SYMBOLS OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES
THE OLYMPIC RINGS
The Olympic rings were designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. They comprise five intertwined rings in the colors blue, yellow, black, green, and red, set upon a white background. These intertwined rings represent the unity of the five continents. The rings were introduced at the Antwerp Games in 1920.
The rings are also featured on the Olympic flag which is hoisted at the start of each celebration of the Olympics. The flag is three meters long and two meters wide.
THE OLYMPIC CREED
The Olympic Creed states: "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 FLAME
The Olympic Flame or Olympic Fire is a symbol of the Olympic Games. It commemorates the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus. In Ancient Greece a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. The fire was reintroduced at the Olympics in 1928. As with the Ancient Olympics, once the flame has been lit, it is kept burning throughout the celebration of the Olympics, and is extinguished at end of the closing ceremony of the Games.
THE OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY
The Olympic Torch Relay, which culminates in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of each Games, was introduced in 1936 at the Berlin Games. It was created to symbolize the link between the ancient and modern Olympic Games.
The Torch is lighted in Olympia several months before the opening celebration of the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece, and brought to the host city by runners carrying the torch in relay. The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final torch bearer runs to the cauldron and, using the torch, starts the flame in the stadium.
The traditional part of the ceremony starts with a parade of nations, during which most participating athletes march into the stadium country by country. One athlete from each country carries the flag of his or her nation, leading the entourage of other athletes from that country. After all nations have entered, the organizing country's head of state formally opens the Olympics.
The Olympic Anthem is then played, and the Olympic flag is hoisted in the stadium. The runner before the last in the Olympic Flame Relay brings the torch into the stadium, passing the flame to the last carrier. The last torch bearer then lights the fire in the stadium's cauldron. This is followed by the release of doves, symbolising peace. Finally, the flag bearers of all countries circle a rostrum, where one athlete and one referee will give the Olympic Oath, stating that they will compete and judge according to the rules.
THE CLOSING CEREMONY
The athletes march around the stadium randomly, instead of nation by nation. The Olympic fire is then extinguished, and the Olympic flag is lowered, folded, and presented to the mayor of the host city of the next Olympic Games. The IOC president ends the ceremonies by declaring the Games closed.
Olympic medals are awarded to those individuals or teams placing first, second, and third in each event. The first place winner receives a gold-plated medal of silver, which is commonly referred to as the "gold medal." Second and third places receive medals of silver and bronze respectively. The silver used in the first and second place medals must be at least 92.5% pure. The "gold" medals must be gilded with at least six grams of pure gold. Medals also carry the name of the sport contested.
The medals given at the Olympic Winter Games differ from the traditional medals given at the Summer Games. Each Organizing Committee designs its own medals that must be approved by the IOC.
Competitors who finish in the 1st through 8th places in an Olympic event receive an award diploma. The IOC awards commemorative pins to each athlete who participates in the Olympic Games.