Olympic symbols

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The Olympic symbols are various logos, icons, flags and symbols used by the International Olympic Committee for various aspects related to the promotion of the olympism around the world. Some of the symbols are more prevalent during Olympic competition, such as the flame, fanfare and theme, but others, such as the flag, can be seen throughout many times of the year. However, the IOC has been criticised in the past for its aggressive protection of its symbols, such as the rings and the use of the word "Olympic."


The flag

Image:Flag of the Olympic Movement.svg

Use of the Olympic flag

An Olympic flag is raised during the opening ceremonies of each Olympic Games, and lowered during the closing ceremonies. A second flag is used for the Olympic Oath. Special flags are kept in the city halls of cities organizing the Olympic Games. At the end of the Olympic Games, the mayor of the city that organized the Games returns the flag to the president of the IOC, who then passes it on to the mayor of the next city to host the Olympic Games. (This ceremony is known as the "Antwerp Ceremony" because it started there). There are three such flags, differing from all other copies in that they have a six-coloured fringe around the flag, and are tied with six coloured ribbons to a flagstaff.

The Antwerp flag

Was presented to the IOC at the 1920 Summer Olympics by the city of Antwerp, Belgium, and at the Closing Ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, was passed on to the next organising city of the Summer Olympics (the Games of Seoul 1988), when it was retired. The Antwerp Flag is now on display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Oslo flag

Was presented to the IOC at the 1952 Winter Olympics by the city of Oslo, Norway, and is passed on to the next organizing city of the Winter Olympics.

The Seoul flag

Was presented to the IOC at the 1988 Summer Olympics by the city of Seoul, South Korea, and is passed on to the next organising city of the Summer Olympics.

Olympic Emblem

The flag features the emblem of the Olympic Games — five interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green, and red respectively) on a white field. This was originally designed in 1913 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, but gained widespread popularity due to its promotion by Nazi Germany [1]. Upon its initial introduction, de Coubertin stated the following in the August, 1913 edition of Revue Olympique:

The emblem chosen to illustrate and represent the world Congress of 1914 ...: five intertwined rings in different colours - blue, yellow, black, green, red - are placed on the white field of the paper. These five rings represent the five parts of the world which now are won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition.

In his article published in the "Olympic Revue" the official magazine of the International Olympic Committee in November 1992, the American historian Robert Barney explains that the idea of the interlaced rings came to Pierre of Coubertin when he was in charge of the USFSA ( Unión des Societes Française de Sports Athletiques): The emblem of the union was two interlaced rings (like the typical interlaced marriage rings) and originally the idea of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung because for him the ring meant continuity and the human being. [2]

“ The Olympic flag [...] has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre : blue, yellow, black, green and red [...] This design is symbolic ; it represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colours are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time. ” (1931) Textes choisis II, p.470.

The 1914 Congress had to be suspended due to the outbreak of World War I, but the flag and emblem were later adopted. They would first officially debut at the VIIth Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920.

The emblem's popularity and widespread use began during the lead-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Carl Diem, president of the Organizing Committee of the 1936 Summer Olympics, wanted to hold a torchbearers' ceremony in the stadium at Delphi, site of the famous oracle, where the Pythian Games were also held. For this reason he ordered construction of a milestone with the Olympic rings carved in the sides, and that a torchbearer should carry the flame along with an escort of three others from there to Berlin. The ceremony was celebrated but the stone was never removed. Later, two British authors Lynn and Gray Poole when visiting Delphi in the late 1950´s saw the stone and reported in their "History of the Ancient Games" that the Olympic rings design came from ancient Greece. This has become known as "Carl Diem's Stone". [3] [4]. This created a myth that the symbol had an ancient Greek origin. The rings would subsequently be featured prominently in Nazi images and theatrics in 1936 as part of an effort to glorify the Third Reich and claim a noble and ancient lineage.

The current view of the International Olympic Committee is that the flag "reinforces the idea" that the Olympic Movement is international and welcomes all countries of the world to join. [5] Some literature, such as "The World Encyclopedia of Flags" by Alfred Znamierowski, state that each ring represent the five continents. Using this scheme, the Americas are viewed as a single continent, and Antarctica is omitted.

As can be read in the Olympic Charter, the Olympic symbol represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games. However, no continent is represented by any specific ring. Though colourful explanations about the symbolism of the coloured rings exist, the only connection between the rings and the continents is that the number five refers to the number of continents.

Fanfare and Theme

Template:Sample box start variation 2 Template:Multi-listen start Template:Multi-listen item Template:Multi-listen item Template:Multi-listen end Template:Sample box end Many composers have had their music used by, or have written for the Olympics. Often times, they title their pieces "Olympic Fanfare and Theme." One such notable "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" is a piece of music written by John Williams for the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles. It was released in its entirety to the public on the album "By Request: The Best of John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra."

In 1996, the piece was re-released on the album "Summon the Heroes" for the Altanta Olympic Games. In this arrangement, the first part of the piece was replaced with Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Dream". Written in 1958 for Arnaud's Charge Suite, it is this piece, more than any of the fanfares or Olympic themes written by Williams, that Americans recognize as the "Olympic theme", primarily because it was used by ABC beginning with the 1968 Olympics, and by NBC starting in 1992. According to United States Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran, many athletes include this piece in the music they listen to while preparing for competition. In 2006 it was again used by NBC. Arnaud's piece is stately, beginning with a tympani cadence that is soon joined by a distinctive theme in brass. Williams' 1984 "Fanfare and Theme" begins with a much faster melody, somewhat reminiscent of Aaron Copland, with brass but no tympani. Although perhaps not as familiar as Arnaud's theme, it is hardly unknown, since it also is still used in network coverage of the Olympics.

"Olympic Fanfare and Theme" (not including the familiar part by Arnaud) was awarded a Grammy in 1985.

The Kotinos

The kotinos is an olive branch intertwined to form a circle. To be crowned with this wreath was the award that the athletes of the ancient Olympic Games competed for. However, this was not their only reward; usually the athlete was rewarded with a generous sum of money by his hometown.

At Athens, 2004 the kotinos tradition was renewed, although in this case it was bestowed together with the gold medal. Indeed, athletes felt very honoured to receive a kotinos. Apart from its use in the awards-ceremonies, the kotinos was chosen as the 2004 Summer Olympics emblem.


The Olympic Movement is accused of being overprotective of its symbols; among other things, it claims an exclusive, monopolistic copyright on any arrangement of five rings, irrespective of alignment, color or lack thereof, as well as to any use of the word "Olympic." They have taken action against numerous groups seen to have violated this copyright, including the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based band The Hopefuls (formerly The Olympic Hopefuls), and Wizards of the Coast, publisher of the popular collectible card game Magic: The Gathering and others.

The Mascot

Image:Misza 1980.jpg Image:Torino 2006 Neve e Glitz sciano in Atrium.jpg Since the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France the Olympic Games have a mascot, usually an animal native to the area or occasionally human figures representing the cultural heritage. The first major mascot in the Olympic Games was Misha in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Misha was used extensively during the opening and closing ceremonies, had a TV animated cartoon and appeared on several merchandise products, now things commonly practiced not only in the Olympic Games but also other competitions such as the FIFA World Cup. Nowdays, most of the merchandise targeted at younger consumers give more focus on the mascots, rather than the Olympic flag or organization logos.

List of mascots

Designed by Matthew Hatton from Warner Bros.

Designed by Pedro Albuquerque

Designed by Han Meilin

    • Together the five names form the Chinese phrase "Beijing huan ying ni", which means "Beijing welcomes you".
  • 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver
    • Not officially announced; likely to be based on Ilaanaq, the inukshuk of the games' emblem

See also

  • List of Olympic logos
  • The Olympic Anthem: played during the opening and closing ceremonies of Olympic Games and on certain other occasions
  • The Olympic Flame: a flame burning day and night for the duration of the Olympic Games.
  • The Olympic motto, in Latin: "Citius, Altius, Fortius"; which means, "Faster, Higher, Stronger."
  • The Olympic Order: an award conferred by the International Olympic Committee
  • The Olympic Creed: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
  • The Olympic emblem: the emblem of every single edition of the Olympic Games, usually combining the Olympic Rings with some elements representing the host city or country and its culture.
  • The three Olympic pillars: sport, environment, culture.


External links

Olympic Games


Olympic sports
Olympic medalists
Participating NOCs
Olympic symbols
Medal counts

Summer Olympic Games

1896, 1900, 1904, 19061, 1908, 1912, (1916)2, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, (1940)2, (1944)2, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020

Winter Olympic Games

1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, (1940)2, (1944)2, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022

Athens 2004Torino 2006Beijing 2008Vancouver 2010
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