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The Olympic rings are the official symbol of the Olympic Movement. There are five interlacing rings of the colors blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The rings are set upon a white background.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin designed the Olympic emblem in 1913. In his words, "These five rings represent the five parts of the world won over to Olympism. . . This is a real international emblem." The Olympic rings represent the union of the areas - the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe and the meeting of athletes throughout the world at the Olympic Games. Contrary to a popular misconception, the colors themselves do not represent any single continent. The colors were chosen because at least one of these colors is found in the flag of every nation.

The original Olympic flag was made at the "Bon Marché" store in Paris. The flag is three meters long and two meters wide. It first flew over an Olympic stadium at the 1920 Antwerp Games. The original flag also carried the Olympic motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius," Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger."

The most revered and visible symbol of the Olympic Games competition is the Olympic Flame.

During the ancient Games, in Olympia, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess, Hera.

In the modern era, the Olympic Flame first appeared at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. The idea for the flame first had been suggested by Theodore Lewald, a member of the International Olympic Committee, who later became one of the chief organizers of the 1936 Berlin Games.

The tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay, which culminates in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of each Games, dates to the 1936 Berlin Games. Carl Diem, the noted Olympic historian and head of the organizing committee, created the first torch relay to symbolize the link between the ancient and modern Olympic Games. The flame was lit in a ceremony at Olympia, Greece. From there, 3,000 runners carried the torch through seven countries to Berlin. The relay was timed so that the flame arrived at the stadium at the precise moment required. Ever since, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron has become the most hallowed moment of the Olympic Games.

The first torch relay of the Olympic Winter Games was organized for the 1952 Oslo Games. The flame was kindled at the home where legendary Norwegian skier Sondre Nordheim was born. Ninety-four skiers carried the flame to the Opening Ceremony in Oslo's Bislett Stadium. At the 1994 Lillehammer Games, ski-jumper Stein Gruben literally leaped into the Olympic arena with the flame.

The youngest person ever to light the Olympic flame was Robin Perry, age 12, who lit the flame at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.

At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games the honor of lighting the Olympic Flame was given to a group, rather than an individual or pair, for the first time. The entire 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team, led by Captain Mike Eruzione, lit the flame.

Greek windsurfer Nikos Kaklamanakis, a four-time Olympian, was the final torch-bearer at the Opening ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games.

Olympic medals are awarded to those individuals or teams placing first, second, and third in each event. The first place winner is bestowed a gold-plated medal of silver, which is commonly referred to as the "gold medal." Second and third places receive medals of silver and bronze. The silver used in the first and second place medals must be at least 92.5% pure. The "gold" medals must be gilded with at least six grams of pure gold. Medals also carry the name of the sport contested. Competitors who finish in the 1st through 8th places in an Olympic event receive an award diploma. The IOC awards commemorative pins to each athlete who participates in the Olympic Games.

The front sides of the medals awarded at the Games of the Olympiads feature an image of a Hellenic goddess holding a laurel wreath with the Athens Colosseum in the background. Since 1972, local Olympic organizing committees have been allowed to create a design for the back sides of the medals.

The medals given at the Olympic Winter Games, by tradition, differ from the traditional medals given at the Summer Games. Each Organizing Committee designs its own medals that must be approved by the IOC. The 2002 Salt Lake City Games medals, for example, were designed to look like natural river rock from Utah's rivers. The medals were the heaviest ever weighing 1.25 pounds apiece. The Games motto "Light the Fire Within" was engraved on the front of each medal.

The Olympic mascots are characters that stand as a symbol of the Olympic Games for children of all ages.

The official mascots of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games were Powder, a hare, Copper, a coyote, and Coal, a bear. These animals were chosen based on legends told by Native Americans which praise the hare for traveling swifter, the coyote for climbing higher and the bear for being stronger than all the other animals. The words "swifter, higher, stronger", are the widely-accepted English translation of the Olympic Motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius." Charms based on Native American petroglyphs hang around the neck of each mascot to remind each of its heritage.

Maybe you'd like to meet a few other Olympic Mascots.


The Olympic Charter

"The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind . . .."

These words from the Olympic Charter state the Olympic Movement's belief that athletic talent, and not race, gender, religious belief or politics, should determine whether athletes may participate in the Olympic Games. The charter stipulates only that athletes must be citizens of the nations they represent.

Other eligibility criteria are the responsibility of the international and national sport federations and National Olympic Committees. Each sport federation determines age limits and the eligibility of professional athletes. Some sports admit professionals; others do not. For example, professional baseball and basketball players now are allowed to play in the Olympic Games.

All athletes in the Olympic Games participate as representatives of their countries. Some athletes who hold dual nationality compete for the country other than the one in which they live. Most United States Olympic team members are selected through national Olympic qualification competitions. In the sport of track and field, for example, the top three finishers in each event at the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials are selected to the Olympic team. In some other sports, national federations choose based on current fitness, past performance, and future potential. Typically, each sport determines how its athletes will be selected for the Olympic Games.

Making an Olympic team has been a dream for generations of athletes worldwide. Making an Olympic team is very difficult and usually requires years of hard work, persistence and good fortune. It is very rare for a novice athlete to be selected to an Olympic team. Most Olympic team members have been training in their sports for nearly a decade or more before gaining the honor of participating in the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Movement aims to promote sport in the spirit of fair play. Cheating, such as using performance-enhancing drugs, and violence are punishable by expulsion from the Olympic Games and the loss of any medals or diplomas. For the 2000 Olympic games a phrase promising not to use drugs was added to the oath.

At the Opening Ceremony of each Olympic Games the flag bearers of all the delegations form a semi-circle around the rostrum. A competitor of the host country mounts the rostrum. Holding a corner of the Olympic flag in the left hand, and raising the right hand, the athlete takes the following oath:

"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

An official also takes an oath declaring that all referees, umpires and judges at the games promise to judge fairly.

Copyright: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, January, 1996; November, 1997; February, 1999; April 2001; March 2002.

The images used in AN OLYMPIC PRIMER are the copyrighted property of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, Allsport Photography, the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, the Organizing Committee for the XVIII Olympic Winter Games, Nagano 1998, the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee. Copyrighted images, not belonging to the Amateur Athletic Foundation, are used here under the fair use provision of the Copyright Act or with the permission of the copyright owner.

Individuals may reproduce a single copy of the text for educational purposes only. Any reproduction should cite the Amateur Athletic Foundation as publisher and copyright owner. The sale or commercial use of this work, or any portion thereof, in any format, is prohibited.

For more information on the Olympic Primer, contact the AAF library at

Copyright, 1997-2002 Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. All rights reserved.

©2006 Arne Solvang on behalf of London International Pin Club, UK.

All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without the expressed written consent of Arne Solvang, founder of the club.

This is not an official London 2012 pin club. The website and club is independent to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and is not in any way associated with or endorsed by the BOA, BPA, IOC, IPC or LOCOG.