206 countries, 11000+ athletes, 33 sports and 339 events across 50 disciplines — the Olympic Games is rightfully dubbed as the Greatest Show on Earth. With the vision to unite all the nations and spread the message of peace through the medium of sports, Baron Pierre de Coubertin organized the first Modern Olympic Games in 1896 and ever since, it has transformed into the dream destination for professional athletes around the world who delve into a fortnight-long sporting extravaganza of respect, great camaraderie and competitive spirit. Over the course of its 124-year-old history, the modern Olympics has undergone a lot of transitions with the inception of new technology, inclusion of contemporary sports and increasing public engagement through an in-depth coverage of all the events. What makes the Games special are the remarkable examples that tell the story of how sports itself evolved through the times.

We bring to you some of the most noteworthy facts behind the Olympics and its influence in sporting history.

·       The Summer Olympics of 1900 held in Paris was the 2nd edition of the Modern Games and it witnessed a major revolution — the participation of women. The insurgence of industrialization in Europe and the early suffrage movement of women promoted their entry into new domains. 22 female athletes competed at the 1900 Olympics, attributing to 2.2% of all the competitors. In addition to tennis, golf and sailing, women also competed in traditional games like croquet and equestrian. However, in the early years of the modern Olympics, women’s participation remained limited to ‘aristocratic’ sports only. In the subsequent games, gradually other sporting disciplines opened up for female participation. The 2016 Rio Games saw a whopping 45% share of women athletes. The London 2012 Olympic Games came to be known as the Women’s Games, because it was the first summer Olympics that displayed a genuine correspondence between athletes of both sexes. Women were not prohibited from a single sport and for the first time in Olympic history, each nation sent a female contender.

·       Shooting has long been the focus of the Olympic Games, and the sport was first published in the 1896 edition. While participants usually fired at disc-shaped targets called clay pigeons, the games of 1900 were played with traditional targets- real pigeons. The live birds were held and released while the shooters aimed at the mobile targets. More than 300 birds are reported to have died as a result of the incident. Although there was no PETA at the time to protest against the usage of animals, Olympic officials have since then decided not to use living targets. The 1908 London Games used cardboard cutouts of deers as the target for shooting.

·       Cricket was once a part of the Olympics! Played across two days between Great Britain and France, it remains the only cricket match played in the Olympics so far. It was a game that fielded 24 cricketers in all, instead of the conventional 22, and neither side had players who represented their own countries. Only 366 runs were scored across four innings with Great Britain winning the sole encounter by 158 runs. However, it does not hold the status of a first-class match as it was not an 11-a-side encounter and that it was scheduled for just two days. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

·       You must have seen Olympians biting their medals during the awards ceremony but ever wondered why they do that? Well, this dates back to centuries past, when traders verified that a coin was indeed made of precious metal and was not a lead counterfeit by biting it. A lead coin will leave teeth marks, but a gold coin will not. The tradition of awarding medals to the top 3 finishers was initiated in the 1904 St. Louis games. Previously, in the 1896 and 1900 Olympics, the winners received valuable pieces of art as the award. The three-tiered victory stand was used for the first time in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

·       Did you know that the Art competition was a formal event in the Olympics? It was the International Olympic Committee originator Pierre de Coubertin’s incredible dream to wed the aesthetics with the athletic—in this manner, each Olympics in the range of 1912 and 1948 granted gold, silver, and bronze medals to the champions. There were five classes of individual rivalry: Architecture, model, painting, writing, and music. Fine arts were needed by legitimate Olympic principles to “shoulder a distinct relationship to the Olympic idea.” Musical arrangements, for instance, which “celebrated a wearing ideal, an athletic rivalry or a competitor, or which were proposed for introductions regarding brandishing celebrations” could be entered for survey and assessment by a worldwide jury. Different inquisitive particulars incorporate a 20,000-word limit on writing sections (a class separated into sensational works, expressive works, and epic verse) and a one-hour time slot for the introduction of every melodic work. The Art rivalry likewise ended up turning into a battling ground of German propaganda. At the initial service of 1936 Olympic craftsmanship rivalry, Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels reminded his crowd that each work entered in the opposition was needed to have been made inside the most recent four years. This limitation, he pronounced, ” enables us to derive from the Exhibition an estimate of international conditions.”  The point by point portrayals in the Official Report of the eleventh Olympic Games not just give an amazing impression of this charmingly unconventional Olympic-workmanship marvel, yet in addition a chilling depiction of Germany during the development of the Third Reich. With an apparent Home-field advantage, it extraordinarily worked in support of Germany that year. The worldwide jury comprised 29 German adjudicators and 12 from other European nations. What little proof exists proposes that not many other host countries so liberally populated their worldwide juries with their own nationals, with one vital special case: In 1932, the United States remembered 24 American adjudicators for a board of 30—to a correspondingly successful impact.

·        Olympic ceremonies are incomplete without the athletes parading with national flags. This tradition was first introduced during the opening ceremony of the 1908 London Olympics. Greece leads the march past in all the Olympics as a custom, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order in the language of the hosting country. The team of the hosting nation is the last one to march.

·   Photo-finish equipment was first used in close finish track events in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics while the first Olympic games to be televised was the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which also saw the inception of spiked sports shoes for track-and-field athletes.

·   The 1956 Melbourne Olympics was the first one to be held in the southern hemisphere.

·       Results were stored for the first time on a computer with punch cards in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Live Transmission and Worldwide Television coverage was done for the first time in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

·       The Olympic fire is constantly lit. It has been around the world, on concord, winding white-water and even in space and is essentially weatherproof. It can withstand outrageous temperatures and thundering breezes of up to 50 mph and some way or another has not yet gone out during its extensive transfers far and wide.

·       Abebe Bikila won the Marathon race at the Rome Olympic Games in 1960. Incredibly he did it without the advantage of footwear. Running shoeless for the careful 26-mile run, Bikila turned into the principal African in history to win a Gold Medal.

·      Tarzan contended in the Olympics: Johnny Weissmuller, a sports person-turned-entertainer who played Tarzan in 12 motion pictures, won five gold awards in swimming during the 1920s.

·       At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, two Japanese post vaulters Shuhei Nashida and his companion Sueo Oe were set for a sudden death round to choose who took silver and who took bronze. The pair chose to repudiate the tie-break situation and broadly cut the two awards down the middle. They at that point combined the bronze with the silver to make two new ‘friendship medals’.

The list will go on and on as there are a multitude of inspirational sporting stories and quirky traditions that the Olympics have given us over the years – making it one of the world’s most prestigious, exciting and eventful sporting events in history. With the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo getting postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we eagerly wait for the Greatest Show on Earth to bring about more outstanding moments and record-breaking performances from the sporting maestros.

Fact check and source: olympic.org, olympicschannel.com, champions-speakers.co.uk