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London 2012 Olympics: 50 things you never knew


1. Shakespeare was the first person to use the word “Olympian” in 1591, in Henry VI, with the line: "Promise them such rewards / As victors wear at the Olympian games."
2. The ancient Olympics were first referred to in Homer’s Iliad, written in the 7th or 8th century BC.
3. The earliest record of the Games dates from 776 BC, when the only event was a foot race ….
4. ... and women, slaves and “impious” persons were banned from taking part in or watching the Games.
5. The “Olympic Truce” required that wars and disputes with the Hellenic world be suspended for the duration of the Games.

6. The first post-classical “Olimpick” games took place near Chipping Campden in 1612, exactly 400 years before London 2012.

7. The National Olympic Association was set up in 1865. Its aim was to establish a National Olympic Games, which would be held in a different city every year.

8. The first National Olympic Games took place in London in 1866, the last in the Hadley, Shropshire in 1883.

9. The International Olympic Committee was founded in 1894 by French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

10. Coubertin proposed Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) as the official Olympic motto and created the symbol of the Olympic Rings to represent “the five parts of the world which are won over to Olympism”.

11. The colour of the rings was selected because every nation’s flag contains at least one of them.

12. The first International Olympic Committee Games took place in Athens in 1896 and had only nine events.

13. The 1900 Paris Olympics were the first to allow women to take part, and winners were awarded paintings rather than medals.

14. The first female athlete to win an individual Olympic event was tennis player Charlotte Cooper from Ealing, west London, at the 1900 Games in Paris.

15. The modern Olympic Games first came to London in 1908.

16. 'White City' takes its name from the paint used to decorate the Olympic Site at Shepherd's Bush in 1908

17. The White City Stadium took nine months to build, cost £60,000 and could hold between 70,000 and 93,000 people.

18. 56 gold, 51 silver and 38 bronze medals were won by Great Britain at the Great Stadium in 1908.

19. The London Games of 1908 consisted of 109 events, 2,023 athletes, 23 different countries and, for the first time, included water events in a swimming pool.

20. Sporting Life reported of the 1908 Games: “more miserable weather would be difficult to imagine”, and it rained throughout the opening ceremony on July 13.

21. Electrical timing devices were used for the first time at the 1920 Games in Stockholm.

22. The official Olympic flag was flown for the first time during the 1920 Games in Antwerp.

23. The first flame to appear in modern Olympics was at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, where tennis was abolished as an Olympic Sport (though it reappeared in the 1988 Games in Seoul).

24. The first Torch Relay started in Athens and went through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia before finishing in Berlin for the 1936 Games.

25. The 1944 Games had been awarded to London, but was cancelled due to WWII.

26. London hosted the first post-war games of 1948.

27. Advertisers were charged £250 in 1948 (the equivalent of £6,750 today) to feature the five-ring Olympic symbol in advertisements.

28. A torch from the 1948 Games was sold at Bonhams in 2008 for £2,520.

29. Starting blocks were used for sprinting races for the first time at the 1948 Olympics.

30. Wembley Arena will host the London 2012 Badminton, thereby becoming the only venue from the 1948 games to be used in London’s third Games.

31. No Olympic Village was built in 1948 due to a lack of money; instead, the government accommodated the 4,100 or so athletes and over 1,000 officials at RAF stations, schools, colleges and nurses’ homes.

32. Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire is regarded as the birth place of the Paralympics, as recovering soldiers from its local hospital took part in the town’s games.

33. The first official Paralympic Games took place in 1960 in Rome and hosted 400 athletes from 23 countries.

34. The 2012 Torch Relay included 8,000 people and 1,018 towns and cities.

35. The Olympic Anthem, which is played when the Olympic Flag is raised during the opening ceremony, was composed by Spyridon Samar. Its lyrics are taken from a poem written by Greek poet Kostis Palamas.

36. London is the first city in history to hold the Olympic Games three times.

37. The Olympic Motto for the 2012 London Games is “Inspire a generation”.

38. Women’s boxing is to take place for the first time at this year’s Games.

39. American swimmer Michael Phelps won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the most to be won by a single person in the Games’ history.

40. The Berlin Olympics of 1936 were the first ever to be broadcast on television.

41. Equestrianism is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete against each other on equal terms.

42. The London 2012 Olympic gold medal is made of 92.5 per cent silver, 1.34 per cent gold and the remainder copper.

43. The London Olympics 2012 consists of 300 events and 10,500 athletes from 205 different countries.

44. The Olympic Village will require 165,000 towels for the duration of the Games.

45. An estimated 260,000 loaves of bread will be eaten by athletes in the Olympic Village.

46. The wavelike roof of the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park is 160m long and 80m wide, giving it a longer span than Heathrow Terminal Five.

47. 4,000 bins will be emptied 336,000 times in the Olympic Park throughout the duration of the
Olympics and Paralympics.

48. The London Philharmonic Orchestra took 50 hours to record the individual anthems of all nations competing in the 2012 Games.

49. During the Closing ceremony, three flags are raised; the Greek flag to honour the Games’ birthplace, that of the current host country, and that of the country hosting the next Games.

50. 5,000 tonnes of sand have been brought to London from Surrey to accommodate the Beach Volleyball event at Horse Guards Parade.


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