Overview of all Modern Olympic Games (1896-present)
1896- Athens. The First Modern Olympics. Winners received an olive branch, a customary award in the ancient games, as well as a certificate and a silver medal. A copper medal and laurel sprig were given to the runner up. Considering that these Olympic Games were the first held in hundreds of years, they were a big success, unlike the next 2 Olympic Games (Paris in 1900, and St. Louis in 1904).
1900- Paris. The second Olympic Games were held in Paris, France coinciding with the world’s fair. The Eiffel Tower and the World’s Fair attracted far more attention than the olympic events which were held in various locations at different times, that spanned the 5 months of the fair.
1904- Saint Louis. Again the Olympics corresponded with the World’s Fair, which was held in Saint Louis, Missouri. Again, the Games stretched out over several months (from July until November). The overwhelming majority of competitors came from the U.S. and Canada.
1906 (not considered official)- Athens. The Games were held again, though because they were not on the 4-year cycle the 1906 games are not considered official. They are referred to as the Intermediate Games. But, these Games, also held in Athens, were a big success. They put the Modern Olympics on track for a bright future. For the first time, teams paraded for the opening ceremony. And adding to traditions that have stood the test of times it was at the 1906 games that the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals were introduced.
1908- London. The IV Olympiad (again, the 1906 Games are not considered official), was staged as an event of its own. Originally slated for Rome, the Games were taken on by London due to the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906. It was at these games that the first disputes over judging began. Of yes, there was controversy even in the old ‘pure’ days of the games. It was these games that resulted in judges from various nations.
1912- Stockholm. Sweden hosted the games in Stockholm. And again the Olympic Games were a big success. Over 2,500 athletes from 28 countries took part. And photo-finish and electronic timer technology were added. The modern pentathlon was introduced. The pentathlon was a major event in the ancient games. The Modern Pentathlon is shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding, and cross-country running, in that order, and all in one day.
1916- Cancelled. World War I caused the cancellation of the Games in 1916. They would have been held in Berlin, Germany.
1920- Antwerp. So, it was a distant 8 years before the Games returned in 1920. But, they didn’t move too far from Stockholm Sweden. They moved to the Belgian city of Antwerp. It was at these Games that the Olympic flag was first displayed. The five interwoven coloured rings (red, green, blue, yellow, and black) are of course now the official symbol of the Games. One of the best athletes in Olympic history, Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish long-distance runner, debuted at these games.
1924 Winter- Chamonix. The International Sports Week in Chamonix, France is now considered the very first Winter Olympics, though it was unofficial at the time. Not surprising to most, it was Norway and Finland that came away the big winners. The Games were such a success, that the IOC was convinced that the Winter Olympics could stand on their own as a wholly separate world-class event; setting the stage for 1928.
1924 Summer- Paris. Finland’s Paavo Nurni won five gold medals. He is one the best Olympic athletes in history.
1928 Winter- St. Moritz. The II Winter Olympic Games were in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Ironically, despite being held in the middle of winter, in Switzerland, the second winter olympic games were negatively impacted by warm weather. Again, Norway, Sweden, and Finland dominated the games. Norway’s Sonja Henie emerged as the star of these games. She was the figure skating title, as just 15 (going on 16) years of age.
1928 Summer- Amsterdam. The Summer Olympics of 1928 in Amsterdam were another enormous success. Over 3,000 athletes competed from 46 nations. And Germany, banned for 16 years, was back. The Olympic Stadium was the big winner in these games and the Olympic flame was introduced on a tower outside the stadium. Paavo Nurni, competing in his third straight Olympics, won 3 more medals. Women were finally able to compete in track-and-field events.
1932 Summer and Winter- United States. The Summer and Winter Olympics of 1932 were both held in the United States, in Los Angeles, CA and Lake Placid, NY, respectively. Attendance at the Games took a big step backward due to the worldwide Great Depression, and the traveling costs of getting to the United States. The U.S.A. won 30% of the Summer Olympic medals—their highest percentage over the years—not counting Saint Louis, where the U.S. won 84% of the medals because the attendance was even more skewed toward Americans.
1936 Summer and Winter- Germany. Germany was banned from the Olympics between 1912 and 1928, but by 1936, they were hosting the Olympic Games in Berlin. And this was right as the Nazi Party and German Reich were rising to power and international suspicion. For the first time, the Olympic flame was lit by the sun in Olympia, Greece and relayed to the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. Earlier in the year, the Winter Games had also been hosted by Adolf Hitler’s Germany. The United States threatened to boycott, but instead attended, allowing athletes such as Jesse Owens to shine. He won 4 gold medals in track and field Summer Olympic events in 1936.
1940 and 1944- Cancelled. While World War I tripped up the Olympics in 1916, World War II caused the cancellation of both Summer and Winter Olympics in 1940 and 1944.
1948 Winter- St. Moritz. The Olympics survived, and St. Moritz, Switzerland hosted the 1948 Winter Olympic Games after a 12 year break caused by the war. It was also 20 years since St. Moritz had last hosted the Games, and they were selected because these facilities were intact, as a result of Switzerland’s neutrality in World War II.
1948 Summer- London. London received the Summer Olympic Games in 1948. Fanny Blankers-Koen emerged as a brilliantly successful female athlete at those games, coming away with 4 gold medals in track and field. She was 30 years old and the mother of 2 children, breaking many stereotypes as she won event after event. And she surely paved the way for more women’s sporting events, while at the same time inspiring a new generation of female athletes. Germany and Japan were excluded from these Games.
1952 Winter- Olso. The Germans and Japanese were allowed to compete in 1952. The Winter Olympics were held in Oslo, Norway. There were attendance records set at these 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic Games. And American figure skater, Dick Button, captured the most acclaim (and remains legendary to this day) for performing the first triple jump and a toe-loop, and a double axle.
1952 Summer- Helsinki. Scandinavia hosted the Summer Games as well, in Helsinki, Finland. Bob Mathias, from the USA, set a record in the decathlon. He had also won the event in 1948. With two World Wars behind it, the Olympics now faced the Cold War. For the first time since 1912, Russia took part in the Olympics. And it was in the 1952 Olympic Games where Cold War tensions first began to overshadow the games, due to South Korea fielding its own team.
1956 Winter- Cortina d’Ampezzo. In 1956, the Italian town of Cortina d’Ampezzo was awarded the Winter Olympics. These games were the first to feature televised events. An interesting fact about the Winter Olympics back in these days was the fact that events such as figure skating and speed skating were held outdoors.
1956 Summer- Melbourne. The Summer Olympics moved below the equator in 1956. Melbourne, Australia hosted the games. The long traveling distance limited attendance. Also, China pulled out of the Games because Taiwan participated and. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Hungary caused the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland to withdraw. The best athlete at the Games was Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, who is also one of the top athletes in the history of the Olympics. She won 4 gold medals; as well as 1 silver and 1 bronze medal.
1960 Winter- Squaw Valley. Unlike recent times, it had been 28 years since the games were held in America. But in 1960, Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics. Squaw Valley is on Lake Tahoe, in California, on the border with Nevada. South Africa was at these Games but would not attend again until 1994 because of apartheid. The first biathlon (cross-country skiing and shooting) competition was held at these Games.
1960 Summer- Rome. In 1960, the Summer Games (XVII Olympics) were in Rome. And, Rome was a well-deserving location that had patiently awaited the Summer Olympics. These Games were televised throughout Europe. The rivalry between the United States and Russia dominated the Games, with Russia winning the most medals. Larissa Latynina returned, winning another 6 medals, including three gold. And a barefoot runner from Ethiopia, Abebe Bikila, won the marathon.
1964 Winter- Innsbruck, Austria. The mildest winter in 58 years in Austria resulted in snow needing to be shipped in.
1964 Summer- Tokyo, Japan. Larissa Latynina won her third successive gold medal and she also won 4 other medals (two silver and two bronze). She has won the most medals in Olympic history.
1968 Winter- Grenoble, France. Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy was the ‘hometown’ hero of the 10th Winter Olympic games.
1968 Summer- Mexico City, Mexico. Mexico City stand over 7,000 feet above sea level and altitude had an impact, mostly on training and preparation for the Games. A woman, Norma Enriqueta Basilio, a Mexican hurdlest, became the first woman to light the Olympic flame. And American discus thrower, Al Oerter became the first Olympic athlete ever to win four straight titles in the same event.
1972 Winter- Sapparo, Japan. Japan took the Winter Olympics very seriously. They spent a lot of money on the Games, ensuring they would be well received.
1972 Summer- Munich, Germany. This is where the quote came from: “The Games must go on”. The Games were overshadowed, and still remembered today, mostly because of a terrorist attack by Palestinian guerrillas on Israel’s team. But the games did go on and there were many other memorable things. First, Germany built an incredible, ultra-modern Olympic village. Mark Spitz stands out as the biggest athletic achievement in the 1972 Summer Olympics, and, indeed, in the history of the entire Olympics. Mark Spitz was the United States of America swimmer who won an incredible seven gold medals. And, then there was the tiny gymnast from Russia, Olga Korbut, who won 3 gold medals.
1976 Winter- Innsbruck, Austria. Denver declined and Innsbruck got the Winter Olympics at essentially the last minute. Fortunately, they hosted the Games in 1964 so they knew the routine. There was a new figure skating scoring system that was introduced this year, and American Dorothy Hamill, already the world champion, won the gold.
1976 Summer- Montreal, Canada. In two words- Nadia Comaneci. The Romanian was sensational. She won 3 gold medals, a silver, and a bronze. She scored a perfect 10 in competition seven times.
1980 Winter- Lake Placid, NY. Crazy times in the XIII Olympic Winter Games. They needed to use artificial snow, an Olympic first. Then the USA won the gold medal in hockey, knocking off the virtually unbeatable Russians (gold every Olympics between 1960 and 1980—both of which they lost to America in Olympics held on U.S. ice) in the “Miracle on Ice”.
1980 Summer- Moscow, Russia. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused a large boycott. Only 80 countries attended. Japan, Western Germany, and the United States were among those that stayed home. But the 1980 Summer Olympics were still a well staged event filled with top-notch athletes. Soviet gymnast, Alexander Ditiatin was the standout of all athletes at the Games. He won 8 medals: three gold, four silver, and one bronze.
1984 Winter- Sarajevo. The XIV Winter Olympics were all about figure skating. East Germany’s Katarina Witt emerged on the scene winning a gold medal in figure skating. And Britain’s famed “Torvill and Dean” (Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean) won the ice dancing pairs competition. They stand alone as among the top performers in the history of pairs figure skating.
1984 Summer- Los Angeles, CA. In a word—sponsorship. Peter Ueberroth took the Summer Olympics to another level with unprecedented television coverage. But the Games did have a drawback. The Soviet Union boycotted the Games, largely as a spite for America’s boycott of the Moscow Games 4 years before. Britain’s Daley Thompson was once again a winner—equaling the world record in the decathlon. But these Summer Games were dominated by Americans, namely: Carl Lewis (four gold medals in track and field), Greg Louganis (two gold’s in diving), Edwin Moses (successfully won the 400-meter hurdles as he had in the last Games he was able to compete, in 1976), and Mary Lou Retton (who laid the ground for the future success of American gymnastics).
1988 Winter- Calgary. Alberto Tomba (golds in the slalom and giant slalom), built on the reputation of Italian skiers, which Gustavo Thoni had started in 1972. And Katerina Witt was back again, successfully defending her figure skating title at the previous Games.
1988 Summer- Seoul, South Korea. These Games were notable because all of the world’s athletes were there. Athletes from 159 countries made the trip to Seoul. And only two countries (Cuba and Ethiopia) did not attend. East Germany had a female swimmer who put herself on par with Mark Spitz, winning just one less medal. Kristin Otto captured an amazing 6 gold medals. In track and field it was all about “Flo-Jo”. Florence Griffith-Joyner won three golds and a silver medal for Team USA.
1992 Winter- Albertville, France. These Winter Games were most notable (as has many times been the case in Olympic history) for their undertones. Except, at these Games a cloud was lifting. East Germany and West Germany competed as a unified team.
1992 Summer- Barcelona, Spain. The Summer Olympics of 1992 were just down the road from the Winter Games. Commercialisation of the Games was again a big theme and moving up to another level was the Opening Ceremony. And competition was fierce in basketball causing the United States to resort to using its professional athletes, creating a gold medal winning “Dream Team” headed up by Magic Johnson. The Unified Team (EUN), which was all the pieces of the Soviet Union, has an extremely successful gymnast. Vitali Sherbo won 6 gold medals.
1994 Winter- Lillehammer, Norway. The Winter Olympics were back again, already– just 2 years after the last Olympics. The IOC began a new policy where the Winter Games are run every 4 years, except on a different schedule as the Olympics. Now, every two years there is either the Winter Games or the Summer Games. And, thus, the XVII Winter Games in Lillehammer began. This definitely made it easier for athletes successful in 1992 to keep fit and repeat their triumphs. Russian athlete Lyubov Yegorova won three gold and a silver medal, taking full advantage of the shortened time frame to become one of the most successful Olympians in history (9 medals in her lifetime). Alberto Tomba won another medal- a silver in the slalom.
1996 Summer- Atlanta. This was the 100th anniversary of the Modern Olympics. Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame in a memorable Opening Ceremony. And Ireland found success from a swimmer, Michelle Smith, who captured 4 medals, including 3 golds. Women’s soccer was as an Olympic event for the first time. And Cuba took the gold in baseball for the second straight Olympics—an amazing achievement considering these games were on U.S. soil.
1998 Winter- Nagano. Professional hockey players were allowed to play, with stands out as one of the biggest changes for the 1998 Olympic Games. Surprisingly, the Czech Republic won the Gold, but not surprisingly, Russia and Canada (in that order) were right behind them. One of the greatest athletes in the history of the Winter Olympics, Bjorne Daehlie competed in his second Winter Olympics. Daehlie was a cross-country skier from Norway who won 12 Olympic medals in his career—8 of them gold (and three at the 1998 Winter Olympics). Daehlie competed in the 1992, 1994, and 1998 Winter Olympics.
2000 Summer- Sydney. The Summer Olympics entered a new century south of the equator. Records were set for number of athletes, television audience, countries attending, and female participation. The Olympic facilities were as impressive as the cutting edge facilities that brought the Summer Olympics to a new level in Munich (1972). The Games were a big success, though drug use in sports is becoming a bigger issue, and in many respects, continues to overshadow the 2000 Olympics. Alexei Nemov of Russia won the most medals, six (2 of them gold). Nemov also won 6 medals in Atlanta. Making him, not only one of the best gymnasts in history, but also one of the best Olympians in history as well.
2002 Winter- Salt Lake City. The Winter Olympics of 2002 were overshadowed by the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Unprecedented security efforts paid off as the 2002 Winter Olympics were a success. Canada skated away with the Olympic gold medal in ice hockey for the first time in 50 years. But while some may want to forget it, these Winter Olympics will likely most be remembered by the intrigue in figure skating and the competition between Canada’s pair: Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, and Russia’s pair: Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
2004 Summer- Athens. Greece frantically finished construction in the weeks leading up to over 200 countries and over 10,000 athletes arriving to compete for 301 medals in 28 different sports. The U.S. won the most Gold medals (36) and the most overall medals (102). China was 2nd with 32 Gold medals. And Russia was 2nd overall with 92 medals. U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won 8 medals (including 6 golds) to tie the record for most medals at one Olympics. The U.S. finished with a bronze in Men’s basketball– a big surprise upset.
2006 Winter- Torino. The Olympics returned to Italy (last time was Summer 1960 in Rome). Germany won the most overall medals (29) and the most gold medals (11). The U.S. was 2nd with 25 overall medals and 9 golds (Austria also won 9 golds). In figure skating, Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa won the women’s individual gold medal over U.S. Sasha Cohen and Russia Irina Slutskaya. In the men’s individual, Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko won the gold. In speed skating the U.S.’s Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, and Joey Cheek dominated on the men’s side. Although home country Enrico Fabris won gold in the men’s 1,500m.
2008 Summer- Beijing. The Summer Olympics of 2008 are in Beijing, China.