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The modern Olympic Games or Olympics are the leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered the world's foremost sports competition with more than 200 teams, representing sovereign states and territories participating; by default the Games generally substitute for any World Championships the year in which they take place (however, each class usually maintains their own records). The Olympic Games are held every four years; since 1994, they have been alternated between the Summer and Winter Olympics every two years during the four-year period.
Their creation was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, held in Olympia, Greece from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, leading to the first modern Games in Athens in 1896. The IOC is the governing body of the Olympic Movement, which encompasses all entities and individuals involved in the Olympic Games. The Olympic Charter defines their structure and authority.
The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in numerous changes to the Olympic Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Winter Olympic Games for snow and ice sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with disabilities, the Youth Olympic Games for athletes aged 14 to 18, the five Continental games (Pan American, African, Asian, European, and Pacific), and the World Games for sports that are not contested in the Olympic Games. The IOC also endorses the Deaflympics and the Special Olympics. The IOC has needed to adapt to a variety of economic, political, and technological advancements. The abuse of amateur rules by the Eastern Bloc nations prompted the IOC to shift away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to the acceptance of professional athletes participating at the Games. The growing importance of mass media has created the issue of corporate sponsorship and general commercialisation of the Games. World Wars I and II led to the cancellation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympics; large-scale boycotts during the Cold War limited participation in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics; and the 2020 Olympics were postponed until 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Olympic Movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and organising committees for each specific Olympic Games. As the decision-making body, the IOC is responsible for choosing the host city for each Games, and organises and funds the Games according to the Olympic Charter. The IOC also determines the Olympic programme, consisting of the sports to be contested at the Games. There are several Olympic rituals and symbols, such as the Olympic flag, torch, and opening and closing ceremonies. Over 14,000 athletes competed at the 2020 Summer Olympics and 2022 Winter Olympics combined, in 40 different sports and 448 events. The first-, second-, and third-place finishers in each event receive Olympic medals: gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.
The Games have grown to the point that nearly every nation is now represented; colonies and overseas territories are often allowed to field their own teams. This growth has created numerous challenges and controversies, including boycotts, doping, bribery, and terrorism. Every two years, the Olympics and its media exposure provide athletes with the chance to attain national and international fame. The Games also provide an opportunity for the host city and country to showcase themselves to the world.
The Ancient Olympic Games (Ancient Greek: τὰ Ὀλύμπια, ta Olympia) were religious and athletic festivals held every four years at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. Competition was among representatives of several city-states and kingdoms of Ancient Greece. These Games featured mainly athletic but also combat sports such as wrestling and the pankration, horse and chariot racing events. It has been widely written that during the Games, all conflicts among the participating city-states were postponed until the Games were finished. This cessation of hostilities was known as the Olympic peace or truce. This idea is a modern myth because the Greeks never suspended their wars. The truce did allow those religious pilgrims who were travelling to Olympia to pass through warring territories unmolested because they were protected by Zeus.
The origin of the Olympics is shrouded in mystery and legend; one of the most popular myths identifies Heracles and his father Zeus as the progenitors of the Games. According to legend, it was Heracles who first called the Games "Olympic" and established the custom of holding them every four years. The myth continues that after Heracles completed his twelve labours, he built the Olympic Stadium as an honour to Zeus. Following its completion, he walked in a straight line for 200 steps and called this distance a "stadion" (Ancient Greek: στάδιον, Latin: stadium, "stage"), which later became a unit of distance. The most widely accepted inception date for the Ancient Olympics is 776 BC; this is based on inscriptions, found at Olympia, listing the winners of a footrace held every four years starting in 776 BC. The Ancient Games featured running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race, and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, pankration, and equestrian events. Tradition has it that Coroebus, a cook from the city of Elis, was the first Olympic champion.
The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honouring both Zeus (whose famous statue by Phidias stood in his temple at Olympia) and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia. Pelops was famous for his chariot race with King Oenomaus of Pisatis. The winners of the events were admired and immortalised in poems and statues. The Games were held every four years, and this period, known as an Olympiad, was used by Greeks as one of their units of time measurement. The Games were part of a cycle known as the Panhellenic Games, which included the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games, and the Isthmian Games.
The Olympic Games reached the height of their success in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece. While there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Games officially ended, the most commonly held date is 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I decreed that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated. Another date commonly cited is 426 AD, when his successor, Theodosius II, ordered the destruction of all Greek temples.
Various uses of the term "Olympic" to describe athletic events in the modern era have been documented since the 17th century. The first such event was the Cotswold Games or "Cotswold Olimpick Games", an annual meeting near Chipping Campden, England, involving various sports. It was first organised by the lawyer Robert Dover between 1612 and 1642, with several later celebrations leading up to the present day. The British Olympic Association, in its bid for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, mentioned these games as "the first stirrings of Britain's Olympic beginnings".
L'Olympiade de la République, a national Olympic festival held annually from 1796 to 1798 in Revolutionary France also attempted to emulate the ancient Olympic Games. The competition included several disciplines from the ancient Greek Olympics. The 1796 Games also marked the introduction of the metric system into sport.
In 1850, an Olympian Class was started by William Penny Brookes at Much Wenlock, in Shropshire, England. In 1859, Brookes changed the name to the Wenlock Olympian Games. This annual sports festival continues to this day. The Wenlock Olympian Society was founded by Brookes on 15 November 1860.
Between 1862 and 1867, Liverpool held an annual Grand Olympic Festival. Devised by John Hulley and Charles Pierre Melly, these games were the first to be wholly amateur in nature and international in outlook, although only 'gentlemen amateurs' could compete. The programme of the first modern Olympiad in Athens in 1896 was almost identical to that of the Liverpool Olympics. In 1865 Hulley, Brookes and E.G. Ravenstein founded the National Olympian Association in Liverpool, a forerunner of the British Olympic Association. Its articles of foundation provided the framework for the International Olympic Charter. In 1866, a national Olympic Games in Great Britain was organised at London's Crystal Palace.
Greek interest in reviving the Olympic Games began with the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. It was first proposed by poet and newspaper editor Panagiotis Soutsos in his poem "Dialogue of the Dead", published in 1833. Evangelos Zappas, a wealthy Greek-Romanian philanthropist, first wrote to King Otto of Greece, in 1856, offering to fund a permanent revival of the Olympic Games. Zappas sponsored the first Olympic Games in 1859, which was held in an Athens city square. Athletes participated from Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Zappas funded the restoration of the ancient Panathenaic Stadium so that it could host all future Olympic Games.
The stadium hosted Olympics in 1870 and 1875. Thirty thousand spectators attended that Games in 1870, though no official attendance records are available for the 1875 Games. In 1890, after attending the Olympian Games of the Wenlock Olympian Society, Baron Pierre de Coubertin was inspired to found the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Coubertin built on the ideas and work of Brookes and Zappas with the aim of establishing internationally rotating Olympic Games that would occur every four years. He presented these ideas during the first Olympic Congress of the newly created International Olympic Committee. This meeting was held from 16 to 23 June 1894, at the University of Paris. On the last day of the Congress, it was decided that the first Olympic Games to come under the auspices of the IOC would take place in Athens in 1896. The IOC elected the Greek writer Demetrius Vikelas as its first president.
The first Games held under the auspices of the IOC was hosted in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens in 1896. The Games brought together 14 nations and 241 athletes who competed in 43 events. Zappas and his cousin Konstantinos Zappas had left the Greek government a trust to fund future Olympic Games. This trust was used to help finance the 1896 Games. George Averoff contributed generously for the refurbishment of the stadium in preparation for the Games. The Greek government also provided funding, which was expected to be recouped through the sale of tickets and from the sale of the first Olympic commemorative stamp set.
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.
Changes and adaptations
After the success of the 1896 Games, the Olympics entered a period of stagnation which threatened its survival. The Olympic Games held at the Paris Exposition in 1900 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis in 1904 failed to attract much participation or notice. Of the 650 athletes in the 1904 Olympics, 580 were American; the winner of the marathon was later disqualified upon discovery of a photograph of him riding in a car during the race. The Games rebounded with the 1906 Intercalated Games (so-called because they were the second Olympics to take place within the third Olympiad), which were held in Athens. These Games attracted a broad international field of participants and generated a great deal of public interest, marking the beginning of a rise in both the popularity and the size of the Olympics. The 1906 Games were officially recognised by the IOC at the time (although not any longer), and no Intercalated Games have been held since.
The Winter Olympics was created to feature snow and ice sports that were logistically impossible to hold during the Summer Games. Figure skating (in 1908 and 1920) and ice hockey (in 1920) were featured as Olympic events at the Summer Olympics. The IOC desired to expand this list of sports to encompass other winter activities. At the 1921 Olympic Congress in Lausanne, it was decided to hold a winter version of the Olympic Games. A winter sports week (it was actually 11 days) was held in 1924 in Chamonix, France, in connection with the Paris Games held three months later; this event became the first Winter Olympic Games. Although it was intended that the same country host both the Winter and Summer Games in a given year, this idea was quickly abandoned. The IOC mandated that the Winter Games be celebrated every four years in the same year as their summer counterpart. This tradition was upheld through the 1992 Games in Albertville, France; after that, beginning with the 1994 Games, the Winter Olympics were held every four years, two years after each Summer Olympics.
In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, determined to promote the rehabilitation of soldiers after World War II, organised a multi-sport event between several hospitals to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics. Originally known as the Stoke Mandeville Games, Guttmann's event became an annual sports festival. Over the next 12 years, Guttmann and others continued their efforts to use sports as an avenue to healing.
In 1960, Guttmann brought 400 athletes to Rome to compete in the "Parallel Olympics", which ran in parallel with the Summer Olympics and came to be known as the first Paralympics. Since then, the Paralympics have been held in every Olympic year and, starting with the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, the host city for the Olympics has also played host to the Paralympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) signed an agreement in 2001 which guaranteed that host cities would be contracted to manage both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The agreement came into effect at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
We want to change public attitudes towards disability, celebrate the excellence of Paralympic sport and to enshrine from the very outset that the two Games are an integrated whole.
In 2010, the Olympic Games were complemented by the Youth Games, which give athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 the chance to compete. The Youth Olympic Games were conceived by IOC president Jacques Rogge in 2001 and approved during the 119th Congress of the IOC. The first Summer Youth Games were held in Singapore from 14 to 26 August 2010, while the inaugural Winter Games were hosted in Innsbruck, Austria, two years later. These Games will be shorter than the senior Games; the summer version will last twelve days, while the winter version will last nine days. The IOC allows 3,500 athletes and 875 officials to participate at the Summer Youth Games, and 970 athletes and 580 officials at the Winter Youth Games. The sports to be contested will coincide with those scheduled for the senior Games, however there will be variations on the sports including mixed NOC and mixed gender teams as well as a reduced number of disciplines and events.
The Summer Olympics have grown from 241 participants representing 14 nations in 1896, to more than 11,300 competitors representing 206 nations in 2020. The scope and scale of the Winter Olympics is smaller; for example, Beijing hosted 2,971 athletes from 91 nations in 2022. Most of the athletes and officials are housed in the Olympic Village for the duration of the Games. This accommodation centre is designed to be a self-contained home for all Olympic participants, and is furnished with cafeterias, health clinics, and locations for religious expression.
The IOC has allowed the formation of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to represent individual nations. These do not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that other international organisations demand. As a result, colonies and dependencies are permitted to compete at Olympic Games, examples being territories such as Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Hong Kong, all of which compete as separate nations despite being legally a part of another country. The current version of the Olympic Charter allows for the establishment of new NOCs to represent nations that qualify as "an independent State recognised by the international community". Consequently, the IOC did not allow the formation of NOCs for Sint Maarten and Curaçao when they gained the same constitutional status as Aruba in 2010, although the IOC had recognised the Aruban Olympic Committee in 1986. Since 2012, athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles have had the option to represent either the Netherlands or Aruba.
Cost of the Games
The Oxford Olympics Study 2016 found that, since 1960, sports-related costs for the Summer Games were on average US$5.2 billion and for the Winter Games $3.1 billion. These figures do not include wider infrastructure costs like roads, urban rail, and airports, which often cost as much or more than the sports-related costs. The most expensive Summer Games were Beijing 2008 at US$40–44 billion, and the most expensive Winter Games were Sochi 2014 at US$51 billion. As of 2016, costs per athlete were, on average, US$599,000 for the Summer Games and $1.3 million for the Winter Games; for London 2012, the cost per athlete was $1.4 million, and the figure was $7.9 million for Sochi 2014.
Where ambitious construction for the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow had burdened organisers with expenses greatly in excess of revenues, Los Angeles strictly controlled expenses for the 1984 Summer Games by using existing facilities and only two new that were paid for by corporate sponsors. The Organizing Committee led by Peter Ueberroth used some of the profits to endow the LA84 Foundation to promote youth sports in Southern California, educate coaches and maintain a sports library. The 1984 Summer Olympics are often considered until that date,the most financially successful modern Olympics and a model for future Games.
Budget overruns are common for the Games. Average overrun for Games since 1960 is 156% in real terms, which means that actual costs turned out to be on average 2.56 times the budget that was estimated at the time of winning the bid to host the Games. Montreal 1976 had the highest cost overrun for Summer Games, and for any Games, at 720%; Lake Placid 1980 had the highest cost overrun for Winter Games, at 324%. London 2012 had a cost overrun of 76%, Sochi 2014 of 289%.
It has been documented that cost and cost overrun for the Games follow a power-law distribution, which means that, first, the Games are prone to large cost overruns and, second, it is only a matter of time until an overrun occurs that is larger than the largest to date. In short, hosting the Games is economically and financially extremely risky.
Economic and social impact on host cities and countries
Seeking a scholarly institution to independently research the Games, Bob Barney led efforts to establish the International Centre for Olympic Studies in 1989, endeavouring to write about sociocultural impacts of the Olympic Games. He felt that the Olympics "is worthy of study because it is one of the biggest meetings in a global context and has many political, economic, and other problems associated with it". He began Olympika in 1992, the first peer-reviewed academic journal focused on the Olympic Games. The International Society of Olympic Historians was founded in 1991, which publishes the Journal of Olympic History.
Some economists are sceptical about the economic benefits of hosting the Olympic Games, emphasising that such "mega-events" often have large costs while yielding relatively few tangible benefits in the long run. Hosting (or even bidding for) the Olympics appears to increase the host country's exports, as the host or candidate country sends a signal about trade openness when bidding to host the Games. Research suggests that hosting the Summer Olympics has a positive effect on the philanthropic contributions of corporations headquartered in the host city, which seems to benefit the local nonprofit sector. This effect begins in the years leading up to the Games and might persist for several years afterwards, though not permanently.
The Games have had significant negative effects on host communities; for example, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions reports that the Olympics displaced more than two million people over two decades, often disproportionately affecting disadvantaged groups. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were the most expensive Olympic Games in history, costing in excess of US$50 billion. According to a report by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development released at the time of the games, the cost would not boost Russia's national economy, but could attract business to Sochi and the southern Krasnodar region of Russia as a result of improved services. But by December 2014, eight months after the games The Guardian stated that Sochi "now feels like a ghost town", citing the spread-out nature of the stadiums and arenas and the still-unfinished infrastructure. At least four cities withdrew their bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics, citing the high costs or lack of local support, resulting in only a two-city race between Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China who hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. The Guardian stated that the biggest threat to the future of the Olympics is few cities or countries want to host them. Bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics became a two-city race between Paris and Los Angeles, so the IOC took the unusual step of simultaneously awarding both the 2024 Games to Paris and the 2028 Games to Los Angeles. Both of the bids were praised for high technical plans and innovative ways to use a record-breaking number of existing and temporary facilities.
International Olympic Committee
The Olympic Movement encompasses a large number of national and international sporting organisations and federations, recognised media partners, as well as athletes, officials, judges, and every other person and institution that agrees to abide by the rules of the Olympic Charter. As the umbrella organisation of the Olympic Movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is responsible for selecting the host city, overseeing the planning of the Olympic Games, updating and approving the Olympic sports programme, and negotiating sponsorship and broadcasting rights.
The Olympic Movement is made of three major elements:
- International Federations (IFs) are the governing bodies that supervise a sport at an international level. For example, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is the IF for association football, and the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball is the international governing body for volleyball. There are currently 35 IFs in the Olympic Movement, representing each of the Olympic sports.
- National Olympic Committees (NOCs) represent and regulate the Olympic Movement within each country. For example, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) is the NOC of the Russian Federation. There are currently 206 NOCs recognised by the IOC.
- Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) are temporary committees responsible for the organisation of each Olympic Games. OCOGs are dissolved after each Games once the final report is delivered to the IOC.
French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Movement. The other language used at each Olympic Games is the language of the host country (or languages, if a country has more than one official language apart from French or English). Every proclamation (such as the announcement of each country during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony) is spoken in these three (or more) languages, or the main two depending on whether the host country is an English or French speaking country: French is always spoken first, followed by an English translation, and then the dominant language of the host nation (when this is not English or French).
Allegations of bribery and corruption
The IOC has often been accused of being an intractable organisation, with several life members on the committee. The presidential terms of Avery Brundage and Juan Antonio Samaranch were especially controversial. Brundage fought strongly for amateurism and against the commercialisation of the Olympic Games, even as these attitudes came to be seen as incongruous with the realities of modern sports. The advent of state-sponsored athletes from the Eastern Bloc countries further eroded the ideology of the pure amateur, as it placed self-financed amateurs of Western countries at a disadvantage. Brundage was accused of antisemitism and of racism in resisting the exclusion of South Africa. Under the Samaranch presidency, the office was accused of both nepotism and corruption. Samaranch's ties with the Franco regime in Spain were also a source of criticism.
In 1998, it was reported that several IOC members had taken gifts from members of the Salt Lake City bid committee for the hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics. There were soon four independent investigations underway: by the IOC, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC), and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Although nothing strictly illegal had occurred, it was felt that the acceptance of the gifts was morally dubious. As a result of the investigation, ten members of the IOC were expelled and a further ten sanctioned. Stricter rules were adopted for future bids, and caps were introduced to define how much IOC members could accept from bid cities. Additionally, new term and age limits were put into place for IOC membership, and fifteen former Olympic athletes were added to the committee. Nevertheless, from sporting and business standpoints, the 2002 Olympics were one of the most successful Winter Games in history; records were set in both the broadcasting and marketing programs. Over 2 billion viewers watched more than 13 billion viewer-hours. The 2002 Games were also a financial success, raising more money with fewer sponsors than any prior Olympic Games, leaving SLOC with a surplus of $40 million. This excess revenue was used to create the Utah Athletic Foundation (also known as the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation), which maintains and operates many of the surviving Olympic venues.
It was reported in 1999 that the Nagano Olympic bid committee had spent approximately $14 million on entertaining the 62 IOC members and many of their associates. The precise figures are unknown since Nagano destroyed the financial records after the IOC requested that the entertainment expenditures should not be made public.
In July 2000, when the Los Angeles Times reported on the tangled nature of how the IOC redistributes profits from sponsorships and broadcasting rights, Olympic historian Bob Barney stated that he had "yet to see matters of corruption in the IOC", but noted there were "matters of unaccountability". He later noted that when the spotlight is on the athletes, it has "the power to eclipse impressions of scandal or corruption", with respect to the Olympic bid process.
An August 2004, a BBC documentary, Panorama: Buying the Games, reported the results of an investigation into bribes allegedly used in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The documentary claimed that it was possible to bribe IOC members into voting for a particular candidate city. After being narrowly defeated in their bid for the 2012 Games, Parisian mayor Bertrand Delanoë specifically accused the British prime minister Tony Blair and the London bid committee, headed by former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, of breaking the bid rules. He cited French president Jacques Chirac as a witness; Chirac gave guarded interviews concerning his involvement but the allegation was never fully explored. Turin's bid to host the 2006 Winter Olympics was also clouded by controversy; a prominent IOC member, Marc Hodler, closely connected to the rival bid of Sion, alleged bribery of IOC officials by members of the Turin Organising Committee. These accusations led to a wide-ranging investigation, and also served to sour many IOC members against Sion's bid which potentially helped Turin to capture the host city nomination.
Under national organising committees
The Olympic Games have been commercialised to various degrees since the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, when a number of companies paid for advertising, including Kodak. In 1908, Oxo, Odol [de] mouthwash, and Indian Foot Powder became official sponsors of the London Olympic Games. Coca-Cola first sponsored the Summer Olympics in 1928, and has remained an Olympic sponsor ever since. Before the IOC took control of sponsorship, the NOCs had responsibility for negotiating their own contracts for sponsorship and use of the Olympic symbols.
Under IOC control
The IOC originally resisted funding by corporate sponsors. It was not until the retirement of IOC President Avery Brundage, in 1972, that the IOC began to explore the potential of the television medium and the lucrative advertising markets available to them. Under the leadership of Juan Antonio Samaranch the Games began to shift toward international sponsors who sought to link their products to the Olympic brand.
During the first half of the 20th century, the IOC ran on a small budget. As president of the IOC from 1952 to 1972, Avery Brundage rejected all attempts to link the Olympics with commercial interest. Brundage believed the lobby of corporate interests would unduly impact the IOC's decision-making. Brundage's resistance to this revenue stream meant the IOC left organising committees to negotiate their own sponsorship contracts and use the Olympic symbols. When Brundage retired the IOC had US$2 million in assets; eight years later the IOC coffers had swelled to US$45 million. This was primarily due to a shift in ideology toward expansion of the Games through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights. When Juan Antonio Samaranch was elected IOC president in 1980 his desire was to make the IOC financially independent.
The 1984 Summer Olympics became a watershed moment in Olympic history. The Los Angeles-based organising committee, led by Peter Ueberroth, was able to generate a surplus of US$225 million, which was an unprecedented amount at that time. The organising committee had been able to create such a surplus in part by selling exclusive sponsorship rights to select companies. The IOC sought to gain control of these sponsorship rights. Samaranch helped to establish The Olympic Programme (TOP) in 1985, in order to create an Olympic brand. Membership in TOP was, and is, very exclusive and expensive. Fees cost US$50 million for a four-year membership. Members of TOP received exclusive global advertising rights for their product category, and use of the Olympic symbol, the interlocking rings, in their publications and advertisements.
Effect of television
The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin were the first Games to be broadcast on television, though only to local audiences. The 1956 Winter Olympics in Italy were the first internationally televised Olympic Games, and the broadcasting rights for the following Winter Games in California were sold for the first time to specialised television broadcasting networks—CBS paid US$394,000 for the American rights. In the following decades, the Olympics became one of the ideological fronts of the Cold War, and the International Olympic Committee wanted to take advantage of this heightened interest via the broadcast medium. The sale of broadcast rights enabled the IOC to increase the exposure of the Olympic Games, thereby generating more interest, which in turn enhanced the appeal of TV air time to the advertisers. This cycle allowed the IOC to charge ever-increasing fees for those rights. For example, CBS paid US$375 million for the American broadcast rights for the 1998 Nagano Games, while NBC spent US$3.5 billion for the American rights to air every Olympic Games from 2000 to 2012.
In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion contract with the IOC to broadcast the Olympics through the 2020 Games, the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history. NBC then agreed to a $7.75 billion contract extension on 7 May 2014, to air the Olympics through the 2032 Games. NBC also acquired the American television rights to the Youth Olympic Games, beginning in 2014, and the Paralympic Games. More than half of the Olympic Committee's global sponsors are American companies, and NBC is one of the major sources of revenue for the IOC.
Viewership increased exponentially from the 1960s until the end of the 20th century. This was due to the advent of satellites for broadcasting live television worldwide starting in 1964, and the introduction of colour television in 1968. The global audience for the 1968 Mexico City Games was estimated to be 600 million, whereas the audience numbers at the Los Angeles Games of 1984 had increased to 900 million; this number had swelled to 3.5 billion by the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. With such high costs charged to broadcast the Games, the added pressure of the internet, and increased competition from cable, the television lobby demanded concessions from the IOC to boost ratings. The IOC responded by making a number of changes to the Olympic programme; at the Summer Games, the gymnastics competition was expanded from seven to nine nights, and a Champions Gala was added to attract greater interest; the events programmes were also expanded for swimming and diving, both popular sports with a broad base of television viewers. Due to the substantial fees NBC has paid for rights to the Olympics, the IOC has allowed the network to influence the event scheduling to maximise U.S. television ratings when possible. Notable examples of maximizing U.S. television viewership include scheduling the finals of the swimming events only during the mornings of the host cities Beijing (during the 2008 Summer Olympics) and Tokyo (during the 2020 Summer Olympics), which coincide with the evening prime time broadcast slots of the United States.
The sale of the Olympic brand has been controversial. The argument is that the Games have become indistinguishable from any other commercialised sporting spectacle. Another criticism is that the Games are funded by host cities and national governments; the IOC incurs none of the cost, yet controls all the rights and profits from the Olympic symbols. The IOC also takes a percentage of all sponsorship and broadcast income. Host cities continue to compete ardently for the right to host the Games, even though there is no certainty that they will earn back their investments. Research has shown that trade is around 30 percent higher for countries that have hosted the Olympics.
The Olympic Movement uses symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic symbol, better known as the Olympic rings, consists of five intertwined rings and represents the unity of the five inhabited continents (Africa, The Americas (is considered one continent), Asia, Europe, and Oceania). The coloured version of the rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—over a white field forms the Olympic flag. These colours were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914 but flown for the first time only at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. It has since been hoisted during each celebration of the Games.
The Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning "Faster, Higher, Stronger" was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894 and has been official since 1924. The motto was coined by Coubertin's friend, the Dominican priest Henri Didon OP, for a Paris youth gathering of 1891.
Coubertin's Olympic ideals are expressed in the Olympic creed:
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
Months before each Games, the Olympic Flame is lit at the Temple of Hera in Olympia in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals. A female performer, acting as a priestess joined by ten female performers as Vestal Virgins, ignites a torch by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun's rays; she then lights the torch of the first relay bearer (who also is a Greek athlete), thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that will carry the flame to the host city's Olympic stadium, where it plays an important role in the opening ceremony. Though the flame has been an Olympic symbol since 1928, the torch relay was only introduced at the 1936 Summer Games to promote the Third Reich.
The Olympic mascot, an animal or human figure representing the cultural heritage of the host country, was introduced in 1968. It has played an important part of the Games' identity promotion since the 1980 Summer Olympics, when the Soviet bear cub Misha reached international stardom. The mascot of the Summer Olympics in London was named Wenlock after the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. Much Wenlock still hosts the Wenlock Olympian Games, which were an inspiration to Pierre de Coubertin for the Olympic Games.
As mandated by the Olympic Charter, various elements frame the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. This ceremony takes place on a Friday and is held prior to the commencement of the sporting events (apart from some group-stage football matches, softball games, and rowing heats). Most of the rituals for the opening ceremony were established at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. The ceremony typically starts with the entrance of the president of the International Olympic Committee and a representative of the host country followed by the hoisting of the host country's flag and a performance of its national anthem. The host nation then presents artistic displays of music, singing, dance, and theatre representative of its culture. The artistic presentations have grown in scale and complexity as successive hosts attempt to provide a ceremony that outlasts its predecessor's in terms of memorability. The opening ceremony of the Beijing Games reportedly cost $100 million, with much of the cost incurred in the artistic segment.
After the artistic portion of the ceremony, the athletes parade into the stadium grouped by nation. Greece is traditionally the first nation to enter and leads the parade in order to honour the origins of the Olympics. Nations then enter the stadium alphabetically according to the host country's chosen language, with the host country's athletes being the last to enter. During the 2004 Summer Olympics, which was hosted in Athens, Greece, the Greek flag entered the stadium first, while the Greek delegation entered last. Beginning with the 2020 Summer Olympics, the succeeding hosts of the respective Olympic Games (summer or winter) will enter immediately before the current host in descending order. Speeches are given by the President of the Organizing Committee, the IOC president, and the head of state/representative of the host country, formally opening the Games. Finally, the Olympic torch is brought into the stadium and passed on until it reaches the final torch carrier, often a successful Olympic athlete from the host nation, who lights the Olympic flame in the stadium's cauldron.
The closing ceremony of the Olympic Games takes place on a Sunday and after all sporting events have concluded. Flag-bearers from each participating country enter the stadium, followed by the athletes who enter together, without any national distinction. Three national flags are hoisted while the corresponding national anthems are played: the flag of the current host country; the flag of Greece, to honour the birthplace of the Olympic Games; and the flag of the country hosting the next Summer or Winter Olympic Games. The president of the organising committee and the IOC president make their closing speeches, the Games are officially closed, and the Olympic flame is extinguished. In what is known as the Antwerp Ceremony, the current mayor of the city that organised the Games transfers a special Olympic flag to the president of the IOC, who then passes it on to the current mayor of the city hosting the next Olympic Games. The next host nation then also briefly introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theatre representative of its culture.
As is customary, the last medal presentation of the Games is held as part of the closing ceremony. Typically, the marathon medals are presented at the Summer Olympics, while the cross-country skiing mass start medals are awarded at the Winter Olympics.
A medal ceremony is held after the conclusion of each Olympic event. The winner, and the second- and third-place competitors or teams, stand on top of a three-tiered rostrum to be awarded their respective medals by a member of the IOC. After the medals have been received, the national flags of the three medallists are raised while the national anthem of the gold medallist's country is played. Volunteering citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies, assisting the officials who present the medals and acting as flag-bearers. In the Summer Olympics, each medal ceremony is held at the venue where the event has taken place, but the ceremonies at the Winter Olympics are usually held in a special "plaza".
The practice of awarding Olympic medals at podium ceremonies was established at the 1932 Winter Olympics, based on pedestals used at the 1930 British Empire Games, as proposed by Melville Marks Robinson.