Jae C. Hong/AP/Press Association Images The Olympic rings each symbolise a different continent.
# London 2012
30 facts you (probably) didn't know about the Olympics
Excited about the Olympics yet? Here are 30 interesting facts to pique your interest.

THE OPENING CEREMONY for the Olympics takes place this evening. So here are a few facts relating to the event’s history, ahead of this momentous occasion.

  • Greece won more medals than anyone else (47) at the first-ever Olympic Games in 1896.
  • Despite having existed for over a century, the Olympics weren’t shown on US television until 1960.
  • The programme for the Olympic Games involves 35 sports, 30 disciplines and nearly 400 events.
  • The Soviet Union gymnast, Larrisa Latynina, has won more medals than anyone else at the Summer Olympics, with a total of 18.
  • Three continents (Africa, South America, and Antarctica) have never hosted the Olympics.
  • The early Olympic Games lasted from 776 BC until 393 AD. They were subsequently banned, as they were considered a pagan festival. French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin proposed the idea to revive them in 1894, and they have continued ever since.
  • Australia, Great Britain and Switzerland are the only three countries to have participated in every Olympic Games since 1896.
  • The use of performance-enhancing drugs are not a modern phenomena. Thomas Hicks, who won the marathon in 1904, was given strychnine and brandy by his coach.
  • The IOC eventually banned performance-enhancing drugs in 1967, a decision that was perhaps prompted by the death of Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen, after he fell from his bike. The coroner’s report subsequently revealed that Jensen was under the influence of amphetamines.
  • Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall consequently became the first athlete to be suspended for drug abuse in 1968.
  • The Olympic Games have been cancelled on three occasions – in 1916, because of World War I, and in 1940 and 1944, because of World War II.
  • Bolivia is one of the few countries never to have won a medal.
  • Oscar Swahn of Sweden is the oldest ever winner of an Olympic medal. He came second in the double shot running deer contest in 1920 aged 72.
  • In contrast, the youngest ever competitor was Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who competed in the 1896 Olympics at the age of 10.
  • Tuvalu is the most recent country to become eligible to compete at the Olympics, after receiving clearance in 2007.

(China may be considered an Olympic powerhouse these days, but they only won their first Olympics gold medal in 1984)

  • The last gold medal made entirely out of goal was awarded in 1912.
  • Gandhi covered the 1932 Olympics as a reporter.
  • In the 1896 Olympics, the winners of each event were rewarded a silver rather than gold medal.
  • The 1908 Olympics lasted for 187 days, starting in April and finishing in October.
  • Xu Haifeng won China’s first gold medal – in 1984.
  • In 1900, winners were awarded paintings instead of gold medals.
  • Ireland have won a total of 23 medals at the Olympics and have won more in boxing (12) than any other sport.
  • Ireland have competed at the Olympics since 1924, after the Olympic Council of Ireland was formed in 1922.
  • Irish-born athletes won medals competing for the United States before Ireland became an Olympic country, including a group nicknamed the ‘Irish Whales,’ who were successful in throwing events.
  • The British Olympic Association was formed in 1905 and Irish athletes were initially free to join it.
  • 2012 is the third time London has hosted the Olympics. 1908 and 1948 were the other two occasions.
  • Pierre de Coubertin created the official Olympic flag in 1914, with five interconnected rings representing different continents.
  • The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”.
  • USA’s James B. Connolly was the first-ever modern Olympic champion, winning the hop, step, and jump event in 1896.
  • Women weren’t allowed to compete at the 1896 Games.
  • Russia only competed twice in the Games (in 1908 and 1912) up until 1952.

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