10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About the Olympic Games

July 23, 2012

London Eye. Photo credit: NBCUniversal

With the 2012 London Olympics rapidly approaching, we thought it would be interesting to share some cool facts about the event that takes place once every four years and dates back to Ancient Greece.

1. The early Olympic Games celebrated Greek God Zeus and took place from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D., when they were banned for being considered a pagan festival.

2. When Pierre de Coubertin brought back the Games in 1896, there was such a big focus on art and culture that there were competitions in painting, sculpture, and music up until 1948! Culture is still a big part of the Games, with events such as festivals and concerts taking place before and during the Games.

3. There was a time when gold medals were made out of solid gold! The last real gold medal was awarded in 1912 (sorry, Phelps).

4. Women weren’t allowed to participate in the Olympic games until 1900.

5. This year, and for the first time in the history of the Games, women outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic Team! (Take that, Fact #4!)

6. Berlin hosted the first televised Olympic Games in 1936.

7. The 1981 Academy Award-winning film Chariots of Fire is based on the stories of two British Olympic athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, who beat the odds of becoming gold medalists at the 1924 Paris Games. Watch it now on DIRECTV CINEMA™!

8. The oldest woman to ever compete in the Olympic Games was equestrian Hilda L. Johnstone. She was 70 during the 1972 Munich Games. The oldest Olympic medalist was Oscar Swahn, from Sweden, who won his last medal at age 72.

9. The name of the official Olympics mascot is Wenlock, a one-eyed creature made of steel. His name was crafted in recognition of the English village of Much Wenlock, considered by many as the birthplace of the modern Olympics.

10. The 2012 London Olympic Games will be the first social media Olympics in history. In fact, the London 2012 related tweets will be displayed at the world’s first social driven lightshow at the iconic London Eye (see image) every evening during the course of the Games. Follow the official Olympics Twitter account at @London2012 and Wenlock the mascot at @iamwenlock.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a soccer, a badminton or a table tennis fan, make sure you tune into the 2012 London Olympics and root for your favorite teams!