The Ancient Olympic Games were a series of competitions held between city-states and kingdoms in Ancient Greece. These games featured mainly athletic, but also combat events and chariot racing.

Olympic facts
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.

The Olympic Games reached their peak in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece.

Olympic facts

1. No-one actually knows when the Olympic Games began. The earliest recorded event was at Olympia, Greece in 776 BC, but it may well have been held even earlier.

2. From 776 BC onwards, it was held every four years, and the ancient Greeks calculated their calendar in four year periods called 'Olympiads'.

Olympic facts
3. The word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek root "gymnos" meaning nude. In fact, the literal meaning of "gymnasium" is "school for naked exercise." This makes more sense when you find out that athletes in the ancient Olympic Games would have participated in the nude!

4. The ancient Olympics ended in AD 393 when the Roman Emperor Theodosius banned the games because they were becoming too pagan.

5. The earliest games were held to honour Zeus and included a ceasefire in all wars in the region.

6. When the modern Olympics began in Athens in 1896, only 13 countries took part.

7. The five Olympic rings represent the five major regions of the world – Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania, and every national flag in the world includes one of the five colors, which are (from left to right) blue, yellow, black, green, and red.

Olympic medals
8. The last Olympic gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912. Nowadays, each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter. Also, the gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5 percent silver, with the gold medal covered in six grams of gold.

9. During the 1900 Olympic archery competition, live pigeons were used as targets.

10. Britain has always won at least one gold in every modern Olympics - however, one was the grand total of gold medals for the UK in 1904, 1952 and 1996 - embarrassing!

11. Because of World War I and World War II, there were no Olympic Games in 1916, 1940, or 1944.

Olympic facts
12. During the ancient Olympic games, married women were barred from watching the games. In fact the only only married woman allowed in was the Priestess of Demeter - a goddess of the harvest.

13. Women were first allowed to participate in 1900 at the second modern Olympic Games.

14. Three continents – Africa, South America, and Antarctica – have never hosted an Olympics.

15. The 'Berlin Olympics' held in 1936 were the first Olympic games ever to be broadcast on television.

16. Olympian Oscar Swahn of Sweden is the oldest olympian to have participated in any of the olympic events so far. He was a shooter who participated at the 1920 Antwerp Games at the age of 72 years.

17. Baron Pierre De Coubertin of France is known as the father of the modern olympics.

18. The very first modern olympics were held in Athens, Greece 1896.

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