Fifty Fascinating Facts about the Olympics – Pt. 2

More Surprising Facts about the Olympics …

Continuing this list of amazing facts about the Olympics … including a country who is still in search of their first Olympic medal … the Olympian who never lost a race, and went on to star in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time … the time athletes had to run an extra lap – because someone lost count! … the three occasions the Olympics were cancelled altogether … the only national team to ever win gold in one particular sport … the athlete whose achievements angered Hitler … the athlete who nearly died in a plane crash and spent months in a coma, then went on to win gold again! … the Games where the champions were awarded paintings instead of medals … the silver-medallist who became a Nobel laureate … and many more.

Fifty Fascinating Facts
About The Olympics, Pt.2

Fact 26 – Bolivia … still looking for their first medal

flag of BoliviaNo athlete from Bolivia has ever won an Olympic medal, although the country has sent athletes to every Summer Olympics since 1964 🙁

They’re not the only country to have never won an Olympic medal though. That honour goes to a total of 79 countries!

In fact, 154 countries (really … one hundred and fifty-four!) have won fewer medals than Michael Phelps! That’s roughly three quarters of the world’s countries!

Fact 27 – Five successive Olympic golds!

Steve RedgraveSir Steve Redgrave won gold at five successive Olympics, from 1984 to 2000. In 2000, he was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

He has won a staggering 17 gold medals – 5 at the Olympics, 3 at the Commonwealth Games, and 9 World Rowing Championship gold medals.

He carried the British flag at the opening ceremonies on two occasions.

In 2011 he received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

With his impressive haul of medals, and his remarkable longevity, he is undoubtedly the most successful male rower in Olympic history. His achievements are all the more amazing when you take into account that he has suffered with ulcerative colitis and is diabetic. Incidentally, he is also dyslexic.

Fact 28 – The Longest Olympics

The 1908 London Olympics began in April and didn’t come to an end until October, a duration of 187 days (six months and four days)!

quit smoking magic - tiny flashing square bannerThe 1908 Games were originally scheduled to be held in Rome, but that all changed due to an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which devastated the city of Naples. The venue had to be hastily rearranged, and this largely accounts for the unusually long duration of the Games.

It was at this Olympics that the marathon distance was formally set (see Fact 02)

Fact 29 – Barefoot marathon winner

Abebe BikilaAbebe Bikila (from Ethiopia) won the marathon in Rome in 1960, barefoot. Adidas, the shoe sponsor at the Games, had very few shoes left when Bikila tried some on and he ended up with a pair that didn’t fit properly. He decided to run barefoot, the way he’d been training for the race.

After the race, when asked why he had run barefoot, he replied, “I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”

So much for all those fancy running shoes!

Fact 30 – Put that light out!

cig-lighter-60olympic-flame-53Disaster at the 1976 Montreal Games, when a sudden rainstorm put out the Olympic flame. A helpful official quickly relit it with his cigarette lighter!

Horrified organisers quickly put it out again and immediately re-lit it, only this time using a backup Olympic torch, so ensuring that the original Olympic flame was perpetuated.

Fact 31 – Stripped for action!

The word ‘gymnasium’ comes from the Greek ‘gymnos’, meaning nude. A gymnasium is, therefore, literally a place where athletes train in the nude.

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This practice is generally looked down on in modern gymnasiums, and it is suggested that you check with your local gymnasium before training the ancient Greek way. 🙂

Fact 32 – Olympic workforce

The total workforce for the London Games of 2012 was estimated at 200,000, a figure which included paid workers, volunteers, and contractors.

The volunteers alone numbered 70,000! Together, they contributed eight million hours of voluntary work behind the scenes. One was quoted as saying: “It’s been long hours – I’ve fallen asleep on the Tube going home – but everyone has been so happy. This has been the biggest event in my lifetime.”

He was one of the more than 240,000 who applied to act as volunteers.

Fact 33 – Tarzan was a gold medallist!

jonny WeissmullerJohnny Weissmuller, who won five swimming golds at the 1924 and 1928 Games never lost a race. He won 52 US National Championships and set67 world records.

He went on to star as Tarzan in 12 movies. He wasn’t the first to portray the ape-man; in fact, he was the sixth, but he’s by far the best known. His distinctive Tarzan yell is still used in films.


Apparently, he was originally named Peter, but used his brother’s name when he became successful as a swimmer, because his brother was a US citizen by birth, whereas he was not. This enabled him to represent the US at the Olympics (at Paris, 1924 and Amsterdam, 1928).

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In 1950, the Associated Press announced he was the greatest swimmer of the first half of the 20th Century.

Fact 34 – Cassius Clay … scared of flying

Cassius ClayCassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) was so nervous of flying to the Rome Olympics in 1960 that he bought his own parachute from an army surplus store and wore it all the way there!

He may have been scared of flying, but that was all he was scared of. He proved himself to be not just an Olympic champion, but perhaps the greatest exponent of boxing that ever lived.

He always bragged that he was The Greatest. The British public agreed – he was named Sports Personality of the Century in 1999. But it wasn’t just the British public that he had impressed – he had already won the Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Century Award, and the World Sports Award’s World Sportsman of the Century.

Fact 35 – Hey, anyone can make a mistake!

A mistake by officials at the Los Angeles Games of 1932 meant that steeplechasers had to run an extra lap on top of the usual seven-and-a-half – they just lost count!

Fact 36 – One city, three time host

London Olympics 2012truth about abs - small buttonLondon became the only city to ever host the Olympic Games three times when it hosted the 2012 Games.

London previously hosted the 1908 Games and the 1948 Games.

Fact 37 – London, 2012

London Olympics 2012Over 10,500 athletes from 205 nations competed in 302 events over 19 days at London 2012.

The events were staged at 32 different venues, with a combined capacity of about 700,000.

The Stadium cost approximately £537million.

The estimated global audience for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Games was four billion.

Fact 38 – Most successful Olympic cyclist

Chris HoySir Chris Hoy retired in early 2013 after an astonishingly successful career in competitive cycling. He is an eleven-time world champion, six-time Oympic champion, and a winner of seven Olympic medals (six gold, one silver). His achievements make him the most successful Olympic cyclist of all time.

He is also the most successful British Olympian of all time, in terms of gold medals, and shares the title of most decorated British Olympian of all time in terms of medals (regardless of colour), having won seven, with fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins.

Fact 39 – Crowds? What crowds?

At the Paris Games in 1900 there were more athletes than spectators. quizzical look

Fact 40 – Greatest Olympian of all time

Michael Phelps, Olympics championMichael Phelps is officially the greatest Olympian of all time.

He has won a total of 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.

He started swimming at the age of seven, partly to burn off his excess energy (he was later diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD).

By the age of ten, he held a national record for his age group.

After the 2008 Olympics, Phelps used his $1million Speedo bonus to set up the Michael Phelps Foundation. Its main focus is on developing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles.

Phelps has set 39 world records, surpassing Mark Spitz’s record of 33.

Fact 41 – Olympiads without Games

grenadeThe Olympics has been cancelled three times due to war.

The first time was on the occasion of what would have been the 6th Olympics in 1916, during World War I, and the other two times were the 12th and 13th Olympics (1940 and 1944), during World War II.

Fact 42 – It’s just not cricket!

cricket-clipart-200Cricket was a part of the 1900 Paris Games, but there were only two entrants, Britain and France. And the French team was composed entirely of British embassy staff!

quizzical look Hmmm?

Anyway, Britain won. Hey, what a surprise!
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Since cricket was only contested that one time (at the Paris Games of 1900), Great Britain is the only nation to win an Olympic cricket contest and the British team are the only Olympic gold medallists in cricket.

Fact 43 – First televised Olympics

Berlin Olympics 1936The very first Olympics to be televised were the Berlin Games of 1936. This marked the first live television coverage of a sports event in world history.

The Berlin Games were held in a politically charged atmosphere due to Germany’s racist policies. The German government only relented and allowed Jewish and black athletes to compete due to pressure from the International Olympic Committee, who warned them of the growing threat of a mass boycott.

jesse owensJesse Owens, an American athlete, won four gold medals at the Berlin Games. His gold-winning events were the 100m, the 200m, the long jump, and as part of the 4x100m relay. He was, in fact, the most succcessful athlete at the Games. And he was black, of course. 🙂

Hitler was not amused. 🙁    (GOOD!)

Fact 44 – Down … but not out!

Betty RobinsonThe Amsterdam Games of 1928 saw the first Olympic 100m race for women. It was won by Betty Robinson.Three years later she was in a plane crash. A bystander pulled her from the wreckage, assumed she was dead, and drove her body to an undertaker. Luckily, she was found to be still alive, although comatose.

After waking from a seven-month coma, and after spending a further six months in a wheelchair, she recovered sufficiently to compete at the Berlin Olympics of 1936! I guess she was making up for being unable to compete in the 1932 Olympics in her home country!

She won gold again, although this had to be in the 4x100m relay, since she could no longer kneel for a normal 100m start.

Fact 45 – Paintings, not medals

portrait-150The 1900 Paris Olympics staged some unusual events, and, as it turned out, it was for the only time In Olympic history, as they were thereafter discontinued. They included motor car and motorcycle racing, ballooning, cricket, croquet, Basque pelota, and a swimming obstacle race!

First place winners at the Paris Games of 1900 were awarded paintings instead of medals! They were considered more valuable and more desirable as awards.

Fact 46 – World record long jump, but no gold

long jumpIn 1924, Robert LeGendre broke the world record with an amazing leap of 25 feet and four inches.

Unfortunately, he did it within the confines of the pentathlon. The long jump was won with a leap of 24 feet and five inches.

Fact 47 – Olympian, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

noel bakerOnly one person has ever competed at the Olympics and has also been a recipient of the Noble Peace Prize. He was Philip Noel-Baker of Great Britain. He carried the British team flag at Antwerp in 1920, and he won silver in the 1,500m.

During World War I, he organised and led the Friends’ Ambulance Unit attached to the fighting front in France, and, although a conscientious objector, received military medals from the UK, France, and Italy.

He was a Labour MP from 1929 to 1931, and again from 1936 to 1971, serving in several ministerial offices and the cabinet. He became a life peer in 1977.

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He was awared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1959 for his work supporting multinational nuclear disarmament.

Fact 48 – Gold for Great Britain at every Olympics

gold medalGreat Britain is the only nation to have won at least one gold medal at every Summer Games. Additionally, Great Britain is one of only three nations (the other two are France and Switzerland) to have competed at every Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Of course, this takes into account that at the first Games there were no actual gold medals (they were silver), and at the Paris Games in 1900 the winners received paintings, not medals (see above). Still, if there had been gold medals, Great Britain would have won at least one!

Fact 49 – The longest name at the Olympics

The Olympic champion with the longest name was Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, with 31 letters. She was a Thai weightlifter, and she won gold in the 53Kg category at Beijing in 2008. Her name was too long for the scoreboard to cope with, and consequently it listed her simply as ‘J’!long-name

Fact 50 – The Olympic Flame

lighting the flame at the OlympicsThe original Olympic flame (i.e. the flame at the ancient Olympics) was ignited by the sun and kept burning throughout the Games. In the modern Olympics, it was reintroduced at the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928. It signifies purity of intention, among other things, and a burning desire for perfection and attainment.

In the 1930s, the Olympic Torch relay was introduced. The flame is ignited at Olympia using a mirror and the sun by women wearing robes redolent of ancient Greece.

The flame is then passed from runner to runner all the way from the site of the ancient Olympics to whichever city is currently hosting the Games. Once delivered, the flame is kept burning thoughout the entire Games. The relay is representative of the modern Olympics keeping alive the ancient tradition.


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