The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are finally happening in Japan, a whole year after they were meant to take place! Are you excited, gang?! Let’s celebrate this astonishing event, by taking a look at ten top facts about the Olympics…

PSST!

Don’t miss the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games on your screens from Friday 23rd July to Sunday 8th August.

Facts about the Olympics

1. The first Olympic Games took place in 776BC

The original Olympics began as part of an Ancient Greek festival, which celebrated Zeus, the Greek God of sky and weather. The whole competition lasted for up to six months, and included games like wrestling, boxing, long jump, javelin, discus and chariot racing.

facts about the olympics | a cartoon of a man on a chariot, being pulled by a feisty horse. he is brandishing a sword.

2. In 393 AD, the Olympic Games were cancelled and didn’t start up again for over 1,500 years!

Emperor Theodosius I, a Roman ruler, banned the Greek Olympics due to the religious element of the celebration. He considered the Olympics to be a pagan festival, which had no place in his Christian country.

So, that was the end of the Olympics until 1896, when a man named Baron Pierre de Coubertin started a revival of the Games. He called this new event the ‘modern Olympics’ – and it’s still going today!

a man just crosses the bar of a high jump. behind him, a crowd of thousands cheers from a stadium

3. The Olympic torch is a reminder of the Games’ Greek origins

In ancient times, a flame burned throughout the Games as a tribute to the goddess, Hestia. Since 1928, this tradition has continued in the modern Games, but instead of an altar, the flame burns in a special torch.

The torch flame is always lit by the sun in Olympia, Greece, as this is where the first Greek Games was held. Then, it’s passed from torch to torch in a massive international relay that ends in the host citywow! New torches are designed for each Olympics, and several thousand copies are made. It’s a great honour to become a torchbearer, and lots of inspiring people get a turn each time.

facts about the olympics | a torch burns against the night sky

DID YOU KNOW?

Lit Olympic torches have flown on planes, stayed alight underwater, and scaled Everest! Some unlit torches have even gone into space, too. Amazing!

4. The first Summer Olympic Games had just 14 participating countries

Teams from 11 European countries originally joined those of Australia, Chile, and the USA at the first host city, Athens. Now, more than 200 countries compete in the Olympics each year!

facts about the olympics | a row of flagpoles flying flags from countries that are at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

5. The Olympic symbol was designed to include everyone!

The Olympic rings were first produced in 1913, from a design created by the Games’ modern founder – Baron Pierre de Coubertin! Their five colours (along with the white backdrop) reflect colours found on the flags of all participating nations, so everyone is represented. The overlaps also represent international cooperation, and the coming together of athletes from all over the worldcute!

Facts about the Olympics | five interlocking rings - a blue, yellow, black, green, and red

6. Motor boat sailing, hot air ballooning, and tug of war all used to be Olympic sports!

Over time, different sports and events are voted into (or out of) the Olympic Games. Some disappear, then return (like golf, or rugby), while others (like running deer shooting, or duelling pistols) go out of fashion forever – thankfully!

facts about the olympics | a surfer just emerges along a wave, as it breaks behind them

DID YOU KNOW?

Four new sports are making their debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Look out for skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing, and karate!

7. The first Winter Olympic Games were held in 1924, in a different city to the Summer Olympics.

At first, the Winter Olympics took place in the same year as the Summer ones, but organisers soon realised that it made more sense to hold them in different years! As a result, the Winter Olympics now occur two years after the Summer Olympics. Nice!

facts about the olympics | a snowboarder flies through the air

8. From 1921-1948, artists participated in the Olympics too

In these games, painters, sculptors, architects, writers, and musicians all took part! They competed for medals by creating works of art, that often celebrated the sporting successes going on at the same time. While artists stopped officially competing in 1948, many still design posters and other merchandise for the Games today!

Facts about the olympics | a hand holds a gold medal

9. Until 1912, first-place Olympic medals were made of solid gold!

Possibly one of our favourite facts about the Olympics! Sadly though, it’s no longer the case. Recent Games have given out around 5,000 bronze, silver, and gold medals in total – that’s a lot of metal! So instead of being created from solid gold, the heavy first-place medals are now covered in 6 grams of it.

DID YOU KNOW?

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, medals will contain parts of old electronics, in an effort to make the Games more sustainable. Japanese citizens are donating these materials by recycling their old devicescool!

10. The modern Olympic Games aren’t just about sporting glory – they’re about making friends, too!

While competitive spirit is important, the Games are also about international cooperation. They’re a great chance for people from countries around the world to meet up and get to know each other! For the 16 days of competition, athletes from all sports, religions, nationalities and cultures live and work together – and they often leave as good friends. Aww!

four young athletes, each wearing a gold medal, stand together smiling

Did you enjoy our top ten facts about the Olympics? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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COMMENTS

  • harry

    cool

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    helped me for my report

  • i‘m a dear

    i never thought the torches could go in space!

  • PandasRulez

    Thank you for this information about the Olympics. I really needed some facts for my school projiect. I also love your Nat Geo magazines and I learn alot from them! Thank you again for the information!

  • P4nda_pr1ncess

    I just loved every part of it, especially the BMX bike tricks!

  • TillyTheKraken

    the olympics are cool, the winner of BMX freestyle (bike tricks) did such an EPIC trick! he literally made his bike do a flip while he was just in the air! and then he caught the handlebars and landed back on the bike seat!

  • Ren

    I knew some about the Olympics but not torchbearing, it's really cool! It's too bad that art isn't in the Olympics anymore. Is there a kids' Olympics? Does anybody know?

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    It says at the end that it's all about the athletes making friends, but with COVID, I wonder if that is possible or whether they will have to isolate.

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