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1. Figure skating was initially part of the Summer Olympics.
Before the advent of the Winter Olympics in 1924, men’s, women’s and pairs figure skating events were part of the programs for the 1908 and 1920 Summer Olympics. Ice hockey also made its Olympic debut at the 1920 Summer Games.
2. Olympic champions last received solid gold medals in 1912.
Olympic runners-up can take some consolation in the fact that there isn’t much difference between their silver medals and the gold medals awarded to winners. Medals made with pure gold were last awarded in 1912, and winners today receive medals that are 93 percent silver and 6 percent copper, with just 6 grams of gold. (Champions in the first modern Olympics in 1896 received silver, not gold, medals. The traditional awarding of gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three finishers began in 1904.)
3. The Summer Games used to span months, starting in the spring and ending in the fall.
Think the 17 days scheduled for the 2012 Summer Games is too long? It’s nothing compared to the first Summer Olympics staged in London in 1908, which spanned 188 days, or more than half of the year. Although the formal opening ceremonies were not until July 13, the 1908 Games opened on April 27 with the racquets competition and ended October 31 with the field hockey final. The 1900 Paris Games spanned more than five months, and the 1904 St. Louis Games and the 1920 Antwerp Games also lasted nearly as long.
4. The first Olympian to fail a drug test was busted for drinking beer.
Olympic drug testing debuted in 1968, and Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was first to test positive for a banned substance. His drug? Two beers he said he downed to “calm his nerves” before the pistol shoot. The disqualified Liljenwall and his teammates were forced to return their bronze medals. (Fellow pentathlete Hans-Jurgen Todt could have used something to calm down as well. The West German attacked his horse after it balked three times at jumping obstacles.)
5. The 1936 basketball final was a literal quagmire.
When basketball officially debuted at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, games were played on outdoor tennis courts made of clay and sand. During the gold medal game between the United States and Canada, a second-half deluge turned the court into a muddy mess that would have stymied even the Dream Team. With dribbling in the mire an impossible task, the waterlogged Americans spent most of the half simply playing catch with the slippery ball to protect their lead. Final score: United States 19, Canada 8.
6. For nearly 40 years, artists also competed for gold medals.
French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founding father of the modern Olympic Games, sought to incorporate art and culture into the Olympic movement. So beginning with the 1912 Stockholm Games, gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music. Works entered in the juried competitions were required to be original pieces inspired by sports. In perhaps a not-so-strange coincidence, Coubertin himself won the first gold medal for literature. Following the 1948 London Games, artists were deemed to be professionals who violated the amateur ideals of the Olympics, and the present-day Cultural Olympiad replaced the medal competitions.
7. A gymnast with a wooden leg won six medals, including three gold, in the 1904 Olympics.
If South African runner Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee nicknamed the “Blade Runner,” wins the 400 meters this year, he won’t be the first man with prosthetic legs to capture Olympic gold. In the 1904 St. Louis Games, hometown boy George Eyser, who lost his left leg as a youth after it was run over by a train, won gold in the parallel bar, long horse and rope climbing events. He also won silver in the side horse and all-around competitions and bronze on the horizontal bar.
8. America’s first female Olympic champion had no idea she was even competing in the Summer Games.
While studying art under Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin in Paris in 1900, 22-year-old American Margaret Abbott saw an advertisement for a golf tournament and decided to enter. After shooting a 47 on the nine-hole course, she won the tourney and took home a porcelain bowl. Unbeknownst to Abbott, the tournament she had entered was part of the poorly organized Paris Games, and she had just become the first American woman to win an Olympic event.
9. The equestrian events at the 1956 Melbourne Games were held on the other side of the world.
While most of the athletes traveled down under for the 1956 Summer Games, the horses and riders in the equestrian events did not. Due to Australia’s strict quarantine rules, the equestrian competitions were moved to Stockholm, Sweden—nearly 9,700 miles away—and held five months before the rest of the XVI Olympiad.
10. When the Americans refused to dip their flag to King Edward VII in 1908, it started a tradition.
Upset that the U.S. flag was missing from those fluttering above the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremonies of the 1908 London Games, American flag bearer Ralph Rose refused to follow protocol and dip the Stars and Stripes as he passed the royal box. Although the story that Rose or fellow shot putter Martin Sheridan said, “This flag dips for no earthly king” is likely apocryphal, the snub set off a royal row. “From the very first day,” Coubertin wrote in his memoirs, “King Edward had taken exception to the American athletes because of their behavior and their barbaric shouts that resounded through the stadium.” American flag bearers dipped their banners to national leaders on several occasions after 1908, but it hasn’t happened since 1932—not even for U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Though television was not yet mainstream, and wouldn’t be for another 20 years, the 1936 Olympics were televised. The broadcast was limited to special viewing booths in Berlin and Potsdam. The broadcasts were handled by Telefunken and Fernseh who used RCA equipment to produce the broadcasts. The crew used three cameras, which resulted in some dark areas mid-broadcast. The cameras used shot 180 lines at 25 frames per second.
Telefunken employees operating a camera. Photo Credit.
In total, the two companies shot over 72 hours of live coverage of the Olympics. Not only was this the first Olympic games ever televised, it was also the first sporting event ever televised. The games were also heavily broadcasted via radio, with over 40 countries receiving transmissions from the games.
27 Things You Didn’t Know About the Olympics
As you sit down to watch the opening ceremonies with friends, TIME gives you a crib sheet of little-known Olympics facts-- from what's a Fosbury Flop to who the youngest Olympian ever is-- to score you the title of Smartest Person in the Room
American high jump champion Dick Fosbury clears the bar during practice, October 10, 1968 in Mexico.
1.) 2,400 The estimated number of soccer balls that will be used during the London 2012 Games
2.) 2,000+ Number of athletes who will compete in track and field, the largest sport at the Olympic Games
3.) Munich 1972 The year the 100-m hurdles were introduced
4.) Pumped up kicks Hurdles, at 2 ft., 9-in. (0.838 m) high, are designed to fall forward if an athlete hits one
5.) Oddest term for a maneuver The back-to-the-bar technique in the high jump is called the Fosbury Flop, in honor of 1968 gold medalist Dick Fosbury, who introduced it
6.) What’s in a heptathlon The sport has seven events—the 100-m hurdles, the 200-m dash, the 800-m run, high jump, javelin, long jump and shot put
7.) 210 The number of athletes will take part in the three women’s gymnastics disciplines: artistic, rhythmic and trampoline
8.) No more perfect-10s The top score was eliminated in 2006, replaced by open-ended scoring to reward more difficult, skills-packed gymnastic routines
9.) 1952 The first Games in which women were allowed to compete as individuals in gymnastics, so we can now name-check stars like Mary Lou Retton and Olga Korbut
10.) Keeping score In gymnastics, women compete on four apparatuses: beam, uneven bars, vault and floor. Men compete on six: floor, vault, parallel bars, rings, high bar and pommel horse
11.) High beams Perhaps the most precarious apparatus for female gymnasts, the women perform backflips on a beam the width of a typical house brick
12.) Second oddest sports terms A twisting double somersault is called a “fliffis,” while a triple is called a “triffis”
13.) Leap of faith Trampoline athletes reach heights of up to 33 feet (10 m) during their jumps
14.) Most pain tolerance Male Gymnast Shun Fujimoto competed in Montreal in 1976 despite having a broken kneecap his effort helped the Japanese team win gold
15.) Most decorated Olympian Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals from 1956 to ’64
16.) Top and tail There are two styles in Olympic wrestling—Greco-Roman, in which athletes are allowed to use only their upper bodies and arms, and freestyle, in which all parts of the body may be used
17.) 186 Number of consecutive wrestling matches won by Japan’s freestyle wrestler Osamu Watanabe in Tokyo 1964. He not only won gold he also ended his career undefeated
18.) 11 hours The length of the longest Olympic match in wrestling history, between two middleweight contenders, Russia’s Martin Klein and Finland’s Alfred Asikainen, grappling for a place in the finals at Stockholm 1912. (Klein won)
19.) Surprise ending Rowing is one of the only sports whose competitors, with their backs to the finish line, do not have the end of the race in sight
20.) Youngest Olympic champion A 12-year-old French boy who coxed for a Dutch pair at the 1900 Games is the youngest Olympic champion ever. Shortly after the victory ceremony, he disappeared, his identity unknown
21.) Third oddest sports term The term for what happens when a rower loses control of an oar and does not remove it from the water at the end of the stroke, thereby causing the oar to act as a brake, is called Catching a Crab
22.) Deep breathing Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond claims to have recorded one of the highest V02-max rates ever, 93%. We’ll never know how he would have done at the Olympics—the California-born cyclist missed his lone shot at a medal when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games
23.) Open water In the first modern Olympics, back in 1896, swimmers competed by diving off the side of a yacht and racing toward shore
24.) Smooth moves In weightlifting, the clean and jerk involves a lift of the bar to shoulder height, then above the head, whereas the snatch is one clean movement
25.) Lighten up If there is a tie in weightlifting, the body weight of the lifter is used to determine who wins, with victory going to the lighter athlete
26.) 581 lbs (263.5 kg) The heaviest Olympic lift ever, by Hossein Rezazadeh of Iran in 2004
27.) Many hats Harold Sakata won silver at London 1948 for weightlifting, but he was more famous for a different performance: playing Oddjob in the James Bond film Goldfinger
The Founder of the Modern Olympics Didn't Want Women to ParticipatePhoto : Dutch National Archives / WikiMedia Commons / CC BY SA 3.0
The man largely responsible for the existence of the modern Olympics was kind of a sexist. Well, maybe more than “kind of”: he thought the games should be reserved exclusively for men . French Baron Pierre de Coubertin was basically a sexist quote factory. Here’s his view on women’s sport in general: “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate.” Here he is in 1912 on what the Olympics should be all about: “the solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism with internationalism as a base, loyalty as a means, arts for its setting and female applause for its reward.”
24 facts about the Olympics that will blow your mind
Even if you don’t care much about sports, there’s something magical about the Olympics: Athletes train for years to give their all and deliver the performance of a lifetime – often within a few seconds. We cry happy tears for the winners, sympathize with the losers, yell at the TV, and high-five strangers. Every two years, we adjust to a different time zone, feel a little bit more patriotic, and get really good at recognizing flags and national anthems from around the world.
In order to get into the Olympic spirit and the emotions that come with it, we put some facts about the Olympics that will blow your mind – so you have something to delve into while waiting for the next athletic record to be broken (or for the pizza delivery to arrive).
1. The first Olympic Games took place in the 8th century B.C. in Olympia, Greece. They were held every four years for 12 centuries. Then, in the 4th century A.D., all pagan festivals were banned by Emperor Theodosius I and the Olympics were no more.
2. However, the athletic tradition was resurrected about 1500 years later: The first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Greece.
3. In ancient Greece, athletes didn’t worry about sponsorship, protection, or fashion – they competed naked.
4. Back then, the games lasted five or six months.
5. Women have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 1900.
6. From 1924-1992, the Winter and the Summer Olympics took place in the same year. Now, they’re on separate cycles and alternate every two years.
7. Only four athletes have won medals in both the Winter and the Summer Olympics. Only one of them, Christa Ludinger-Rothenburger, won medals in the same year.
8. During the 2012 London Games, the Olympic Village required 165,000 towels for a bit more than two weeks of activity.
9. The official languages of the games are English and French, complemented by the official language of the host country.
10. Tarzan competed in the Olympics: Johnny Weissmuller, an athlete-turned-actor who played Tarzan in 12 movies, won five gold medals in swimming in the 1920s.
11. From 1912-1948, artists participated in the Olympics: Painters, sculptors, architects, writers, and musicians competed for medals in their respective fields.
12. During the 1936 Berlin Games, two Japanese pole-vaulters tied for second place. Instead of competing again, they cut the silver and bronze medals in half and fused the two different halves together so that each of them had a half-silver and half-bronze medal.
13. The Olympic torch is lit the old-fashioned way in an ancient ceremony at the temple of Hera, in Greece: Actresses, wearing costumes of Greek priestesses, use a parabolic mirror and sun rays to kindle the torch.
14. From there, the torch starts its relay to the host city: It is usually carried by runners, but it has traveled on a boat, on an airplane (and the Concorde), on horseback, on the back of a camel, via radio signal, underwater, and in a canoe.
15. The unlit Olympic torch has also been taken to space several times.
16. The relay torch and the Olympic flame are supposed to burn during the whole event. In case the flame goes out, it can only be reignited with a backup flame, which has been lit in Greece as well, and with never a regular lighter!
17. The 2012 London Games were the first Olympics in which all participating countries sent female athletes.
18. The following sports are (sadly) not part of the Olympics anymore: solo synchronized swimming, tug of war, rope climbing, hot air ballooning, dueling pistol, tandem bicycle, swimming obstacle race, and plunge for distance. Luckily, live pigeon shooting was a one-shot and only part of the 1900 Olympics in Paris.
19. The five rings of the Olympic symbol – designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympic Games – represent the five inhabited continents of the world.
20. The six colors – blue, yellow, black, green, red, and the white background – were chosen because every nation’s flag contains at least one of them.
21. The Olympic Games have been hosted by 23 different countries.
22. The first official Olympic mascot was Waldi, the dachshund, at the 1972 Games in Munich.
23. The 2016 Games in Rio will mark the first time the Olympics are held in South America.
24. During the 17 days of the 2016 Summer Olympics, 10,500 athletes from 205 countries will represent 42 different sports and participate in 306 competitions in Rio.
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4. Massachusetts was the first state to recognize the Fourth of July.
Massachusetts recognized the Fourth of July as an official holiday on July 3, 1781, making it the first state to do so. Congress hadn’t even begun designating federal holidays until June 28, 1870 [PDF], with the first four being New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This decreed that those days were holidays for federal employees.
However, there was a distinction. The Fourth was a holiday "within the District of Columbia" only. It took years of new legislation to expand the holiday to all federal employees.
10 things you may not know about the Olympics
1. The Winter Olympics didn't exist until 1924, and originally they were held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, a few months apart. In 1994, the system was changed so that the Summer and Winter games take place two years apart.
2. As a result of the old schedule, it used to be possible to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year. Only one person ever managed it &ndash the German athlete Christa Luding-Rothenburger, who won gold for speed skating in Calgary and silver for track cycling in Seoul, both in 1988.
3. Ever seen a horse do a long jump? Believe it or not, the equestrian long jump used to be a thing, making its first &ndash and last &ndash appearance at the 1900 Games in Paris. The winning jump was just 6.10 metres, which pales in comparison to the human long-jump record of 8.95 metres.
4. The first person ever to win a gold medal at the Olympics was an American, James Connolly, who won the triple jump event in 1896. Connolly was a student at Harvard at the time, and withdrew from the college after they refused to let him take a leave of absence in order to compete in the Games. Years later, Harvard offered him an honorary doctorate, which he declined.
5. Actual duels have been fought over controversial scoring. At the 1924 Games in Paris, two separate duels were held to settle scoring disputes in the fencing competition. The reports from that year are a little vague, but supposedly one of the Games' judges was involved in the dueling.
6. The longest ever Olympics was held in London in 1908. It began in April and ran until October, clocking in at a mind-boggling 187 days, i.e. more than half a year.
7. The 1936 Olympics were held in Nazi Germany, which understandably sparked a little controversy, with several countries threatening boycotts. Spain actually did boycott the Games, and planned to host its own rival event in Barcelona called the People's Olympiad. It was all shaping up so well&hellip until the Spanish Civil War broke out the day before the event was due to start. 1936 &ndash not a great year for Europe.
8. Possibly the most adorable Olympic anecdote of all time came out of the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. The Australian rower Henry Pearce stopped his boat midway through the quarter-final, in order to let a family of ducks pass safely in front of him. He went on to win gold, which is probably proof that karma exists.
9. The first ever Paralympics were held in 1948, soon after the end of World War II, and all of the participants were disabled British veterans.
10. Back in the day, doves were released during the Olympic opening ceremony to symbolise peace, which sounds lovely. Unfortunately, the dove tradition came to a fairly grisly end at the 1988 Games in Seoul, where several unsuspecting doves perched on the rim of the Olympic cauldron&hellip just as it was being lit. The doves did not make it. So much for peace.
10 things you didn’t know about the 2016 Rio Olympics
Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the much-awaited Rio Olympics is here, and it is kicking off in full-swing. You’ve probably been following the performances of the 118 representatives from India who, with their dreams in their backpacks, have set forth to create history. The event, which began on Friday, the 5 th of August, is extra special because it witnesses a good 207 countries that are taking part in it, with teams from South Sudan and Kosovo taking part for the first time.
While we cheer on Dipa Karmakar as she qualifies for the Vault Finals and keep our fingers crossed for the rest of the Indian representatives, here are some facts about the Rio Olympics of 2016 which, unless you’re living and breathing sports, you may not be aware of.
- This is the first time that the Olympics are being held in South America. Beating Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid back in 2009 for hosting the games, Brazil has been working towards marking this fortnight to be a historic one from the very beginning. The event will be divided between four different zones – Barra, Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracana, each of which contain different competition venues. after a 112 years. The last time the Olympics witnessed international golfers swinging their sticks about on the course was way back in 1904 – even before even the outbreak of the First World War. However, about 16 of the world’s acclaimed top 100 players will be missing from the competition as they have stayed away from Rio in fear of catching the deadly Zika Virus. Some of these include – Australian Jason Day, American Dustin Johnson, American Jordan Spieth, Irish Rory Mcllroy and Australian Adam Scott, according to CBSSports .
- Despite much controversy, a Refugee Olympic Team will be competing in the games for the first time. The team will comprise of five middle-distance runners from South Sudan, two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a marathon-runner from Ethiopia. This is a progressive and historic move made by the Committee for the Summer Games this year.
- Even Rugby is making a comeback in the Summer Olympics after 92 years. The last time the world saw the players battling it out on the field was in the 1924 Olympics, where United States won the gold, crushing the host nation, France, with a score of 17-3. This year, the Games will witness an adapted version of Rugby incorporating its modern ‘seven’ forms to keep with the evolution of the game.
- Team Russia will not witness its full contingent performing at the Rio Olympics owing to some of its members being banned from the Games on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) suggestions. The decision followed the recent allegations of a state-run ‘doping programme’ that has been happening for years. The exclusion from the most-awaited event of the year has angered a majority of the Russians, who, in solidarity, held their own games for the banned athletes.
- The youngest athlete to compete this year, against the most internationally experienced and acclaimed players, is the thirteen-year old swimmer Gaurika Singh, who is representing Nepal in the women’s 100m backstroke.
- The ‘Superman’ of Japan, Kohei Uchimura, has declared that his dream is to become the first man since former Japanese Athlete Sawao Kato to become an all-rounder champion at the Olympics this year. Kato had achieved this in the 1972 Olympics. Since then, no male or female athlete has rivalled up, and the chances look fairly good for Uchimura, who has won six straight world all-around titles. No other gymnast has won over three, according to an article by Sports Illustrated.
- This time around, an extreme amount of resources have been spent on security and protection. According to a report by Asia One, about 85,000 soldiers and policemen have been deployed. This is the largest security force that has been recorded at any of the Olympic Games and is almost double the size of the force that was present at the London Olympics of 2012.
- Finally, for all those who whine about the fact that the games are over in the blink of an eye will be happy to note that these Summer Games will last longer. Some of the Paralympic Games like ‘goalball’, ‘sitting volleyball’ and ‘wheel-chair basketball’ will take place between 7 th September and 18 th
So what are your predictions for the Rio Olympics of 2016? Let us know in the comments below!
The leotards at Classics were just so sparkly (which I, of course, absolutely loved) and I'm expecting nothing less at Championships.
10. The air quality is getting better.
If you've only ever heard about Beijing's pollution on the news, you might be concerned about the air. However, the city has plenty of great air days, and the situation has improved a lot even in the last few years.
In fact, breathing Beijing's air for six average days is the equivalent of smoking just one cigarette: this is not bad for a large developing world city!
China Highlights willprovide particulate masks if you do happen to stumble upon a bad air day. We are also flexible to change your itinerary, allowing you to go to the Great Wall when pollution in the city is bad, and see the Forbidden City when the air is better, for instance. See What to Do on a Bad Air Quality Day in Beijing.
Discover Beijing at your own pace.