Summer Olympic Games
The Summer Olympic Games or the Games of the Olympiad, first held in 1896, is a major international multi-sport event normally held once every four years. The most recent Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The International Olympic Committee organises the Games and oversees the host city's preparations. In each Olympic event, gold medals are awarded for first place, silver medals are awarded for second place, and bronze medals are awarded for third place; this tradition began in 1904. The Winter Olympic Games were created out of the success of the Summer Olympics.
The Olympics have increased in scope from a 42 competition event programme with fewer than 250 male competitors from 14 nations in 1896, to 306 events with 11,238 competitors from 206 nations in 2016.
The Summer Olympics has been hosted on five continents by a total of nineteen countries. The Games have been held four times in the United States, three times in Great Britain, twice each in Greece, France, Germany, and Australia, and once each in Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Soviet Union, South Korea, Spain, China, and Brazil.
The IOC has selected Tokyo, Japan, for a second time, to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The 2024 Summer Olympics will be held in Paris, France, for a third time, exactly one hundred years after the city's last Summer Olympics in 1924. The IOC has also selected Los Angeles, California, to host its third Summer Games in 2028.
Only five countries have participated in every Summer Olympic Games – Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece, and Switzerland. The United States leads the all-time medal table for the Summer Olympics.
HostingThe United States has hosted the Summer Olympic Games four times: the 1904 Games was held in St. Louis, Missouri; the 1932 and 1984 Games were both held in Los Angeles, California, and the 1996 Games were held in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2028 Games in Los Angeles will mark the fifth occasion on which the Summer Games have been hosted by the U.S.
In 2012, the United Kingdom hosted its third Summer Olympic Games in the capital city, London, which became the first city ever to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games three times. The cities of Los Angeles, Paris, and Athens have each hosted two Summer Olympic Games. In 2024, France will host its third Summer Olympic Games in its capital, making Paris the second city ever to have hosted three Summer Olympics. In 2028, Los Angeles will become the third city ever to have hosted the Games three times.
Australia, France, Germany and Greece have all hosted the Summer Olympic Games twice. The IOC has selected Tokyo, Japan, to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, when it will become the first city outside the Western world to have hosted the Summer Olympics more than once, having already hosted the Games in 1964. The other countries that have hosted the Summer Olympics are Belgium, Brazil, China, Canada, Finland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Soviet Union, and Sweden; each of these countries has hosted the Summer Games on just one occasion.
Asia has hosted the Summer Olympics three times, in Tokyo, Japan, Seoul, South Korea, and Beijing, China ; Asia will host the Games for the fourth time. Tokyo was for the second time slated to be the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Olympics have been postponed to twelve months from the original scheduled date. Historically, the Summer Olympics has been held predominantly in English-speaking countries and European nations. Tokyo will be the first city outside these regions to have hosted the Summer Olympics twice; it will also be the largest city ever to have hosted the Games, having grown considerably since 1964.
The 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were the inaugural Summer Olympics to be held in South America and the first that was held completely during the local "winter" season. The only two countries in the Southern Hemisphere to have hosted the Summer Olympics have been Australia and Brazil. Africa has yet to host a Summer Olympics.
Stockholm, Sweden, has hosted events at two Summer Olympics, having been sole host of the 1912 Games, and hosting the equestrian events at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Amsterdam, Netherlands, has also hosted events at two Summer Olympic Games, having been sole host of the 1928 Games and previously hosting two of the sailing races at the 1920 Summer Olympics. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Hong Kong provided the venues for the equestrian events, which took place in Sha Tin and Kwu Tung.
Early yearsThe modern Olympic Games were founded in 1894 when Pierre de Coubertin sought to promote international understanding through sporting competition. He based his Olympics on the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games, which had been contested in Much Wenlock since 1850. The first edition of de Coubertin's games, held in Athens in 1896, attracted just 245 competitors, of whom more than 200 were Greek, and only 14 countries were represented. Nevertheless, no international events of this magnitude had been organised before. Female athletes were not allowed to compete, though one woman, Stamata Revithi, ran the marathon course on her own, saying "If the committee doesn't let me compete I will go after them regardless".
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in Athens, Greece, from 6 to 15 April 1896. It was the first Olympic Games held in the Modern era. About 100,000 people attended for the opening of the games. The athletes came from 14 nations, with most coming from Greece. Although Greece had the most athletes, the U.S. finished with the most champions. 11 Americans placed first in their events vs. the 10 from Greece. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, consequently Athens was perceived to be an appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games. It was unanimously chosen as the host city during a congress organised by Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, in Paris, on 23 June 1894. The IOC was also established during this congress.
Despite many obstacles and setbacks, the 1896 Olympics were regarded as a great success. The Games had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date. Panathinaiko Stadium, the first big stadium in the modern world, overflowed with the largest crowd ever to watch a sporting event. The highlight for the Greeks was the marathon victory by their compatriot Spiridon Louis, a water carrier. He won in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds, setting off wild celebrations at the stadium. The most successful competitor was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann, who won four gold medals.
Greek officials and the public were enthusiastic about the experience of hosting an Olympic Games. This feeling was shared by many of the athletes, who even demanded that Athens be the permanent Olympic host city. The IOC intended for subsequent Games to be rotated to various host cities around the world. The second Olympics was held in Paris.
Four years later the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris attracted more than four times as many athletes, including 20 women, who were allowed to officially compete for the first time, in croquet, golf, sailing, and tennis. The Games were integrated with the Paris World's Fair and lasted over 5 months. It is still disputed which events exactly were Olympic, since few or maybe even none of the events were advertised as such at the time.
during the 1904 Summer Olympics
Tensions caused by the Russo–Japanese War and the difficulty of getting to St. Louis may have contributed to the fact that very few top-ranked athletes from outside the US and Canada took part in the 1904 Games.
A series of smaller games were held in Athens in 1906. The IOC does not currently recognise these games as being official Olympic Games, although many historians do. The 1906 Athens games were the first of an alternating series of games to be held in Athens, but the series failed to materialise. The games were more successful than the 1900 and 1904 games, with over 900 athletes competing, and contributed positively to the success of future games.
The 1908 London Games saw numbers rise again, as well as the first running of the marathon over its now-standard distance of 42.195 km. The first Olympic Marathon in 1896 was raced at a distance of 40 km. The new marathon distance was chosen to ensure that the race finished in front of the box occupied by the British royal family. Thus the marathon had been for the first games in 1896, but was subsequently varied by up to due to local conditions such as street and stadium layout. At the six Olympic games between 1900 and 1920, the marathon was raced over six distances. The Games saw Great Britain winning 146 medals, 99 more than second-placed Americans, its best result to this day.
At the end of the 1908 marathon, the Italian runner Dorando Pietri was first to enter the stadium, but he was clearly in distress and collapsed of exhaustion before he could complete the event. He was helped over the finish line by concerned race officials, but later he was disqualified, and the gold medal was awarded to John Hayes, who had trailed him by around 30 seconds.
The Games continued to grow, attracting 2,504 competitors, to Stockholm in 1912, including the great all-rounder Jim Thorpe, who won both the decathlon and pentathlon. Thorpe had previously played a few games of baseball for a fee, and saw his medals stripped for this 'breach' of amateurism after complaints from Avery Brundage. They were reinstated in 1983, 30 years after his death. The Games at Stockholm were the first to fulfil Pierre de Coubertin's original idea. For the first time since the Games started in 1896 were all five inhabited continents represented with athletes competing in the same stadium.
The scheduled 1916 Summer Olympics were cancelled following the onset of World War I.
Interwar eraThe 1920 Antwerp games in war-ravaged Belgium were a subdued affair, but again drew a record number of competitors. This record only stood until 1924, when the Paris Games involved 3,000 competitors, the greatest of whom was Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi. The "Flying Finn" won three team gold medals and the individual 1,500 and 5,000 meter runs, the latter two on the same day.
The 1928 Amsterdam games was notable for being the first games which allowed females to compete at track & field athletics, and benefited greatly from the general prosperity of the times alongside the first appearance of sponsorship of the games, from the Coca-Cola Company. The 1928 games saw the introduction of a standard medal design with the IOC choosing Giuseppe Cassioli's depiction of Greek goddess Nike and a winner being carried by a crowd of people. This design was used up until 1972.
The 1932 Los Angeles games were affected by the Great Depression, which contributed to the low number of competitors.
The 1936 Berlin Games were seen by the German government as a golden opportunity to promote their ideology. The ruling Nazi Party commissioned film-maker Leni Riefenstahl to film the games. The result, Olympia, was widely considered to be a masterpiece, despite Hitler's theories of Aryan racial superiority being repeatedly shown up by "non-Aryan" athletes. In particular, African-American sprinter and long jumper Jesse Owens won four gold medals. The 1936 Berlin Games also saw the introduction of the Torch Relay.
Due to World War II, the Games of 1940 were cancelled. The Games of 1944 were due to be held in London but were also cancelled; instead, London hosted the first games after the end of the war, in 1948.
After World War IIThe first post-war Games were held in 1948 in London, with both Germany and Japan excluded. Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen won four gold medals on the track, emulating Owens' achievement in Berlin.
At the 1952 Games in Helsinki the USSR team competed for the first time and immediately became one of the dominant teams. Soviet immediate success might be explained by the advent of the state-sponsored "full-time amateur athlete". The USSR entered teams of athletes who were all nominally students, soldiers, or working in a profession, but many of whom were in reality paid by the state to train on a full-time basis, hence violating amateur rules. Finland made a legend of an amiable Czechoslovak army lieutenant named Emil Zátopek, who was intent on improving on his single gold and silver medals from 1948. Having first won both the 10,000 and 5,000-meter races, he also entered the marathon, despite having never previously raced at that distance. Pacing himself by chatting with the other leaders, Zátopek led from about halfway, slowly dropping the remaining contenders to win by two and a half minutes, and completed a trio of wins.
The 1956 Melbourne Games were largely successful, barring a water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union, which the Soviet invasion of Hungary caused to end as a pitched battle between the teams. Due to a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain at the time and the strict quarantine laws of Australia, the equestrian events were held in Stockholm.
At the 1960 Rome Games a young light-heavyweight boxer named Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, arrived on the scene. Ali would later throw his gold medal away in disgust after being refused service in a whites-only restaurant in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky. He was awarded a new medal 36 years later at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Other performers of note in 1960 included Wilma Rudolph, a gold medallist in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4 × 100 meters relay events.
The 1964 Games held in Tokyo are notable for heralding the modern age of telecommunications. These games were the first to be broadcast worldwide on television, enabled by the recent advent of communication satellites. The 1964 Games were thus a turning point in the global visibility and popularity of the Olympics. Judo debuted as an official sport, and Dutch judoka Anton Geesink created quite a stir when he won the final of the open weight division, defeating Akio Kaminaga in front of his home crowd.
Performances at the 1968 Mexico City games were affected by the altitude of the host city. The 1968 Games also introduced the now-universal Fosbury flop, a technique which won American high jumper Dick Fosbury the gold medal. In the medal award ceremony for the men's 200 meter race, black American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos took a stand for civil rights by raising their black-gloved fists and wearing black socks in lieu of shoes. They were banned by the IOC. Věra Čáslavská, in protest to the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and the controversial decision by the judges on the Balance Beam and Floor, turned her head down and away from the Soviet flag whilst the anthem played during the medal ceremony. She returned home as a heroine of the Czechoslovak people but was made an outcast by the Soviet-dominated government.
Politics again intervened at Munich in 1972, with lethal consequences. A Palestinian terrorist group named Black September invaded the Olympic village and broke into the apartment of the Israeli delegation. They killed two Israelis and held 9 others as hostages. The terrorists demanded that Israel release numerous prisoners. When the Israeli government refused their demand, a tense stand-off ensued while negotiations continued. Eventually, the captors, still holding their hostages, were offered safe passage and taken to an airport, where they were ambushed by German security forces. In the firefight that followed, 15 people, including the nine Israeli athletes and five of the terrorists, were killed. After much debate, it was decided that the Games would continue, but proceedings were obviously dominated by these events. Some memorable athletic achievements did occur during these Games, notably the winning of a then-record seven gold medals by United States swimmer Mark Spitz, Lasse Virén 's back-to-back gold in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, and the winning of three gold medals by Soviet gymnastic star Olga Korbut - who achieved a historic backflip off the high bar. Korbut, however, failed to win the all-around, losing to her teammate Ludmilla Tourischeva.
There was no such tragedy in Montreal in 1976, but bad planning and fraud led to the Games' cost far exceeding the budget. The Montreal Games were the most expensive in Olympic history, until the 2014 Winter Olympics, costing over $5 billion. For a time, it seemed that the Olympics might no longer be a viable financial proposition. In retrospect, the belief that contractors skimmed large sums of money from all levels of contracts while also profiting from the substitution of cheaper building materials of lesser quality, may have contributed to the delays, poor construction and excessive costs. In 1988, one such contractor, Giuseppe Zappia "was cleared of fraud charges that resulted from his work on Olympic facilities after two key witnesses died before testifying at his trial." There was also a boycott by African nations to protest against a recent tour of apartheid-run South Africa by the New Zealand national rugby union team. The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci won the women's individual all-around gold medal with two of four possible perfect scores, this giving birth to a gymnastics dynasty in Romania. She also won two other individual events, with two perfect scores in the balance beam and all perfect scores in the uneven bars. Lasse Virén repeated his double gold in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, making him the first athlete to ever win the distance double twice.
End of the 20th centuryFollowing the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, 66 nations, including the United States, Canada, West Germany, and Japan, boycotted the 1980 games held in Moscow. Eighty nations were represented at the Moscow Games – the smallest number since 1956. The boycott contributed to the 1980 Games being a less publicised and less competitive affair, which was dominated by the host country.
In 1984 the Soviet Union and 13 Soviet allies reciprocated by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Romania, notably, was one of the nations in the Eastern Bloc that did attend the 1984 Olympics. These games were perhaps the first games of a new era to make a profit. Although a boycott led by the Soviet Union depleted the field in certain sports, 140 National Olympic Committees took part, which was a record at the time. The Games were also the first time mainland China participated.
According to British journalist Andrew Jennings, a KGB colonel stated that the agency's officers had posed as anti-doping authorities from the IOC to undermine doping tests and that Soviet athletes were "rescued with tremendous efforts". On the topic of the 1980 Summer Olympics, a 1989 Australian study said "There is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winner, who is not on one sort of drug or another: usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might as well have been called the Chemists' Games."
Documents obtained in 2016 revealed the Soviet Union's plans for a statewide doping system in track and field in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Dated prior to the country's decision to boycott the Games, the document detailed the existing steroids operations of the program, along with suggestions for further enhancements. The communication, directed to the Soviet Union's head of track and field, was prepared by Dr. Sergei Portugalov of the Institute for Physical Culture. Portugalov was also one of the main figures involved in the implementation of the Russian doping program prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The 1988 games, in Seoul, was very well planned but the games were tainted when many of the athletes, most notably men's 100 metres winner Ben Johnson, failed mandatory drug tests. Despite splendid drug-free performances by many individuals, the number of people who failed screenings for performance-enhancing chemicals overshadowed the games.
The 1992 Barcelona Games featured the admittance of players from one of the North American top leagues, the NBA, exemplified by but not limited to US basketball's "Dream Team". The 1992 games also saw the reintroduction to the Games of several smaller European states which had been incorporated into the Soviet Union since World War II. At these games, gymnast Vitaly Scherbo set an inaugural medal record of five individual gold medals at a Summer Olympics, and equaled the inaugural record set by Eric Heiden at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
By then the process of choosing a location for the Games had become a commercial concern; there were widespread allegations of corruption potentially affecting the IOC's decision process.
An the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics, the highlight was 200 meters runner Michael Johnson annihilating the world record in front of a home crowd. Canadians savoured Donovan Bailey's recording gold medal run in the 100-meter dash. This was popularly felt to be an appropriate recompense for the previous national disgrace involving Ben Johnson. There were also emotional scenes, such as when Muhammad Ali, clearly affected by Parkinson's disease, lit the Olympic torch and received a replacement medal for the one he had discarded in 1960. The latter event took place in the basketball arena. The atmosphere at the Games was marred, however, when a bomb exploded during the celebration in Centennial Olympic Park. In June 2003, the principal suspect in this bombing, Eric Robert Rudolph, was arrested.
held in Sydney, Australia, known as the "Games of the New Millennium".
The 2000 Summer Olympics was held in Sydney, Australia, and showcased individual performances by local favorite Ian Thorpe in the pool, Briton Steve Redgrave who won a rowing gold medal in an unprecedented fifth consecutive Olympics, and Cathy Freeman, an Indigenous Australian whose triumph in the 400 meters united a packed stadium. Eric "the Eel" Moussambani, a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, received wide media coverage when he completed the 100 meter freestyle swim in by far the slowest time in Olympic history. He nevertheless won the heat as both his opponents had been disqualified for false starts. His female compatriot Paula Barila Bolopa also received media attention for her record-slow and struggling but courageous performance. The Sydney Games also saw the first appearance of a joint North and South Korean contingent at the opening ceremonies, though they competed as different countries. Controversy occurred in the Women's Artistic Gymnastics when the vaulting horse was set to the wrong height during the All-Around Competition.
Start of the 21st centuryIn 2004, the Olympic Games returned to their birthplace in Athens, Greece. At least $7.2 billion was spent on the 2004 Games, including $1.5 billion on security. Michael Phelps won his first Olympic medals, tallying six gold and two bronze medals. Pyrros Dimas, winning a bronze medal, became the most decorated weightlifter of all time with four Olympic medals, three gold and one bronze. Although unfounded reports of potential terrorism drove crowds away from the preliminary competitions at the first weekend of the Olympics, attendance picked up as the Games progressed. A third of the tickets failed to sell, but ticket sales still topped figures from the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics. IOC President Jacques Rogge characterised Greece's organisation as outstanding and its security precautions as flawless. All 202 NOCs participated at the Athens Games with over 11,000 participants.
The 2008 Summer Olympics was held in Beijing, People's Republic of China. Several new events were held, including the new discipline of BMX for both men and women. Women competed in the steeplechase for the first time. The fencing program was expanded to include all six events for both men and women; previously, women had not been able to compete in team foil or sabre events, although women's team épée and men's team foil were dropped for these Games. Marathon swimming events were added, over the distance of. Also, the doubles events in table tennis were replaced by team events. American swimmer Michael Phelps set a record for gold medals at a single Games with eight, and tied the record of most gold medals by a single competitor previously held by both Eric Heiden and Vitaly Scherbo. Another notable star of the Games was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who became the first male athlete ever to set world records in the finals of both the 100 and 200 metres in the same Games. Equestrian events were held in Hong Kong.
London held the 2012 Summer Olympics, becoming the first city to host the Olympic Games three times. In his closing address, Jacques Rogge described the Games as "Happy and glorious". The host nation won 29 gold medals, the best haul for Great Britain since the 1908 Games in London. The United States returned to the top of the medal table after China dominated in 2008. The IOC had removed baseball and softball from the 2012 program. The London Games were successful on a commercial level because they were the first in history to completely sell out every ticket, with as many as 1 million applications for 40,000 tickets for both the Opening Ceremony and the 100m Men's Sprint Final. Such was the demand for tickets to all levels of each event that there was controversy over seats being set aside for sponsors and National Delegations which went unused in the early days. A system of reallocation was put in place so the empty seats were filled throughout the Games.
Rio de Janeiro in Brazil hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics, becoming the first South American city to host the Olympics, the second Olympic host city in Latin America, after Mexico City in 1968, as well as the third city in the Southern Hemisphere to host the Olympics after Melbourne, Australia, in 1956 and Sydney, Australia, in 2000. The preparation for these Games was overshadowed by controversies, including the political instability of Brazil's federal government; the country's economic crisis; health and safety concerns surrounding the Zika virus and significant pollution in the Guanabara Bay; and a state-sponsored doping scandal involving Russia, which affected the participation of its athletes in the Games.
The next Summer Games were originally scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. The city will be the fourth in history to host the Games twice, being the first in Asia to have this title. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, the IOC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced that the 2020 Games were to be delayed until 2021, marking the first time that the Olympic Games have been postponed.
SportsThere has been a total of 42 sports, spanning 55 disciplines, included in the Olympic program at one point or another in the history of the Games. The schedule has comprised 28 sports for three of the most recent Summer Olympics ; the 2012 Games featured 26 sports because of the removal of baseball and softball.
The various Olympic Sports federations are grouped under a common umbrella association, called the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations.
QualificationQualification rules for each of the Olympic sports are set by the International Sports Federation that governs that sport's international competition.
For individual sports, competitors typically qualify by attaining a certain place in a major international event or on the IF's ranking list. There is a general rule that a maximum of three individual athletes may represent each nation per competition. National Olympic Committees may enter a limited number of qualified competitors in each event, and the NOC decides which qualified competitors to select as representatives in each event if more have attained the benchmark than can be entered.
Nations most often qualify teams for team sports through continental qualifying tournaments, in which each continental association is given a certain number of spots in the Olympic tournament. Each nation may be represented by no more than one team per competition; a team consists of just two people in some sports.
Popularity of Olympic sportsSummer Olympic sports are divided into five categories based on popularity, gauged by six criteria: television viewing figures, internet popularity, public surveys, ticket requests, press coverage, and number of national federations. The category of a sport determines the share of Olympic revenue received by that sport's International Federation. Sports that were new to the 2016 Olympics have been placed in Category E.
The current categories are:
Aquatics encompasses artistic swimming, diving, swimming, and water polo.
All-time medal tableThe table below uses official data provided by the IOC.
Most successful nations
List of Summer Olympic Games;Notes