The Summer Olympic Games kick off on August 5th in Rio de Janeiro, the first South American country ever to host. But like us, you might be wondering: when were the first Olympics ever held? Are gold medals actually made of gold? And what do those Olympic rings really mean?
#1. The first ever Olympic Games were held in 776BC in Olympia, Greece. Today, at the site, it’s possible to see ruins of the stadium where ancient events were held, as well as various other religious temples dedicated to the Olympians. Athens then hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
#2. Although the symbol of the Olympic Flame originated in ancient times, it wasn’t until the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928 that fire was first introduced as part of the ceremony. At the 1936 Games in Berlin, the first torch relay was also initiated and it has been part of the Games ritual ever since.
#3. The Summer Olympic Games have been cancelled only three times in history. First, in 1916, due to WWI; then in 1940 and 1944, because of WWII (both Summer and Winter Olympics were cancelled).
#4. Rio di Janeiro will host a record-setting 306 events at the Olympic Games this year, according to the Guinness World Records. This is four more than the previous record, set by Beijing in 2008, and includes two new sports: Golf and Rugby Sevens.
#5. Olympic gold medals are actually not made of gold. They consist of 92.5% silver and are obliged to contain only 6 grams of gold. The last solid gold medal awarded was at the Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912. In ancient times, winners were awarded with an olive wreath or crown.
#6. Australia has hosted the Olympic Games twice! The first time was in 1956 in Melbourne, the first ever time the Games was held in the southern hemisphere. The second time, of course, was in Sydney in 2000; the Games here drew over 10,000 athletes, who participated in 300 events.
#7. The USA holds the most medals (2,406) won over every other country in the world. Russia has a total of 1,528 medals and Germany has 1,305. Great Britain, France, Italy and Australia follow (respectively) not too far behind.
#8. The Olympic Rings were designed by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, the co-founder of the Games. The five rings are meant to represent the union of the five continents (Africa, America, Asia, Oceania and Europe) that come together for the Games. The colours were selected because every nation has at least one in their national flag.
#9. Women first began competing in the Olympic Games in 1900, in Paris, France. That year, 22 women competed in 5 sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrian and golf. By contrast, almost half of all athletes competing in the Games today are female. Notably, the 2012 Games in London was the first time women competed in every single sport.
#10. Some hilarious animals and characters have been used as mascots for both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games over the years. These include a Dachshund Dog (Munich, 1972), a Snowball and Icecube (Turin, 2006), a Sasquatch (Vancouver, 2010) and a character made from a construction girder (London, 2012).