Olympics Lore

The Torch

Korean pop star Insooni in July performed the song “Let Everyone Shine” to launch the theme that will be repeated during the Olympic torch relay, which will begin in November. After being lit one week earlier in Olympia, Greece, the torch will arrive in Incheon, South Korea, on November 1.

Over the next 101 days, the torch will be carried throughout 17 cities and provinces across South Korea, past cultural sights, technological achievements and historic monuments. About 7,500 torchbearers will take part in the relay, but the identity of the final torchbearer, who will have the privilege of lighting the Olympic cauldron, will remain a mystery until February 9, the day of the Opening Ceremonies.

Every Four Years

The Olympics are held every four years, right? Almost right.

From 1924 through 1992 the Winter and Summer Olympics were held the same year (there were no Games in 1940 or 1944 because the world was otherwise occupied.) Then they decided to stagger the Games. So, after Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992, there were also Winter Games in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.

Now the Winter and Summer Games alternate on the even-numbered years, with four years between Winter Games and four years between Summer Games. For example: 2014, 2018 and 2022 for Winter Games, 2016, 2020 and 2024 for Summer Games.

Winter’s Winter and Summer’s Summer, and Never the Twain Shall Meet

Not exactly.

The first Olympic figure skating competition was actually held in July, at a Summer Games.

Figure skating debuted at the 1908 Summer Games in London. It was dropped from the schedule in 1912 at Stockholm, then came the World War I hiatus. But skating returned to the world of Summer Olympics in 1920 at Antwerp.

By that time the IOC was starting to think there might be something to this cold weather sports stuff, so they tried an “International Sports Week 1924” in Chamonix, France. Only retroactively was it called an Olympic Games.

But, before we leave those intrepid 1908 summer skaters, a few notes:

  • The men’s winner was a Swede by the name of Ulrich Salchow, and that’s why purists capitalize the name of that jump, along with the Axel, named for Axel Paulsen, who first performed his namesake move in 1882. (As far as anyone knows, there are no historical skaters named “toe” or “flip,” who originated those moves.)
  • The women’s winner in 1908, Florence Syers of Great Britain, had no jumps named after her, even though there were plenty of choices since her full name was Florence Madeleine Cave Syers and she went by Madge. In addition to her individual gold, she took home a pairs bronze with her husband/coach Edgar Syers.

But Madge had already accomplished quite a bit before snagging that gold. In 1902 she had entered the world championships from which officials hadn’t banned women — but only because they hadn’t thought of it; after Madge, they did. They eventually got around to starting a “ladies” event in 1906, which Madge won.

But back to 1902, when Madge finished second to our friend Ulrich Salchow … and some say she should have won. No wonder they banned her.

The Rings

The five interconnecting rings are blue, black red, yellow and green. On the Olympic flag they are against a white background. At least one of those colors (including the white background) can be found in the flag of each nation – signifying the universality of the Olympics.

The Music

The music most of us associate with the Olympics Bum-BUM. Ba-bum-bum-bum-bum. BUM-Bum-ba-bum. Bum-ba-bum-da-bum-bum-bum (or something like that) started when ABC began using Leo Arnaud’s fanfare, which came from his Bugler’s Dream suite written in the 1930s.

John Williams composed his “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. And that has become nearly as familiar (though much harder to bum-ba-bum-bum.)

And Australia’s Sean O’Boyle composed a theme ABC used for the Sydney Summer Games of 2000.

The IOC, however, sticks with the Olympic Hymn, which is sung at the Opening Ceremonies. It was first played at the 1896 Games, gained words about the middle of the 20th Century when the IOC officially adopted it in 1957 … and I dare you to hum it, much less ba-bum it.

Opening Ceremonies

The entrance of the athletes follows the same order – each country in alphabetical order according to the countries’ names in the language of the host city, with the exception of the host country, which enters last.

During the 1998-2007 Sunshine Policy era, South Korea and North Korea symbolically marched as one team at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 and 2004 Olympics; but competed separately. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has proposed the two Koreas form a unified team for the PyeongChang Games.

Motto, Creed and Oath

Yup, the Olympics has one of each.

  • The Motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” That’s Latin, and means “Faster, Higher, Braver.” But it’s usually taken to mean “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.” (Though “braver” can certainly apply, don’t you think?)
  • The 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 creed is commonly attributed to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who had his fingers in most pies during the formative years of the modern Olympic Games. However, some question if the baron was really the source. If I were him I’d pass on claiming it – it could use some editing.
  • The Oath: “In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.” It’s taken at the Opening Ceremonies by an athlete from the host country as a representative of all the Olympians. In recent years they’ve added a similar one for the judges.

The Medals

At one time, they truly were gold … but only until 1912.

Each Games has an individual design for its medals. In 1908, not only were the medals gold, but they had nekkid people on them. Whereas medals from St. Louis in 1904 (first year to have gold, silver and bronze) had strategically placed draperies. Paris in 1900 had draperies, but they were see-through, and the medal was rectangular.


Upcoming Games

2018 – Winter: PyeongChang (South Korea)
2020 – Summer: Tokyo (Japan)
2022 – Winter: Beijing (China)
2024 – Summer: Paris (France)
2028 – Summer: Los Angeles (U.S.)


Winter Olympic Mystery Quote

“Luge strategy? Lie flat and try not to die.”
~ attributed to “Carmen Boyle, Olympic Luge Gold Medal winner 1996”

If you’ve been anywhere near a Web quote site or humor page, you’ll have seen this quote. It’s a great line. Just a few problems with it: There were no Winter Olympics in 1996 and the IOC database does not list a Carmen Boyle as a medal winner in any Olympics of any year in any event. Hmmm. I thought maybe a World Champion gold medalist instead of Olympic, but no luck there, either.

If you have any luck tracking down this mystery quote and mystery person, send your sleuthing to me, and I’ll add it here. You can also send nominations for your favorite Winter Olympics quote – a real one – to me for posting here.

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