. The 32nd Summer Olympics in Tokyo are an exception . These should have taken place in 2020, but were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic .

The IOC also sponsors the Paralympics as competitions for disabled athletes , the Deaflympics , Special Olympics and the World Games for non-Olympic sports. In addition, the Youth Olympic Games have existed since 2010 and are intended for young people between the ages of 14 and 18.

The Olympic Games have grown steadily, so that now almost every country in the world is represented by athletes. In addition to the soccer world championships , they are currently considered the largest sporting event in the world.

Ancient Olympic Games

The origin of the Olympic Games in antiquity is believed to be in the 2nd millennium BC. The winners lists go back to 776 BC. BC and were in the 4th century BC. Reconstructed. The Olympiad count was a measure of time throughout ancient Greece . “Olympiad” is thus - contrary to a common misconception today - not synonymous with “Olympic Games”, but rather describes the period of four years that begins with the Games. The Olympic Games, named after Olympia in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula , were part of a cycle that included three more Panhellenic Games : the Pythian Games in Delphi , the Nemean Games in Nemea and the Isthmic Games on the Isthmus of Corinth .

In the beginning there was only one race over the distance of the stadium (192.24 meters). The games became more and more important over time. However, they were not a “sporting event” in our current sense, but a religious festival in honor of Zeus, the father of gods, and the divine hero Pelops . In its heyday, the games lasted five days - the first day was determined by ritual ceremonies such as ordinations and the entry of the athletes, supervisors, referees and spectators into the sacred grove of Olympia. In addition to the competitions - most recently there were 18 in the sports of athletics , heavy athletics , pentathlon and riding - artistic competitions were just as important. The focus was not on sport as such, but on the religious component.

The actual games began with everyone moving to the Temple of Zeus . Here the athletes swore to abide by the rules of the games. The winners received a victory wreath made from olive branches and a headband. They were seen as "favored by the gods" and immortalized with poems and statues. Every defeat, even a second or third place, was considered an inevitable disgrace. The losers returned home by secret routes to avoid the ridicule that awaited them. The most famous Olympian of antiquity is the wrestler Milon von Kroton , the first known by name is Koroibos .

The ancient games were extraordinarily brutal from today's perspective, every participant in the classic martial arts (boxing, wrestling, stick fencing, pankration ) had to expect death and some fighters were declared victorious for their perseverance after their death was determined in the fight .

When the Romans in 148 BC When Greece conquered, the Olympic Games lost their Panhellenic character. From now on, non-Greek athletes were also allowed to take part.

In 393 all pagan ceremonies, including the Olympic Games, were banned by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. The cult activity in Olympia was maintained until the beginning of the 5th century AD. It was not until Theodosius II finally banned the Olympic Games in 426. However, there are indications that the competitions subsequently continued secretly and at a lower level until natural disasters destroyed the place of worship in the 6th century.

The modern Olympics


The Olympic idea was not entirely lost. In the west of England, for example, the Cotswold Olympick Games took place for the first time at the beginning of the 17th century . Another attempt to revive the Olympic Games was the Olympiades de la République , which were held annually in revolutionary France from 1796 to 1798 . The use of the metric system in sports goes back to this event . In 1850 the agricultural reading society of Much Wenlock in the English county of Shropshire introduced an "Olympic class". Ten years later, the Wenlock Olympian Games developed from this and are continued to this day under the name Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games . In 1866, William Penny Brookes , chairman of the Wenlock Olympian Society, organized National Olympic Games at London's Crystal Palace .

The Greek interest in the reintroduction of the Olympic Games awakened after the Greek Revolution against the rule of the Ottoman Empire . The poet and publisher Panagiotis Soutsos made the first suggestion in his poem "Dialogue of the Dead", published in 1833. The Olympics , which in turn were modeled on the Munich Oktoberfest, are considered the most important forerunners of the modern Olympic Games . They were brought into being by the wealthy Greek merchant Evangelos Zappas and, through a royal decree from Otto I, were viewed as a national task of high standing, which also received international attention. The first edition took place in the center of Athens in 1859 . Zappas had the Panathinaiko stadium repaired, which was the venue for other Olympics until 1889.

Revival of the games

After the sports and temple facilities at Olympia had been rediscovered in 1766 , large-scale archaeological excavations began in 1875 under the direction of the German archaeologist and ancient historian Ernst Curtius . Around this time in Europe the romantic-idealistic reception of antiquity became more and more fashionable; the desire for a revival of the Olympic spirit spread. Baron Pierre de Coubertin said at the time: “Germany had excavated what was left of the old Olympia. Why shouldn't France restore the old glory? ” In de Coubertin's opinion, the insufficient physical training of the soldiers was one of the main causes of France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. He strove to improve this situation by introducing mandatory physical education in schools. At the same time he wanted to overcome national egoisms and contribute to peace and international understanding. The "youth of the world" should compete in sporting competitions and not fight each other on the battlefield. The revival of the Olympics seemed, in his view, the best solution to achieve these goals.

1896 marathon in Athens

The Wenlock Olympian Games, which de Coubertin attended in 1890, reinforced his view that a reintroduction of the Olympic Games on a large scale was possible. He took up Brookes and Zappas' ideas and himself added the principle of rotation between different host countries. De Coubertin presented his ideas to an international audience at a congress that took place at the Sorbonne University in Paris from June 16 to 23, 1894 and went down in history as the first Olympic congress . On the last day of the congress, the participants decided that the first modern Olympic Games should take place in Athens in 1896, in the country of origin. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established to organize the Games . The first President was the Greek Dimitrios Vikelas , while de Coubertin initially served as Secretary General.

The first games of the modern era proved to be a great success. Although only around 250 athletes participated, they were a major sporting event. The Greek officials were so enthusiastic about the success that they proposed that the games always take place in Greece in the future. But the IOC stuck to the principle of rotation between different countries.

After the initial success, the Olympic movement fell into crisis. The games of 1900 in Paris and 1904 in St. Louis were embedded in the parallel world exhibitions . The competitions dragged on for several months, were poorly organized and received little attention, and only a few foreigners took part in St. Louis. At the Olympic Intermediate Games in Athens in 1906 , the focus was again on sporting competitions. The IOC reluctantly agreed to the event, but never officially recognized the results. Some sports historians see these games as the salvation of the Olympic idea, as they prevented it from sinking into insignificance.

Further development

Speed ​​skating in
St. Moritz in 1928

The winter sport of figure skating was on the program of the summer games in 1908 and 1920, ice hockey in 1920. The IOC wanted to expand this list to include other winter activities. At the 1921 Olympic Congress in Lausanne , it was decided that the organizers of the 1924 Summer Games should also organize an "international winter sports week" under the auspices of the IOC. This “week” (actually it was eleven days) in Chamonix turned out to be a great success, which is why the IOC decided in 1925 to retrospectively recognize it as the 1st Winter Olympic Games and to organize further events of this kind in the same year as the Summer Games.

In 1986 the IOC decided to open a separate cycle starting in 1994 and to hold the Winter Games “in the second calendar year following that in which the Olympics are held”.

Wheelchair tennis doubles at the
Beijing Paralympics 2008

Ludwig Guttmann strove to promote the rehabilitation of physically handicapped soldiers of the Second World War and thus to integrate them into society. In 1948 he organized a multi-sport competition between different hospitals. The Stoke Mandeville Games grew into an annual sporting event. Guttmann and others intensified their public relations work until the first Paralympics took place in 1960 . Since then, these have been held every four years (since 1976 also in winter). Since 1988 the venues for the Paralympics and the Olympic Games have been identical. Also recognized by the IOC are the Special Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities that have been held since 1968 , the Deaflympics for the deaf introduced in 1924 and the World Games for non-Olympic sports that have been taking place since 1981 and are widely used worldwide.

The Youth Olympic Games for young athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 go back to an idea by IOC President Jacques Rogge . In 2007 the decision was made to introduce it, in 2010 the Summer Youth Olympic Games were held for the first time in Singapore , and the Winter Youth Olympic Games were held for the first time in Innsbruck in 2012 .

Olympic art competitions were also held from 1912 to 1948 . In 1924, 1932 and 1936, the Prix ​​olympique d'alpinisme was also awarded a prize for outstanding performance in mountaineering .


Around 250 athletes from 14 countries took part in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Over the years, the number of participants has increased steadily. For example, over 11,000 athletes from 204 countries took part in 302 competitions at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing . In comparison, the number of participants in the Winter Games is significantly lower; at the Winter Games 2006 in Turin , slightly more than 2,500 athletes from 80 countries were registered and competed in 84 competitions.

The number of member countries of the IOC is 205 (see list in article National Olympic Committee ). It is higher than that of the countries recognized by the United Nations (currently 193). That means there are 13 other IOC members. The reason for this is that nations are allowed that do not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty, as is required by most other international organizations. As a result, several colonies or dependent territories have their own delegations that participate separately from their mother countries.


Olympic movement

Thomas Bach , the incumbent IOC President

A large number of national and international sports organizations and associations, recognized media partners as well as athletes, coaches, referees and any other person or organization that has committed to complying with the Olympic Charter make up the so-called Olympic Movement. Its umbrella organization is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) based in Lausanne , which has been chaired by Thomas Bach since 2013 . The IOC holds the patronage of the Olympic movement and claims all rights to the Olympic symbols as well as the games themselves. Its main responsibility lies in the support and co-organization of the Olympic Games and the Paralympics, the selection of the venues and sports as well as the marketing of the broadcasting rights.

The Olympic Movement has three main components:

  • International sports federations such as B. FIFA , FIS or UCI are responsible for compliance with the rules in their respective sports.
  • National Olympic Committees represent the IOC in the individual member countries and select the athletes who take part in the Games.
  • Organizing committees for the Olympic Games plan and monitor the organization of the events in the individual Olympic cities. They only exist for a few years and will be dissolved at the end of the event as soon as the official final report is available.

English and French are the official languages ​​of the Olympic movement. In addition, the official language of the respective host country is used for each event. Every proclamation is made in these three languages ​​or in the two main languages ​​if the official language of a country is English or French.

Spiritual assistance travels with the delegations of some nations. For the German team these were clergymen Hans-Gerd Schütt and Thomas Weber in 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Sydney and 2012 in London .


Overview of the locations of the Summer Olympic Games (green: countries with one staging, blue: countries with two or more staging)
Overview of the venues for the Olympic Winter Games (see legend above)

The host city of the Olympic Games is determined seven years in advance of the event. The selection process consists of two phases that stretch over two years. A city first applies to the NOK in its country. If more than one city in the same country submits a candidacy, the NOK carries out an internal selection, as only one city per country can be presented to the IOC. The first phase begins after the proposal deadline has expired. The city organizing committees will be asked to complete a detailed questionnaire on various key criteria related to the organization of the Olympic Games. Candidate cities must provide assurance that they will comply with the Olympic Charter and other regulations established by the IOC Executive Committee. A specialized committee uses the questionnaires to examine the projects of all applicants and their potential to host the games. Based on this evaluation, the IOC Executive Committee will determine those applicants who will advance to the second application phase.

In the second application phase, the cities have to submit a more extensive and detailed project presentation to the IOC. Each city is analyzed in detail by the evaluation commission. The commissioners visit the candidate cities where they interview representatives of local authorities and inspect the locations of the proposed sports facilities. One month before the IOC's final decision, the commission publishes a report with its assessments. During the second phase, cities will also have to provide financial guarantees. Once the evaluation report is available, the IOC Executive Committee will compile the final list of candidates. The games are awarded at the general assembly of IOC members; these meet in a city that is not in a country with a candidacy. The venue is finally determined in a secret ballot. After the election, the successful organizing committee (together with the NOK of the respective country) signs a contract (Host City Contract) with the IOC.

Symbols and ceremonies


Olympic flag

The Olympic movement uses several symbols which are protected worldwide (in Germany by the Olympic Protection Act) and which are defined by the Olympic Charter . The best known is the Olympic flag with the five differently colored, entwined rings on a white field. The six colors white, red, blue, green, yellow and black were chosen because the flag of every country in the world has at least one of these colors. Furthermore, the number of rings stands for the five continents (classic counting method). The flag was designed in 1914 and has been hoisted in Antwerp since the 1920 Summer Games .

The official motto of the Olympic movement is citius, altius, fortius ( Latin for "faster, higher, stronger"). De Coubertin's ideals are best reflected in the Olympic credo : “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not victory, but participation, just as the most important thing in life is not victory but the pursuit of a goal. The most important thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well. "

Ceremony to ignite the Olympic torch in Olympia (2010)

A few months before the Games, the Olympic torch is lit at a historic site in Olympia in a ceremony based on ancient rituals . An actress disguised as a priestess lights the torch using a parabolic mirror and hands it over to the first runner in the subsequent relay race. This run leads from Olympia to the main stadium of the respective host city, where the flame burns for the duration of the event. An Olympic flame was lit for the first time at the 1928 Summer Games in Amsterdam . At that time, however, there was no torch relay before the opening ceremony, nor was the fire lit by a specific person. According to an idea by Carl Diem , the first torch relay took place before the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin , and the first torch relay for the Winter Games in 1952 in Oslo .

Handing over one's own Olympic flag to the next host of the Games has been customary in Paris since 1924 and is an integral part of the Olympic Games. First of all, the so-called Antwerp flag was handed over to the host of the current games during the closing ceremony. At the first games after the Second World War , in London in 1948 , an officer of the Scottish Guard first presented the flag to the then President Edström , who passed it on to the Mayor of London. This ceremony was postponed to the opening ceremony in 1960. When the then Soviet Union refused to take part in the 1984 Games, the mayor of Los Angeles received the Antwerp flag from the then IOC President Samaranch . At the closing ceremony, the flag was presented to the delegation from Seoul . Due to the increasing use of the historical flag, a new flag was commissioned in Seoul and has been passed on since then.

Since the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, there has been an official Olympic mascot for promotional purposes , usually a native species of the host region, and more rarely a human figure who represents the cultural heritage.

Opening ceremony

The highlight of an opening ceremony is always the lighting of the Olympic flame, here Paavo Nurmi in 1952 in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki

The opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games incorporate a number of traditional elements set out in the Olympic Charter. The celebration usually begins with the raising of the flag and the playing of the national anthem of the host country. This is followed by various artistic performances (music, singing, dance, theater) that represent the culture of the host country. Their size and complexity have grown steadily over the years, as each host country strives to surpass previous celebrations and leave a lasting impression. The 2008 Summer Games opening ceremony in Beijing cost over $ 100 million.

The participating athletes then begin to march into the stadium, one athlete each walking a few steps ahead of the rest of his team, wearing the flag of his country. Since 1928, the Greek team has always been the first to march into the stadium to remember the ancient tradition. This is followed by the other participating nations in alphabetical order of the main language of the host country. If the language of the host country does not have a set alphabet, the invasion will proceed according to the English or French language. In Beijing in 2008, the number of strokes in the Chinese character was decisive for the country name. The team from the host country concludes the invasion.

When all athletes have arrived, the chairman of the organizing committee gives a short speech. This is followed by the President of the IOC, who at the end of his speech introduces the head of state of the host country. This in turn formally opens the games. Next, the Olympic anthem is played while the Olympic flag is carried into the stadium (since 1960). Afterwards, the flag bearers from all participating countries will gather around a podium. On this, an athlete (since 1920) and a referee (since 1972) take the Olympic oath , with which they promise compliance with the rules.

Finally, the penultimate runner of the relay race carries the Olympic torch into the stadium and hands it over to the last runner. This, often a well-known and successful athlete in the host country, then lights the fire in a large bowl with a torch. From 1920, doves of peace were also released; However, this point in the program was canceled after some pigeons were burned in the Olympic flame in Seoul in 1988 .

Medal ceremonies

Medal ceremony in men's boxing, Rio 2016 summer games

Athletes (or teams) who rank first, second or third in an Olympic competition will receive medals as an award. At the award ceremony, the athletes stand on a podium and the national anthem of the Siegerland is played.

The winner receives a gold medal. These are silver medals with a gold coating; the IOC stipulates that the medal must consist of at least 92.5% silver and contain six grams of gold. The second placed receives a medal made of at least 92.5% silver , the third placed one made of bronze . In some competitions that are played in the knockout system (for example boxing ), bronze medals are awarded to both semi-final losers.

In 1896 and 1900, only the two best were awarded medals (silver for the first and bronze for the second). In 1904 the winner received a gold medal for the first time, the other medal colors were moved down one place. Since 1948 the athletes in places 4 to 6 have received Olympic diplomas (since 1976 also the three medal winners). The seventh and eighth place finishers have also received diplomas since 1984. This was not only intended to honor all participants in a quarter-finals, it also eliminated the need to fight for positions 5 to 8 in competitions with a knockout system.

Closing ceremony

Closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing

The closing ceremony takes place when all sporting competitions are over. Since 1956, the closing ceremonies have been far less formal and structured than the opening ceremonies. Again the athletes march into the stadium, this time not sorted by country, but rather mixed. This symbolizes the solidarity of the athletes after the end of the competition. The IOC President gives a speech emphasizing the success of the Games. Then he hands over the Olympic medals to members of the organizing committee and declares the games over; at the same time he calls on "the youth of the world" to meet again in four years. Traditionally, three flags are hoisted, those of Greece, the current and the next host country. In addition, since 1984 in Los Angeles, the mayor of the next Olympic city has been presented with the Olympic flag. Finally the Olympic anthem is played and the Olympic flame is extinguished. Then the host of the next Olympic Games introduces himself with a short cultural presentation. At the end of the 20th century it became common practice that this is followed by a rock and pop concert, but this is no longer an official part.


Olympic Sports

The current program of the Olympic Games comprises a total of 35 sports, 28 of them in summer and seven in winter. With this IOC counting method, the sports are grouped according to sports associations. If these are divided up as usual, there are 41 summer sports and 15 winter sports (see Olympic sports ). Athletics , swimming , fencing and gymnastics were part of the program for all summer games . Competitions in Nordic skiing , speed skating , figure skating and ice hockey were held at all winter games , the latter two also being held at summer games before 1924. Until 1992, competitions in so-called demonstration sports were often held . The intention was to introduce these sports to a larger audience. The winners of these competitions are not considered to be official Olympic champions . Some sports were only popular in the host country, while others are practiced worldwide. Some of these demonstration sports like curling and taekwondo were eventually included in the official program.

Olympic sports are regulated by international sports associations, which the IOC recognizes as global supervisory authorities. 35 sports associations are currently represented in the IOC. In addition, due to its worldwide distribution and compliance with certain standards, the IOC recognizes various sports associations that are not represented in the official competition program with competitions (see list of international associations recognized by the IOC ). As part of a program revision on the occasion of an IOC session, such sports can be included in the official program or even excluded with a two-thirds majority of IOC members.

In 2004 the IOC formed a commission (Olympic Program Commission) , which was charged with the assessment of the Olympic program and all non-Olympic sports of the recognized associations. The aim was to define a systematic procedure for planning the program of future Olympic Games. The commission established seven criteria by which a sport to be included is measured: history and tradition of the sport, prevalence, popularity, health of the athletes, development of the responsible sports association and cost of hosting. This procedure was first used in 2005 when the IOC Executive Committee recommended five sports at the Singapore session . Squash and karate were shortlisted, but did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority to be included in the official program. Four years later, the sports of golf and rugby seven , which have been part of the program since 2016, were successful at the 2009 Olympic Congress in Copenhagen .

At its session in Mexico City in 2002, the IOC decided to limit the Summer Olympics program to 28 sports, 301 competitions and 10,500 athletes. The first major program revision was carried out in Singapore three years later. The decision was made to remove baseball and softball from the 2012 Summer Games program. Since the IOC members could not agree on the inclusion of two other sports as substitutes, only 26 sports were on the program in 2012. With the addition of golf and rugby, there have been 28 again since 2016. From 2020, competitions in skateboarding will also be held.

Amateur status and professional sport

Pierre de Coubertin was significantly influenced by the ethos of the aristocracy , which was exemplified in English private schools. In her opinion, exercise was an important part of education; an attitude that is expressed in the phrase mens sana in corpore sano (Latin: "a healthy mind in a healthy body"). According to this ethos, a gentleman is someone who is good at many things, but not the best in a certain area. The concept of fairness was also prevalent, equating practicing or training with cheating. Professional athletes thus had the reputation of gaining an unfair advantage over amateurs .

Professional NHL ice hockey players have been approved since 1998 (pictured: Russia – Czech Republic final)

The exclusion of professionals from participating in the Olympic Games resulted in repeated controversies and high-profile conflicts about the exclusion or admission of athletes. For example, Jim Thorpe , the 1912 Olympic champion in pentathlon and decathlon , was disqualified after it became known that he had previously played semi-professional baseball; it was not until 1983 that the IOC rehabilitated him. Skiers from Switzerland and Austria stayed away from the 1936 Winter Games to show their solidarity with the ski instructors, who were not allowed to participate as professional athletes according to the instructions of the IOC. IOC President Avery Brundage expelled Austrian skier Karl Schranz shortly before the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo for violating amateur status. When Schranz returned to Vienna , tens of thousands of people gave him a heroic welcome.

The aristocratic amateur rules were more and more overtaken by the development of sport and were increasingly viewed as hypocrisy. In particular, athletes from communist-ruled countries were actually state employees (" state amateurs ") who were effectively given the opportunity to fully devote themselves to the sport and were therefore amateurs only in name. Furthermore, athletes in western countries had the opportunity to concentrate exclusively on training as sports soldiers . Even athletes from financially secure social classes were able to devote themselves to competition preparation without professional activity. Nevertheless, the IOC stuck to its amateur status for a long time.

From the late 1970s, the amateur rules were relaxed and finally repealed entirely in the 1990s. The most visible sign of this change of heart was the approval of the “ Dream Team ”, which was made up entirely of well-paid NBA stars and won the basketball gold medal in 1992 . From 2004 to 2016 boxing was the only sport in which no professionals were allowed, although even here amateur status was related to the rules of fighting and not to payment. Professional boxers have also been allowed to compete since 2016. In the men's soccer tournament (but not in that of the women), the number of players over the age of 23 is limited to three per team.

Economical meaning

The IOC originally opposed funding from sponsors . It was only after the resignation of Avery Brundage , who was considered to be very principled, in 1972 that the IOC began to explore the potential of the medium of television and the lucrative advertising market associated with it. Under the presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch , the IOC increasingly adapted to the needs of international sponsors who wanted to advertise their products with the Olympic names and trademarks.

The marketing of the Olympic trademarks is controversial. The main criticism is that the Olympic Games can no longer be distinguished from other commercialized sports spectacles. The IOC has been criticized for having saturated the market, particularly during the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games, and for flooding the host cities with companies and retailers trying to sell their Olympic products. The IOC promised to counteract over-marketing in the future. Another criticism addresses the fact that the Olympic Games are funded by the host cities and the governments of the respective states. The IOC does not cover the costs, but controls all rights, benefits from the Olympic symbols and claims a share of all sponsorship and media income. Cities continue to compete for the right to host the Olympic Games even though they are not certain that their costs will be covered. Above all, the global charisma is important to them.


In the first half of the 20th century, the IOC had only a small budget. Avery Brundage rejected any attempts to combine the Olympic Games with commercial interests. He believed that corporate interests would have an unacceptable impact on the decisions of the IOC. Brundage's rejection of this source of income meant that the organizing committees of individual games negotiated sponsorship deals themselves. When he resigned in 1972, the IOC had assets of $ 2 million . Eight years later, that number had grown to $ 45 million as the IOC took a far more liberal stance on sponsorship and the sale of broadcast rights . When Juan Antonio Samaranch took office in 1980, he was determined to make the IOC financially independent.

The 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles marked a turning point. The LAOOC Organizing Committee, headed by Peter Ueberroth , succeeded in generating a previously unimaginable surplus of USD 225 million through the sale of exclusive marketing rights. The IOC sought to secure this sponsorship income for itself. In 1985 Samaranch created the exclusive sponsorship program The Olympic Program (TOP). The participants in TOP receive worldwide marketing rights for their product category and can use the Olympic symbols in their advertising.


Walter Bruch behind the "Olympic Cannon" (1936)

For the host cities and countries, the Olympic Games offer a prestigious opportunity to present themselves to the world and to promote themselves. The Summer Games in Berlin in 1936 were the first that the television has been transferred, the range on the television station Paul Nipkow was however low. The 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo were the first to reach an international audience, and in 1960 television stations paid for the broadcasting rights for the first time. In the decades that followed, the Olympic Games became an ideological front in the Cold War . Due to the competition of the political systems at the sporting level, media interest increased, from which the IOC in turn benefited. The sale of broadcasting rights enabled him to make the Olympic Games better known and thereby generate even more interest. This, in turn, was attractive to companies buying advertising time on television. This cycle enabled the IOC to charge higher and higher fees for these rights.

From the 1960s to the end of the century, the audience grew exponentially. For the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City , an estimated 600 million television viewers are expected. By 1984 in Los Angeles this number rose to 900 million, in 1992 in Barcelona it was already 3.5 billion. At the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney , however , NBC had its lowest audience ratings since 1968. This was due to two factors: on the one hand, greater competition from cable channels, and on the other hand, the Internet, which was able to deliver images and results in real time. American television broadcasters in particular still rely on time-shifted transmissions, a concept that is rapidly becoming obsolete in the information age. In view of the high cost of broadcasting rights and competition from new media, the television lobby was demanding licenses. The IOC responded with various changes to the competition program. For example, the popular swimming and gymnastics competitions were spread over several days. Finally, in individual cases, the American television lobby was also able to dictate what time certain competitions took place so that they could be shown live during prime time in the USA.

Political importance

Contrary to Pierre de Coubertin's hopes, the Olympic Games did not prevent wars from breaking out. In fact, several events could not be held: the 1916 summer games were canceled because of the First World War , the summer and winter games of 1940 and 1944 because of the Second World War .

Jesse Owens on top of the podium after his victory in the long jump in Berlin in 1936

The National Socialists successfully used the 1936 Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin as a propaganda forum to improve Germany's image abroad and to pretend goodwill and readiness for peace. The supposed superiority of the " Aryan race" was also supposed to be demonstrated, but this did not succeed in view of the success of Jesse Owens . Anti-Semitic slogans were temporarily removed and the propaganda sheet Der Stürmer was not allowed to be displayed in public in kiosks for the duration of the games.

The Soviet Union did not take part in the Olympic Games until 1952. On the other hand, from 1928 she organized Spartakiads . During the interwar period, Workers' Olympics were held several times . These events were alternatives to the Olympics, which were considered capitalist and aristocratic. Several recently independent (mostly socialist) states organized counter-events in the 1960s that were never recognized by the IOC. They were called GANEFO ( Games of the New Emerging Forces ) and took place in Jakarta in 1963 and in Phnom Penh in 1966 . The Chinese Cultural Revolution prevented the third event in 1969.

Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City , the Tlatelolco massacre occurred when between 300 and 500 students were killed in the brutal crackdown on student protests. A comparatively smaller political incident occurred at these games when the two US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in black gloves during the award ceremony of the 200-meter run. It was the symbol of the Black Power movement , which was directed against discrimination against the African American population in the USA . The IOC gave the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) the choice of either sending the two athletes home or withdrawing the entire athletics team. The USOC chose the former.

Memorial plaque in Fürstenfeldbruck

During the 1972 Summer Games in Munich , the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September captured eleven members of the Israeli team, two of whom were murdered by the terrorists. An unsuccessful rescue operation at the Fürstenfeldbruck airfield resulted in the deaths of all hostages as well as five terrorists and one police officer. The hostage-taking in Munich was remembered worldwide as the “Munich massacre”. IOC President Avery Brundage advocated the continuation of the games, his saying “The games must go on” has become famous . The tragic event was filmed several times, for example by Kevin Macdonald ( One Day in September , 1999) and Steven Spielberg ( Munich , 2005).

The Soviet Union tried to sabotage the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles . She sent threatening letters to the National Olympic Committees of eleven Asian and African nations, allegedly from the Ku Klux Klan , threatening the athletes, especially the dark-skinned, with shooting and lynching. However, it was quickly proven that the letters were forged.

A bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Games . Two people died and 111 were injured. The bomb was planted by Eric Rudolph , who is close to the racist Christian Identity movement . After almost seven years of escaping, he was arrested in 2003. Initially, security guard Richard Jewell was accused and condemned in an unprecedented media campaign.

The Caucasus War between Georgia and Russia broke out on the opening day of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing . In the women's air pistol shooting, the Russian Natalja Paderina won the silver and the Georgian Nino Salukwadze the bronze medal. Both women embraced and kissed demonstratively on the winner's podium and thus set a much-noticed sign against the war.


The buzzword Olympia boycott refers to the decision of individual countries or groups of countries not to take part in the Olympic Games. The modern Olympic Games were boycotted several times by one or more states, mostly for political reasons.

The first attempt at an Olympic boycott was made in the run-up to the Games of 1896. Under the motto "Participation in the Olympics is treason of the country", nationalist circles tried to prevent German participation in the Olympics, but this failed. Influenced ideologically by the Franco-German enmity , they were bothered by the person of Pierre de Coubertin and by the idea of ​​international sporting events, which was still unfamiliar at the time. When the National Socialists came to power, there were efforts in various countries to boycott the 1936 Olympic Games. The discussion was most intense in the USA, where in the end the American sports federation AAU decided to participate with a majority of only three votes. Participation would hardly have been possible without the signature of the sports association, as only the association could confirm the athlete's amateur status. The Netherlands , Spain and Switzerland boycotted the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne in protest against the Soviet Union's suppression of the Hungarian popular uprising . Because of the Suez crisis in the same year, Egypt , Iraq , Cambodia and Lebanon also stayed away from this event.

In 1972 and 1976 a large number of African states threatened a boycott if the IOC refused to exclude South Africa and Rhodesia from the Games. The IOC gave in in both cases to take a stand against racial discrimination. In 1976, the Africans also called for New Zealand to be excluded from the Games. The New Zealand national rugby union team had played in South Africa, breaking the ban on sports against the apartheid regime . However, because rugby union was not an Olympic sport at the time, the IOC rejected the exclusion of all New Zealand athletes. 28 African states then withdrew their teams from Montreal (some athletes had already been in action). Only Iraq and Guyana showed solidarity with the Africans. Under pressure from the People's Republic of China , the Canadian government informed the Republic of China team that they could not compete under that name. The Taiwanese compromise proposal was rejected and the Republic of China declined to participate. It has only been participating again under the name Chinese Taipei since 1984 , with a flag specially designed by the IOC for this purpose.

Map of the Olympic Boycotts 1976, 1980 and 1984

In 1980 and 1984, the Cold War superpowers boycotted each other's games in their opponent's country. The US refused to take part in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow ; Reason was the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan a year earlier. With the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada , Norway and Turkey , four of the 15 allied NATO countries followed the call of the Americans, as did 37 other NOKs, mainly from Third World and Islamic countries. In contrast, the majority of western countries such as Great Britain , Italy , France , Spain or Austria decided against a boycott and in favor of a differentiated form of protest, for example not taking part in the opening or closing event or using the Olympic flag instead of its national flag. Another 24 NOK refused to participate for financial or sporting reasons or left the invitation unanswered, so that in the end 66 countries stayed away from the Games in Moscow.

The Soviet Union, in turn, did not take part in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games . She justified this with alleged lack of security on the part of her athletes in the face of the hostile atmosphere and anti-Soviet hysteria in the United States. In fact, after the South Korean passenger plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Force on September 1, 1983, anti-communist groups increased their actions, which finally culminated in the union of the “Ban the Soviets” coalition. In addition, a resolution against “Soviet aggression” was unanimously approved in the California Congress and the California Senate , which aimed, among other things, at excluding the Soviet athletes from the upcoming Olympic Games. Despite further confrontations, the Soviet Olympic attaché was denied accreditation for alleged KGB membership, two US presidents guaranteed that all athletes accepted by the IOC could enter the country unhindered. In the end, the Soviet leadership maintained its course, which, however, was anything but undisputed among the allies. Romania, as an Eastern Bloc country, assured the IOC that it would participate, and the GDR tried to circumvent the Soviet decision until the end, but finally bowed in order not to strain the tense relations with Moscow any further. In the end, 19 NOKs joined the boycott initiated by Iran in 1982 . In 1984 the boycotting states held the Friendship Contests as a counter-event.

After the third major boycott of the Olympic Games, the IOC passed a resolution in an extraordinary meeting at the beginning of December 1984, in which it was described as a "fundamental duty of a National Olympic Committee" to ensure the participation of athletes in its country in the Olympic Games. A proposal submitted by Greece as early as 1976 to hold the Olympic Games permanently on neutral territory on Greece's territory in order to prevent future political interference was rejected. Nevertheless, it could not be prevented that North Korea boycotted the upcoming Summer Games in 1988 in the South Korean capital Seoul , because the country had not been considered as a co-host, contrary to earlier promises. Negotiations about the staging of individual competitions in North Korea had dragged on for three years and ultimately failed without any results. Ethiopia , Cuba and Nicaragua also stayed away out of solidarity with North Korea. Before the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, there were calls for boycotts in various countries because of the People's Republic of China's violent Tibet policy and the repression of human rights there , but ultimately without result.

Exclusions from States

Cases of fraud


The steady growth and increasing international importance of the Olympic Games also led to numerous international problems. In the past, the IOC has come under increasing pressure. It has been criticized as an immobile, inflexible, commercial and opaque organization. The presidencies of Avery Brundage and Juan Antonio Samaranch were particularly controversial . Brundage had to put up with the criticism that he was racist and anti-Semitic. Under Samaranch, the IOC was considered autocratic and corrupt. His close ties to the Franco regime and his long tenure of 21 years (he only resigned at the age of 81) gave cause for criticism. Another cause for criticism was the fact that numerous IOC members were very old and some remained in office until their death.

In 1998 it became known that several IOC members had been bribed to vote for the city of Salt Lake City in choosing the location of the 2002 Winter Games . The IOC conducted an investigation that resulted in four members resigning and six others expelled. Coming to terms with the scandal brought about reforms. Among other things, the selection process has been changed to avoid further bribery. The IOC appointed numerous active and former athletes as members and limited terms of office.

In August 2004, the British broadcaster BBC aired a documentary called Buying the Games . He investigated allegations of corruption in connection with the allocation of the 2012 Summer Games and demonstrated that it is still possible to bribe IOC members so that they choose a particular city.


Marathon runner Thomas Hicks in St. Louis (1904)

One of the main problems with the Olympic Games (and in sport in general) is the illicit enhancement of performance through doping . At the beginning of the 20th century, numerous athletes began to use drugs; so the use of cocaine was widespread. Thomas Hicks , winner of the 1904 Summer Games marathon , received brandy fortified with strychnine from his trainer during the race . As athletes and supervisors resorted to increasingly extreme means, those responsible gradually realized that these methods were no longer compatible with the ideal of “health through sport”. The first (and so far only known) death caused by doping at the Olympic Games occurred in Rome in 1960 when the Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen fell off his bike and later died. An autopsy revealed that he had been doped with amphetamines .

Not least because of this incident, several sports associations began doping tests in the mid-1960s , and the IOC followed suit in 1967. The first athlete to test positive for prohibited substances was the Swede Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall in 1968 , who had to return his bronze medal in the modern pentathlon because of the consumption of alcohol . Dozens of athletes have since been convicted, including several medalists. The Canadian Ben Johnson caused the greatest scandal : he had become an Olympic champion in the 100-meter run with a new world record in 1988 , but then tested positive for stanozolol . Despite the tests, many athletes used doping without ever being convicted. Documents uncovered in 1990 showed that numerous athletes from the GDR had been specifically doped with anabolic steroids and other drugs by their supervisors at the direction of the government .

In the late 1990s, the IOC began to better organize the fight against doping; the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) started its work in 1999. The stricter controls by WADA from 2000 onwards led to significantly more athletes being caught, especially in weightlifting and cross-country skiing . The standards set by the IOC in the fight against doping now serve as a model for other sports associations around the world and are also used in anti-doping laws in various countries.

After the 2014 Winter Olympics , journalists in Russia exposed a system of state doping. WADA then commissioned the independent investigator Richard McLaren to prepare an investigation report. The McLaren Report was published on July 18, 2016 and confirmed Russian state doping. WADA then recommended the collective exclusion of Russia from the 2016 Olympic Games . Nevertheless, the IOC granted permission to start 271 of the 389 Russian athletes, only in athletics and weightlifting no Russian athletes were allowed to compete. The Russian whistleblower Julija Igorewna Stepanowa , on the other hand, was not allowed to start because, according to the IOC, she did not meet the ethical requirements of an Olympic athlete. The decision of the IOC to exclude Russian athletes who had already been banned for doping in the past from the games was overturned by the International Court of Justice (CAS). The Russian swimmer Julija Jefimowa , who had already been banned twice for doping, was then the target of international protest after she had won the silver medal in the 100 m chest. During the Games, several swimmers accused each other of doping.

Olympic champion and medalist

Medals from the 1988 Winter Games

The Olympic Games offer previously lesser-known athletes the opportunity to rise to nationally and internationally recognized athletes. Because the Olympic Games are only held every four years, they enjoy greater prestige among spectators and athletes than world championships, which often take place every year or every two years. Many athletes became celebrities in their respective countries after an Olympic victory, some even worldwide. A comparison of the performance of athletes in different sports and at different times is of limited informative value. However, based on the number of gold medals, the following athletes can be considered the most successful (the 1906 Intermediate Olympic Games are not included):

athlete country sport Period gold silver bronze Total
Michael Phelps United StatesUnited States United States swim 2004-2016 23 3 2 28
Larissa Latynina Soviet UnionSoviet Union Soviet Union Apparatus gymnastics 1956-1964 09 5 4th 18th
Paavo Nurmi FinlandFinland Finland athletics 1920-1928 09 3 - 12
Mark Spitz United StatesUnited States United States swim 1968-1972 09 1 1 11
Carl Lewis United StatesUnited States United States athletics 1984-1996 09 1 - 10
Marit Bjørgen NorwayNorway Norway Cross-country skiing 2002-2018 08th 4th 3 15th
Ole Einar Bjørndalen NorwayNorway Norway biathlon 1998-2014 08th 4th 1 13
Bjørn Dæhlie NorwayNorway Norway Cross-country skiing 1992-1998 08th 4th - 12
Birgit Fischer GermanyGermany Germany Canoeing 1980-2004 08th 4th - 12
Sawao Kato JapanJapan Japan Apparatus gymnastics 1968-1976 08th 3 1 12
Jenny Thompson United StatesUnited States United States swim 1992-2004 08th 3 1 12
Matt Biondi United StatesUnited States United States swim 1984-1992 08th 2 1 11
Most successful medal winners in German-speaking countries
  • The most successful German athlete is Birgit Fischer , who won eight gold and four silver medals in canoeing from 1980 to 2004 .
  • The most successful Austrian is Felix Gottwald with three gold medals, one silver medal and three bronze medals from 2002 to 2010 in Nordic combined .
  • Georges Miez won most of the medals for Switzerland (4 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze in apparatus gymnastics from 1924 to 1936).
  • Hanni Wenzel is the most successful athlete from Liechtenstein (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze in alpine skiing at the 1976 and 1980 games).
  • Josy Barthel is the most successful athlete from Luxembourg (1 gold in athletics in 1952 in Helsinki).

See also

Portal: Olympic Games  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of Olympic Games


  • Helmut Altenberger, Herbert Haag , Martin Holzweg: Olympic Idea - Olympic Movement - Olympic Games. 2nd, revised edition. Hofmann, Schorndorf 2006, ISBN 978-3-7780-3102-5 .
  • Horst Callies : About the Olympics, the Olympic Games and ancient politics. In: Gerhard Hecker (ed.): Sports pedagogy. Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-425-05129-6 , p. 5 ff.
  • Fabian Clemens (Ed.): The Chronicle of the Olympic Games. Chronik Verlag, Gütersloh, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-577-14632-X .
  • Wolfgang Decker et al. (Ed.): 100 years of the Olympic Games. The modern Greek origin. (= Catalog for the special exhibition of the same name at the German Sport University Cologne). Ergon, Würzburg 1996, ISBN 3-928034-99-5 .
  • Natalie Eziger: Sustainability of Olympic Sports Buildings. Analysis of the feasibility and measurability of sustainability aspects at Olympic Games venues. (= Research results from building physics. Volume 5). Fraunhofer-Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-8396-0168-6 .
  • Horst Hilpert : The Olympic Games of antiquity and modernity in a legal comparison. Dike, Stuttgart et al. 2014, ISBN 978-3-03751-643-0 .
  • Bernd Jordan, Alexander Lenz, Joachim Schweer: The Olympic Games 1896–1996. Athletes, records, backgrounds from 100 years. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg, ISBN 3-499-19448-1 .
  • Frank Kutschke (Ed.): Economy of the Olympic Games. (= Sports Economics. Volume 7). Hofmann, Schorndorf 2006, ISBN 978-3-7780-8367-3 .
  • Holger Kühner (Ed.): The Olympic book. Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld 2004, ISBN 3-7688-1545-5 .
  • Uwe Mosebach: Sports history. From the beginnings to modern times. Meyer & Meyer Verlag, Aachen 2017, ISBN 978-3-8403-7535-4 , pp. 33-46, 270 ff.
  • Ulrike Prokop : Sociology of the Olympic Games. Sport and Capitalism. Carl Hanser, Munich 1971, ISBN 3-446-11503-X .
  • Heinz Schöbel : Olympia and its games. Sportverlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-328-00866-7 .
  • Michael Steinbrecher : Olympic Games and Television. Programmers in the network of Olympic dependencies? UVK, Konstanz 2009, ISBN 978-3-86764-136-4 .
  • Stephan Wassong (Ed.): International influences on the reintroduction of the Olympic Games by Pierre de Coubertin. (= Series of publications by the German Pierre de Coubertin Committee. Volume 1). Agon, Kassel 2005, ISBN 978-3-89784-999-0 .
  • David C. Young: The Modern Olympics - A Struggle for Revival. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1996, ISBN 0-8018-5374-5 (English).
  • Klaus Zeyringer : Olympic Games. A cultural history from 1896 until today. Volume 1: Summer. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2016, ISBN 978-3-10-002248-6 .
  • Klaus Zeyringer: Olympic Games. A cultural history from 1896 until today. Volume 2: Winter. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2018, ISBN 978-3-10-002249-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Olympic Games  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Commons : Olympic Games  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

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This version was added to the list of excellent articles on July 23, 2005 .