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© Olympic Museum and Studies Centre, Lausanne, 2002 - page 5 / 16





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The Modern Olympic Games

The development of the Games

BETWEEN FESTIVAL AND TRADITION A party atmosphere is a feature of the Olympic Games. Each Olympic Games has an opening ceremony during which the sports stadium is filled with music, singing, dancing and fire- works. A closing ceremony in the same spirit takes place on the last day of the Games. The opening and closing ceremonies are an invitation to discover the culture of the country hosting the Games. Although most of the ceremony is creative and imaginative, there are some very strict rituals that have to be followed:

OPENING OF THE GAMES the entry of the athletes into the stadium with their delegations (in alphabetical order except for Greece which goes first, and the host country which brings up the rear) the declaration of the opening of the Games by the Head of State of the host country the entry of the Olympic flag into the stadium the Olympic anthem the release of doves (a symbol of peace) the oath sworn by an athlete and an official from the host country (respect for the rules) the entrance of the flame and lighting of the caul- dron (reference to the Ancient Games)


  • handing over of the Olympic flag to the next Olympic host city (continuity of the Games)

  • gathering of the athletes in the stadium (friendship)

  • the extinguishing of the flame

  • the declaration of the closing of the Games by the IOC President

[see sheets “The Olympic Symbols” and “The Olympic flame and torch relay”].

These rituals are part of what makes the Olympic Games special.


Most of this protocol had been established by the time of 1920 Games in Antwerp (Belgium). It has been added to as the Games have evolved.

SPORT, ART AND CULTURE In Ancient Greece, art and sport were seen as perfect partners. The ideal was to achieve harmony by exercising both the body and the mind.

Pierre de Coubertin adopted this ideal for the modern Olympic Games and proposed including art and culture in the programme of the Games.

On his initiative, architecture, sculpture, painting, literature and music competitions were part of the Olympic Games from 1912 to 1948.

These days the competitions have been replaced with arts festivals that are completely separate from the sports competitions. Plays, concerts, ballets and exhibitions are held in the athletes’ village and in the Olympic city.

Whether through sport, art or culture, everyone can be part of the great festival of the Olympic Games in their own way.

© Olympic Museum and Studies Centre, Lausanne, 2002

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