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The Modern Olympic Games

Introduction

THE SPORTS PHENOMENON OF MODERN TIMES The Olympic Games have become the biggest sporting event of our time. Athletes from the entire world take part. Their achievements are watched from both near and far by hundreds of millions of spectators. The five rings on the Olympic flag represent the international nature of the Games [see sheets

“The Olympic Symbols”].

THE SUMMER GAMES AND THE WINTER GAMES The Olympic Games include the Games of the Olympiad (i.e. the Summer Games) and the Olympic Winter Games. The word Olympiad designates the four-year period that separates each edition of the Summer Games. Although the Summer and Winter Games originally took place in the same year, since 1992 they have been held alternately every two years. The Summer Games and the Winter Games continue to be organised once every four years. In the Summer Games, athletes compete in a wide variety of competitions on the track, on the road, on grass, in the water, on the water, in the open air and indoors. The Winter Games feature sports practised on snow and ice, both indoors and outdoors.

A SPORTING EVENT UNLIKE ANY OTHER What makes the Olympic Games different from other sporting events? The Games take place every four years. They are the world’s largest sporting event, in terms of the number of sports on the programme, the number of athletes present, and the number of different countries reunited in a single geographical area.

The Olympic Games are set in the wider context of the Olympic Movement. The purpose of the Olympic Movement is to:

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    link sport with culture and education

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    promote the practice of sport and the joy found in exertion

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    help to build a better world through sport practised in a spirit of fair play and friendship.

HISTORY It was Pierre de Coubertin of France who dreamt up this ambitious project [see sheets “Pierre de Coubertin and the revival of the Games”]. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Olympic Games, Coubertin decided to create the modern Olympic Games, and founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894 in Paris. This new committee set itself the objective of organising the first Olympic Games of modern times. The date of the first Games, 1896, marked the beginning of an extraordinary adventure that has now lasted for over a century!

© Olympic Museum and Studies Centre, Lausanne, 2002

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