Summer Olympic Games

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The Summer Olympic Games (French : Jeux olympiques d'été) [1] also known as the Games of the Olympiad, are a major international multi-sport event normally held once every four years. The Games were first held in 1896 in Athens, Greece, and were most recently held in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) 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 (6,179 men, 5,059 women) from 206 nations in 2016. The Summer Olympics have been hosted on five continents by a total of nineteen countries. The Games have been held four times in the United States (1904, 1932, 1984, and 1996), three times in Great Britain (1908, 1948, and 2012), twice each in Greece (1896 and 2004), France (1900 and 1924), Germany (1936 and 1972), and Australia (1956 and 2000), and once each in Sweden (1912), Belgium (1920), Netherlands (1928), Finland (1952), Italy (1960), Japan (1964), Mexico (1968), Canada (1976), Soviet Union (1980), South Korea (1988), Spain (1992), China (2008), and Brazil (2016).

The IOC selected Tokyo, Japan for a second time to host the 2020 Summer Olympics (due to take place in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). [2] 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.


Map of Summer Olympic Games locations - countries that have hosted one Summer Olympics are shaded green, while countries that have hosted two or more are shaded blue Summer olympics all cities.PNG
Map of Summer Olympic Games locations – countries that have hosted one Summer Olympics are shaded green, while countries that have hosted two or more are shaded blue

The United States has hosted the Summer Olympic Games four times: the 1904 Games were 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 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. And in 2028, Los Angeles will in turn 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 selected Tokyo, Japan, to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, when it would have 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 to have hosted the Summer Olympics are Belgium, Brazil, China, Canada, Finland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Soviet Union, and Sweden, with each of these countries having hosted the Summer Games on just one occasion.

Asia has hosted the Summer Olympics just three times: in Tokyo (1964), Seoul (1988), and Beijing (2008). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which was to be the second time that the city had hosted, were postponed to twelve months from the original scheduled date. Tokyo will be the first city outside the predominantly English-speaking and European nations which usually host the games to have hosted the Summer Olympics twice; [3] it will also be the largest city ever to have hosted, having grown considerably since 1964.

The 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were the first 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 (1956 and 2000) and Brazil (2016), with Africa having yet to host any 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 (which they are credited as jointly hosting with Melbourne, Australia). [4] 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 years

The opening ceremony of the first modern Olympic Games in the Panathenaic Stadium 1896 Olympic opening ceremony.jpg
The opening ceremony of the first modern Olympic Games in the Panathenaic Stadium

The International Olympic Committee was founded in 1894 when Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, sought to promote international understanding through sporting competition. The first edition of The Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896 and 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". [5]

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. [6] 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 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. [7] 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. [8]

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.

Francis Field of Washington University in St. Louis during the 1904 Summer Olympics Francis Field 1904.jpg
Francis Field of Washington University in St. Louis during the 1904 Summer Olympics
Dorando Pietri finishes the modern marathon at the current distance Dorando Pietri 1908.jpg
Dorando Pietri finishes the modern marathon at the current distance

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. [9]

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 (26 miles 385 yards). The first Olympic Marathon in 1896 (a male-only race) was raced at a distance of 40  km (24 miles 85 yards). 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 40 km (24.9 mi) for the first games in 1896, but was subsequently varied by up to 2 km (1.2 mi) 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 and later disqualified for that. As compensation for the missing medal, Queen Alexandra gave Pietri a gilded silver cup. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a special report about the race in the Daily Mail . [10]

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 era

The 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. [11]

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.[ citation needed ]

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. [12]

Due to World War II, the Games of 1940 (due to be held in Tokyo and temporarily relocated to Helsinki upon the outbreak of war) 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 II

The 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 (finishing second both in the number of gold and overall medals won). 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. [13] [14] 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. [15] 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. [16] 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 (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) 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. [17] 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 (of Finland)'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 (equivalent to $22.03 billion in 2020). For a time, it seemed that the Olympics might no longer be a viable financial proposition. In retrospect, the belief that contractors (suspected of being members of the Montreal Mafia) 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". [18] There was also a boycott by many 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 century

Following 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. [19] The Games were also the first time mainland China (People's Republic) 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 [these] tremendous efforts". [20] 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." [20]

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 programme, along with suggestions for further enhancements. [21] 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 programme prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics. [21]

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.

The 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney, Australia, known as the "Games of the New Millennium". Sydney olympic stadium track and field.jpg
The 2000 Summer Olympics 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 century and new millennium

In 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 (14–15 August 2004), attendance picked up as the Games progressed. A third of the tickets failed to sell, [22] but ticket sales still topped figures from the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics (1988 and 1992).[ citation needed ] IOC President Jacques Rogge characterised Greece's organisation as outstanding and its security precautions as flawless. [23] 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 programme 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 10 km (6.2 mi). Also, the doubles events in table tennis were replaced by team events. [24] 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 programme. 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. [25]

The 2020 Summer Olympics were originally scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. The city will be the fifth in history to host the Games twice, and the first Asian city 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. [26] [27]


There has been a total of 42 sports, spanning 55 disciplines, included in the Olympic programme 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 (2004, 2008, and 2016); the 2012 Games featured 26 sports because of the removal of baseball and softball. [28]

The various Olympic Sports federations are grouped under a common umbrella association, called the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).

  Current sport    No longer included

Archery 1900–1908, 1920, since 1972
Artistic swimming Since 1984
Athletics All
Badminton Since 1992
Baseball 1992–2008, resumes 2020
Basketball Since 1936
Basque pelota 1900
Boxing 1904, 1908, since 1920
Canoeing Since 1936
Cricket 1900
Croquet 1900
Cycling All
Diving Since 1904
Equestrian 1900, since 1912
Fencing All
Field hockey 1908, 1920, since 1928
Football 1900–1928, since 1936
Golf 1900, 1904, since 2016
Gymnastics All
Handball 1936, since 1972
Jeu de paume 1908
Judo 1964, since 1972
Karate Begins 2020
Lacrosse 1904, 1908
Modern pentathlon Since 1912
Polo 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924, 1936
Rackets 1908
Roque 1904
Rowing Since 1900
Rugby union 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924
Rugby sevens Since 2016
Sailing 1900, since 1908
Shooting 1896, 1900, 1908–1924, since 1932
Skateboarding Begins 2020
Softball 1996–2008, resumes 2020
Sport climbing Begins 2020
Surfing Begins 2020
Swimming All
Table tennis Since 1988
Taekwondo Since 2000
Tennis 1896–1924, since 1988
Triathlon Since 2000
Tug of war 1900–1920
Volleyball Since 1964
Water motorsports 1908
Water polo Since 1900
Weightlifting 1896, 1904, since 1920
Wrestling 1896, since 1904


Qualification rules for each of the Olympic sports are set by the International Sports Federation (IF) that governs that sport's international competition. [29]

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 (NOCs) 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. [29] [30]

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 sports

The IOC divides Summer Olympic sports into five categories (A – E) based on popularity, gauged by six criteria: television viewing figures (40%), internet popularity (20%), public surveys (15%), ticket requests (10%), press coverage (10%), and number of national federations (5%). The category of a sport determines the share of Olympic revenue received by that sport's International Federation. [31] [32] Sports that were new to the 2016 Olympics (rugby and golf) have been placed in Category E.

The current categories are:

A3athletics, aquatics, [a] gymnastics
B5basketball, cycling, football, tennis, volleyball
C8archery, badminton, boxing, judo, rowing, shooting, table tennis, weightlifting
D9canoe/kayaking, equestrian, fencing, handball, field hockey, sailing, taekwondo, triathlon, wrestling
E3modern pentathlon, golf, rugby
F6baseball/softball, breaking, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing

aAquatics encompasses artistic swimming, diving, swimming, and water polo.

All-time medal table

The table below uses official data provided by the IOC. [33]

  Defunct nation
1Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)2710227957052522
2Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)103953192961010
3Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  Great Britain  (GBR)28263295293851
4Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China  (CHN)10224167155546
5Flag of France.svg  France  (FRA)28212241263716
6Flag of Italy.svg  Italy  (ITA)27206178193577
7Flag of Germany.svg  Germany  (GER)16191194230615
8Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary  (HUN)26175147169491
9Flag of East Germany.svg  East Germany  (GDR)5153129127409
10Flag of Russia.svg  Russia  (RUS)6148125153426
11Flag of Australia.svg  Australia  (AUS)26147163187497
12Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden  (SWE)27145170179494
13Flag of Japan.svg  Japan  (JPN)22142136161439
14Flag of Finland.svg  Finland  (FIN)2510185117303
15Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea  (KOR)17908790267
16Flag of Romania.svg  Romania  (ROU)218995122306
17Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands  (NED)268592108285
18Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba  (CUB)20786880226
19Flag of Poland.svg  Poland  (POL)216884132284
20Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada  (CAN)2664102136302

Medal leaders by year

Number of occurrences

List of Summer Olympic Games

The IOC has never decided which events of the early Games were "Olympic" and which were not. [34] The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, ceded that determination to the organizers of those Games.

OlympiadNo.Host cityOpened bySports
CompetitorsEventsNationsGames datesTop nationRef
1896 I Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Athens King George I 9 (10)241241043146–15 April 1896US flag 44 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1900 II Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Paris N/A19 (20)9979752295 [upper-alpha 1] 2414 May – 28 October 1900Flag of France.svg  France  (FRA)
1904 III Flag of the United States (1896-1908).svg St. Louis N/A16 (17)651645695 [upper-alpha 2] 121 July – 23 November 1904US flag 45 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1908 IV Flag of the United Kingdom.svg London King Edward VII 22 (25)20081971371102227 April – 31 October 1908Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  Great Britain  (GBR)
1912 V Flag of Sweden.svg Stockholm King Gustaf V 14 (18)2407235948102286–22 July 1912US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1916 VI [upper-alpha 3] Awarded to Berlin. Cancelled due to World War I
1920 VII Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Antwerp King Albert I 22 (29)2626256165156 [upper-alpha 4] 2914 August – 12 September 1920US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1924 VIII Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Paris President Gaston Doumergue 17 (23)30892954135126445–27 July 1924US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1928 IX Flag of the Netherlands.svg Amsterdam Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin 14 (20)288326062771094628 July – 12 August 1928US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1932 X Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Los Angeles Vice President Charles Curtis 133212061261173730 July – 14 August 1932US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1936 XI Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Berlin Chancellor Adolf Hitler 19 (25)39633632331129491–16 August 1936Flag of the German Reich (1935-1945).svg  Germany  (GER)
1940 XII [upper-alpha 3] Originally awarded to Tokyo, then awarded to Helsinki. Cancelled due to World War II
1944 XIII [upper-alpha 3] Awarded to London. Cancelled due to World War II
1948 XIV Flag of the United Kingdom.svg London King George VI 17 (23)410437143901365929 July – 14 August 1948US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1952 XV Flag of Finland.svg Helsinki President Juho Kusti Paasikivi 495544365191496919 July – 3 August 1952US flag 48 stars.svg  United States  (USA)
1956 XVI Flag of Australia (converted).svg Melbourne Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 33142938376151 [upper-alpha 5] 72 [upper-alpha 6] 22 November – 8 December 1956Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)
1960 XVII Flag of Italy.svg Rome President Giovanni Gronchi 533847276111508325 August – 11 September 1960Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)
1964 XVIII Flag of Japan (1870-1999).svg Tokyo Emperor Hirohito 19 (25)515144736781639310–24 October 1964Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
1968 XIX Flag of Mexico.svg Mexico City President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz 18 (24)5516473578117211212–27 October 1968Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
1972 XX Flag of Germany.svg Munich President Gustav Heinemann 21 (28)71346075105919512126 August – 11 September 1972Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)
1976 XXI Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Montreal Queen Elizabeth II 21 (27)6084482412601989217 July – 1 August 1976Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)
1980 XXII Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Moscow Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev 5179406411152038019 July – 3 August 1980Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)
1984 XXIII Flag of the United States.svg Los Angeles President Ronald Reagan 21 (29)68295263156622114028 July – 12 August 1984Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
1988 XXIV Flag of South Korea (1984-1997).svg Seoul President Roh Tae-woo 23 (31)83916197219423715917 September – 2 October 1988Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)
1992 XXV Flag of Spain.svg Barcelona King Juan Carlos I 25 (34)93566652270425716925 July – 9 August 1992Olympic flag.svg  Unified Team  (EUN)
1996 XXVI Flag of the United States.svg Atlanta President Bill Clinton 26 (37)103186806351227119719 July – 4 August 1996Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
2000 XXVII Flag of Australia (converted).svg Sydney Governor-General Sir William Deane 28 (40)106516582406930019915 September – 1 October 2000Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
2004 XXVIII Flag of Greece.svg Athens President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos 106256296432930120113–29 August 2004Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
2008 XXIX Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Beijing President Hu Jintao 28 (41)10942630546373022048–24 August 2008Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China  (CHN)
2012 XXX Flag of the United Kingdom.svg London Queen Elizabeth II 26 (39)107685992477630220427 July – 12 August 2012Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
2016 XXXI Flag of Brazil.svg Rio de Janeiro Acting President Michel Temer 28 (41)11238617950593062075–21 August 2016Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)
2020 XXXII Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo Emperor Naruhito (expected)33 (50)TBATBATBA339TBA23 July – 8 August 2021TBA
2024 XXXIII Flag of France.svg Paris President of France (expected)32 (48)TBATBATBA329TBA26 July – 11 August 2024TBA [45]
2028 XXXIV Flag of the United States.svg Los Angeles President of the United States (expected)TBATBATBATBATBATBA21 July – 6 August 2028TBA [45]
  1. The IOC webpage for the 1900 Summer Olympics [35] sets the number at 95 events, while at one time the IOC database for the 1900 Summer Olympics [36] apparently listed 85. The figure of 95 is sourced to a work by Olympic historian and author, Bill Mallon, [37] whose studies have shed light on the topic. Events satisfying all four of these retrospective selection criteria — restricted to amateurs, international participation, open to all competitors and without handicapping — are now regarded as Olympic events.
  2. The IOC webpage for the 1904 Summer Olympics [38] sets the number at 95 events, while at one time the IOC webpage [39] listed 91. The figure of 91 is sourced to a work by Olympic historian and author, Bill Mallon, [40] whose studies have shed light on the topic. Events satisfying all four of these retrospective selection criteria — restricted to amateurs, international participation, open to all competitors and without handicapping — are now regarded as Olympic events.
  3. 1 2 3 Although the Games of 1916, 1940, and 1944 were cancelled, the Roman numerals for those Games were still applied because the official titles of the Summer Games count the Olympiads, not the Games themselves, per the Olympic Charter. [41] This contrasts with the Winter Olympics, which ignore the cancelled Winter Games of 1940 and 1944 in their numeric count.
  4. The IOC webpage for the 1920 Summer Olympics [42] gives the figure of 156 events, while at one time the IOC webpage [43] listed 154 (difference was two sailing events in Amsterdam).
  5. The IOC webpage for the 1956 Summer Olympics [44] gives total of 151 events (145 events in Melbourne and 6 equestrian events in Stockholm).
  6. Owing to Australian quarantine laws, six equestrian events were held in Stockholm for the 1956 Summer Olympics several months before the other events in Melbourne; five of the 72 nations competed in the equestrian events in Stockholm, did not attend the main Games in Melbourne.

See also

Related Research Articles

Olympic Games Major international sport event

The modern Olympic Games or Olympics are 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 nations participating. The Olympic Games are normally held every four years, alternating between the Summer and Winter Olympics every two years in the four-year period.

Winter Olympic Games Major international sporting event

The Winter Olympic Games is a major international multi-sport event held once every four years for sports practiced on snow and ice. The first Winter Olympic Games, the 1924 Winter Olympics, were held in Chamonix, France. The modern Olympic Games were inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, which were 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 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 1896. The IOC is the governing body of the Olympic Movement, with the Olympic Charter defining its structure and authority.

1948 Summer Olympics Games of the XIV Olympiad, held in London in 1948

The 1948 Summer Olympics were an international multi-sport event held from 29 July to 14 August 1948 in London, United Kingdom. Following a twelve-year hiatus caused by the outbreak of World War II, these were the first Summer Olympics held since the 1936 Games in Berlin. The 1940 Olympic Games had been scheduled for Tokyo and then for Helsinki, while the 1944 Olympic Games had been provisionally planned for London. This was the second time London had hosted the Olympic Games, having previously hosted them in 1908, forty years earlier. The Olympics would again return to London 64 years later in 2012, making London the first city to have hosted the games three times, and the only such city until Paris and Los Angeles host their third games in 2024 and 2028, respectively. The 1948 Olympic Games were also the first of two summer Games held under the IOC presidency of Sigfrid Edström.

1896 Summer Olympics Games of the I Olympiad, held in Athens

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At the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first modern Olympiad, twelve athletics events were contested. A total of 25 medals were awarded. The medals were later denoted as 37 modern medals. All of the events except the marathon were held in the Panathinaiko Stadium, which was also the finish for the marathon. Events were held on 6 April, 7 April, 9 April, and 10 April 1896. Altogether, 64 athletes, all men, from ten nations competed. This made athletics the most international of the nine sports at the 1896 Games.

2004 Summer Olympics Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, held in Athens in 2004

The 2004 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad and commonly known as Athens 2004, was an international multi-sport event held from 13 to 29 August 2004 in Athens, Greece. The Games saw 10,625 athletes compete, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team officials from 201 countries. There were 301 medal events in 28 different sports. Athens 2004 marked the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance, and also saw the return of the Olympic Games to the city where they began. Having previously hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, Athens became one of only four cities at the time to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games on two occasions.

1928 Summer Olympics Games of the IX Olympiad, celebrated in Amsterdam in 1928

The 1928 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the IX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was celebrated from 28 July to 12 August 1928 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city of Amsterdam had previously bid for the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, but was obliged to give way to war-torn Antwerp in Belgium for the 1920 Games and Pierre de Coubertin's Paris for the 1924 Games.

1924 Summer Olympics Games of the VIII Olympiad, celebrated in Paris, France, in May–July 1924

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1900 Summer Olympics Games of the II Olympiad, celebrated in Paris (France) in 1900

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1896 Summer Olympics medal table

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Greece at the Olympics performance of Greece at the Olympic Games

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Athletics at the 1896 Summer Olympics – Mens discus throw

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Brazil at the Olympics Sporting event delegation

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