Olympic and Paralympic Games

runners starting a race

What do you know about the history and symbols of the Olympic Games? Read the article to find out about this globally renowned sports event.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

Preparation

With over 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries competing in more than 30 different sports, the Summer Olympic Games are the world's biggest multisport event. They usually take place every four years, in a leap year. The Paralympic Games are the biggest international event for athletes with disabilities. They take place just after the Olympic Games, in the same host city.

Why are they called the Olympic Games?

The name comes from Olympia, a sacred place in Ancient Greece, where the first Ancient Olympic Games took place. The Games were a very important event for the Ancient Greeks and they took place every four years, from 776 BCE to at least 393 CE. The Games were very different from the ones we know now! They were essentially a religious festival, the athletes were mainly soldiers, and women were not allowed to compete. Married women were not even allowed to attend! Sports included boxing, wrestling and chariot racing. Athletes competed completely naked, and occasionally even died during combat sport competitions.

When did the Modern Olympic Games start?

From Ancient Greece, we fast forward to the 1896 Olympics in Athens, which marked the beginning of a new era of the Games. The 1896 Olympic Games saw 280 athletes from 12 countries competing in 43 events, including the first marathon competition. By the time the Paris Olympics took place in 1924, there were around 3,000 athletes, including more than 100 women, from more than 44 different countries. This was also the year that the first Winter Olympics were held. The Paralympic Games first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960, with 400 athletes from 23 countries.

The Olympic rings

The 'Olympic rings' are a globally known symbol of the Olympic movement and were introduced in 1913. The colours of the five linked rings are, from left to right, blue, yellow, black, green and red, and they appear on a white background. They represent the union of five continents and the meeting of athletes from around the world.

The Olympic torch relay

The Olympic torch relay provides continuity between the Ancient and the Modern Olympic Games and symbolises peace and friendship. The flame is lit in Olympia several months before the Olympic Games. It is carried by one person after another as it travels around different places in Greece, before being taken to the country that is hosting the event that year.

Paris 2024

The 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics are taking place in France. Most of the events are happening in Paris, but other towns and cities are hosting events such as football, sailing and equestrian competitions. The Paris Olympic Games will include 28 'core' sports, plus four 'optional' sports: skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and breaking (breakdance). The Paralympics feature 22 different sports, with para athletics as the largest sport. Around 15 million international visitors are expected in Paris for the Olympic Games! Billions more people will watch the event live on television, making it the world's most-watched multisport event. 

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