Olympic Traditions 07-15-2004 22:45

The Olympic Anthem

The Olympic anthem was written by the Greek national poet Costis Palamas and composed by Greek musician Spiros Samaras. It was first sung at the 1896 Games. The IOC adopted it as the official Olympic anthem to crown Olympic ceremonies at the 1958 IOC Session in Tokyo.

The Olympic Motto

The Olympic motto "swifter, higher, stronger" comes from three Latin words "citus, altius, fortius", which actually mean "faster, higher, braver". The French educator, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the ancient Olympic Games and in 1896 led the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, borrowed the phrase from a Dominican priest Henri Dinon. Mr.Dinon introduced these words while presenting athletic prizes at a college in 1891.But how did these words become the motto of the Olympic Games? It was Michel Breal who introduced this phrase at the closing dinner of the congress for the reestablishment of the modern Olympic Games on June 23, 1894. Later,the International Olympic Committee formally adopted this phrase as the official motto of the Games.

The Olympic Creed

The Olympic creed was also introduced at the 1896 Games. As stated by Pierre de Coubertin, the creed is as follows: "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 Flag

It was Pierre de Coubertin who conceived the idea of the Olympic flag with five coloured interlocking rings on a white background. The rings represent the union of the five continents and the meeting of the athletes from all around the world at the Olympic Games.

Today, almost a century after the flag's creation, the six colours, those of the rings (blue, yellow, black, green, red) and that of the white background which stands for peace, still maintain their symbolism and can be found in flags across the world.The Olympic flag was first used during the Antwerp Games in 1920.

The Olympic 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, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."

At the Opening Ceremony of each Games, one athlete from the host country takes the Olympic oath on behalf of all competing athletes. This particular gesture of sportsmanship was introduced at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium. A coach or team official takes a similar oath at each Opening Ceremony.

The Olympic Flame

The Olympic flame is one of the most visible symbols of the modern Games. Its tradition has survived from the Games of ancient Greece, where a sacred flame, ignited by the sun, burned continually on the altar of the goddess Hera.

The modern Olympic flame was first lit in 1928 at the Amsterdam Olympic Games, where it burned throughout the competitions. It has become a major symbol for solidarity among nations and embodies the Olympic spirit encompassing the ideals of purity, the endeavour for perfection, the struggle for victory, friendship and peace.

The Torch Relay

During the 1896 Games in Athens, young inspired sportsmen had organised the first torch relays. However, the tradition of the Olympic torch officially began at the Berlin Games in 1936. As in ancient times, the torch is lit by the sun in Ancient Olympia, then passed from runner to runner in a relay to the host city, where it is used to light the Olympic Stadium's flame during the Games' Opening Ceremony. The flame then burns until it is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony.


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